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Victim Participation: A Historic Overview

  • Kerstin BraunEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology book series (PSVV)

Abstract

In many early societies, the individual victim, or their kinship group, was responsible for crime control through different forms of private prosecution. Private prosecutions were partially undertaken to recover financial losses arising from the criminal act. State involvement in these proceedings was rare or non-existent. No firm distinction between criminal law and civil law existed at the time. Over the course of history, the understanding of crime changed from that of a violation of individual victims’ rights to that of a violation of the rights of the state or the sovereign. Respectively, a division between criminal law and civil law, including the law of torts, developed. Yet, this changed understanding did not automatically translate into a reduced role for victims. Rather, they continued to be important for initiating criminal prosecutions. Yet, from the nineteenth century onwards, most Western criminal justice systems introduced public police and prosecution services who carried out criminal investigations and prosecutions on behalf of the state. As a consequence, crime victims were no longer required as active participants in the criminal justice system and their role was mostly reduced to that of a witness for the state. The poor treatment of victims gave rise to concerns during the second half of the twentieth century and led to, what some call, the ‘rediscovery’ of the victim. Since then victims and their role have featured prominently in law, policy and discourse in the jurisdictions selected for analysis in this volume.

Keywords

Private prosecutions Public police and prosecution services Historical role of victims Marginalisation of victims Rediscovery of crime victims Victim-related law reform 

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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