Why you should care about defendants

There is an army of people who promote the rights of victims. The Government, Police, Probation, Courts express concern for the rights of victims and the families of victims.
Every so often the criminal justice process is scrutinised by the media and prosecution witnesses express outrage at how they were treated by the defendant’s advocate.
Concern has been expressed at the low level of convictions in rape cases and reform has been requested/demanded.
The problem is that most people in putting the victim first usually treat the defendant as if he is already a criminal. An acquitted defendant is often described as “getting away with it” or “getting off”.
In a Crown Court trial the jury decides whether the Crown has through the evidence it calls established that the defendant committed the offence. The jury has to be sure of the defendant’s guilt.
I happen to believe that there will only be more convictions if there are more Police Officers, better trained, better educated and better resourced so that evidence is gathered and processed properly. This involves spending money.
Most prosecutors would then be able to do a better job of satisfying the jury of a defendant’s guilt.
Because of the lack of resources directed towards investigating crime ie deploying the correct number of able, bright, experienced officers to investigate the allegations and to investigate any defence put forward by suspects.
Only in murders and drugs conspiracies is the level of investment in the investigation actually made.
In relation to sexual offences I suggest that more concentration upon the defendant, the defence and the gathering if evidence will work to secure more convictions. However trying to deal with date rape and some other sexual offences as criminal offences will only ever bring disappointment. The nature of the crime involves consideration of “consent”. If only we could devise a civil system that looked at the attitudes of the offender and controlled conduct with the risk of custody for not complying and the. We would perhaps address underlying issues which still allow some men to treat women as a sexual target.
At the risk of being accused of blaming victims I also believe that personal conduct and associated risks most be taught, explored and discussed so that there are less victims.
Violence in the home and sexual violence must also be addressed in a more dynamic way. The use of civil orders, treatment programmes for perpetrators and survivors and the involvement of family intervention specialists would probably produce better outcomes ie a change in attitudes and the prevention of boys inheriting their attitudes and girls becoming victims, than the current concentration on criminal investigations.
However the most important point is to continue to review how trials are conducted by asking this question: if you were charged with a criminal offence and maintained your innocence, how would you like your defence conducted? In this way the focus on reform will be effective.
Continuing to think about how victims can be brought more to the centre of the Court process will only continue to disappoint and frustrate. Apart from that those who demand this focus often fail to explain how it can in fact be achieved-and that is because it is unachievable.

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