tweeting and the victim impact statement

27 May

I don’t know about the legal system where you are, but here in Ireland there’s been a rise of ‘the victim impact statement’ lately. I can’t tell how long or short ago it started, but it’s rare that you hear about a court case without the accompanying victim impact statement being reported.

Now, it could just be that the courts decided it was too much to expect the victim or their family to negotiate the minefields of press coverage so they decided to cut it out there and then: the victim makes a statement in court, the press report that statement, and what’s done is done- no need to follow it up or harass the participants about their story. That’s a damn respectable goal.

It could just be that it’s an opportunity for the victim, or the victim’s family, to confront the criminal and lay their anger, fears and sense of injustice to rest. That would be an honourable reason, one which I could definitely agree with.

Unfortunately, I’m too cynical for my own good so I have a beef with the victim impact statement. Where you could see a noble effort to give all parties their say in important judicial procedures, I see the result of a culture bending over backwards to reassure us that we’re all part of something and that our opinion matters.

Watching a football match recently I saw a pretty good discussion of tactics being interrupted by a sweet faced curvy blonde imploring to the camera that they, the presenters, cared what we thought and that we should tweet, text or email in our opinion. That would be a pretty good step towards appreciating different viewpoints and possible interpretations of the rules of the game but she quickly followed up with a disclaimer, stating that she wanted to get through as many as possible so the tweets, texts and emails should be short and to the point…well then. Rather than members of the public weighing in with a carefully judged comment or interesting point, they are expected to keep it as short as possible for the sake of the presenter…which can only end up with a barrage of ridiculously pointless comments.

I always laugh when imagining the poor soul who has to dig through these tweets and txts in search of a hidden gem. “MAN UTD R GONA WIN DEY R LEGENDS!!!”, “WANE RUNY IS CLASS: GIV IM D BALL N SIT BAK N WACH”, ” the 4-3-3 formation is revolutionis-RONALDO IS A DIVER!! PILLOCK!”


‘…oh god, the…the grammar, the grammar…’

Should our misinformed and emotional opinions accompany or even replace those of seasoned professionals? There’s a frightening trend of featuring tweets on news programmes…it’s only a matter of time before we get such incredibly enlightened and world changing opinions as ” GADDAFI IS A JOKE-HE SHUD GO BACK 2 D CARTUNS! AN BRING DAT COMMIE SOCIULIST ‘BAMA BACK WIT IM!!” featured on the ticker tape running below the six o’ clock news (….god help us it’s happening, it’s really happening.)

Now, as I said above: if the victim impact statement was put in place to allow the victims an opportunity to speak about their experience and the effect it’s had on them, great (although…I do wonder if that takes place in the trial process anyway).

The way I see it though, this is just another instance of a mindless institute of power (and yes…I do lump all those media outlets which plead that they care about your opinion in with the unchallengable institutions of government and law…*sigh*, just the way it is nowadays) thinking “oh shit; we have to keep faith in the franchise up, everyone else is giving the public their say we must do the same!”.

The victim’s get their say in court when they testify. If they don’t testify, then either the case won’t be in court in the first place because the testimony was essential to the case, or else the case is strong enough that it can be prosecuted without.

The victim’s family on the other hand, might not get the chance to testify. If the case is a murder, and they had nothing to do with the events, then they’ll just sit back and watch in horror as the details of their family member’s death are explained.  But, this is the rub ladies and gentlemen.

I’m making no effort to diminish their pain, loss or sadness at the circumstances they find themselves in: I’m sure it’s a harrowing thing to go through, and I don’t mean to demean their experience in any way, but; will their statement make any difference in the sentencing? and, following the stream of self righteousness taking over our culture…Should it?

If a judge hears from a family about how the loss of their son or daughter has affected them and their lives, will he hand down a harsher sentence? Should he base the sentence on the severity of the crime, or the severity of the victim’s/ family’s pain?

…That’s a rhetorical question by the way. You know the answer.

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2 Responses to “tweeting and the victim impact statement”

  1. cwcheeks May 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    I like the way your brain works. Looking forward to many more posts.

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