To say that victims whom the criminal justice system has not successfully protected and witnesses on whom the system depends are due certain considerations from that system is a truism in many jurisdictions today. However, only within the past decade or so has any significant official responsibility for victim/witness assistance been acknowledged. Previously, the criminal justice system — ironically so sensitive to the needs of defendants and offenders — tended to view victims and witnesses as mere sources of evidence whose personal concerns were irrelevant to the processing of the case at hand. Social service agencies helped some victims deal with the direct consequences of the crime. However, their limited access to the criminal justice system precluded significant assistance with the victim’s myriad problems which emanated from that system. Moreover, such programmes rarely reached out to crime victims, as victims, or treated those who sought their services differently than they treated their non-victim clients.
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