Victims should get a say in the sentencing of criminals

Justice is a powerful word. Victims deserve justice and their families need to see justice being done. So why are the courts still failing us?

Take the case of ‘Sarah’, a woman who was sexually and physically abused by her husband. She was bullied into retracting a rape allegation and ended up in prison because of him. This is one of the most disgraceful cases I have come across. Justice was not done and the court did not help her, instead they punished her for succumbing to her husband’s pressure.

If  ‘Sarah’ were responsible for deciding the punishment this would have never happened. Not only did she suffer at the hands of someone who supposedly loves her and whom she trusts but now she can no longer see her children and will forever be branded as a criminal for the remainder of her life.

The justice system cares more about the criminals than the actual victims. Those who have suffered at the hands of an offender are thrown aside and disregarded as yet another case through the conveyor belt of what we call the courtroom. However with so many issues surrounding a subject like this you have got to tread carefully because a considerable amount of damage could be done to our freedom.

Many offenders with criminal records are let off by the courts and allowed back into the community to re-offend, inflicting more misery onto society. All victims want is for criminals to face the consequences of their actions. How dare they mess up someone’s life and expect to get off lightly, they should face up to the wrong they’ve done and face the consequences. However this subject should not be taken lightly, as to confuse justice with vengeance is thin ice to be skating on.

Who is to say that victims are any less capable of administering justice when the opportunity does not even exist for them? The judge should not always have to have the final say because he is deemed as having the best judgment. It is not always likely that the punishments given by him lead to the best outcome for the victim. The victim should be able to decide on the punishments given, as they are the ones who have been directly affected. Only they know how much there life has changed and only they know the right action to take.

Can you imagine if your child was murdered by someone who received a life sentence only for them to be let out 25 years down the line for good behaviour? And time in prison is not exactly hard. How do you feel knowing that all day every day they sit there with their friends happily playing on the Xbox? While you are left picking up the pieces trying to carry on with your life while they don’t have a acre in the world.

The NSPCC have proved that on average, 56 children in England and Wales are killed at the hands of another person every year, so our children are at risk. (NSPCC, 2012) If I was in this position I would make sure that they stayed in their cell to rot for the rest of their lives with no luxury items and only their thoughts to keep them company. As the old saying goes, an eye for an eye. They have already proved they can’t live among us like normal citizens and by playing God and taking away a life it is not forgivable.

A family who have gone through this terrible tragedy would have a strong prejudice against the killer and will be sentencing the person with emotion that has been swirling around in their bodies for days. I think that what we want out of passionate moments, like when we feel anger and fear, we let these emotions take over and cloud our judgment, whereas a judge will be more impartial and give a fairer sentencing.

In a humane society it is imperative to ensure that criminals are treated with fairness. Linking justice to fairness is about trying to reconcile liberty and quality rather than choose between them. We need to consider justice in terms of principles, where criminals are treated fairly and impartially and with the respect individuals deserve.

For example criminals should not get punished with more severity than their offence warrants. Obviously a judge isn’t going to wrongly punish a petty thief or a shoplifter who stole sweets with a life imprisonment. Neither is he going to let off a serial murder with just a fine.

On the other hand punishment given by the victims ought to be administrated in the best way. A public opinion poll by the National Victim Centre revealed that 55% of Americans feel that sentences handed down to criminals by the court are too lenient. (OVC achieve key) So why are we still mollycoddling criminals? They should be made aware of the effects they have caused on the victim and the impact it has had on their life.

Victims and their families would have to live with a life altering experience that was brought upon them by another person and they should have every right to speak their mind regarding the outcome of the sentence. People do have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad consequences that may be produced.

Justice is about giving equal rights to equal people but the question that always arises is equal in what respect? Each person has different attitudes, bargaining power, interest and values and it is these qualities that can also be a hindrance as they simply reflect in the type of sentencing issued.

Penalties ought to be imposed equally for the same crime, regardless of those variables above. Criminals may feel that it is an injustice to them and I think some regulations may need to be put in place as to keep that under control.

Understanding the moral seriousness of a crime is important too as it helps the criminal to take responsibility for their actions, but the moral state of the person would need to be gauged before they could make a decision, as vengeful victims ought not to overlook justice. The fate that is chosen for an offender will also be one decision that will have to be lived with for the rest of a victim’s life, this could hinder them in the recovery process they make.

However by deciding on the outcome of a criminal’s life it could maximize happiness for a victim and can be seen as therapeutic which serves as an outlet for their rage. So by allowing victims to make this decision it gives them somewhere to channel their anger, fear and sadness that may leave them in a position of forgiveness. They end up not dwelling on the bad and their life can carry on which in turn restores the victim’s happiness.

Virtue is something we require by practicing and doing it. Sharing the position of a ruler is necessary to virtue as it is not about making us good people but to respect our freedom to choose what is good for us. Humans are meant to live by polis and we only fully unfold our capacity when we deliberate with fellow citizens about good and evil, just and unjust, right and wrong.

Many a time people have witnessed a judge handle a sentencing, only taking into consideration the hard facts and not commenting on the emotional side of the case. So by viewing this age-old way of constructing a court sentencing, a virtuous person’s duty ought to be to live up to the principles of the right action, regardless of the consequences of their next act.

A commitment to the truth demonstrates respect for a person’s ends rather than pawns to be manipulated. Rational human beings should be able to work this out for themselves and do not need to depend on a judge or anything else to discover what is right and what is wrong. Nor do they need to look at the consequences of their action as the victim and their whole life should be taken into consideration and should always come first in any case.

It’s time to change the message of the land, I believe we ought not to all be bundled up into one justice system, as it does not make a distinction between the value and respect of individuals. People who have had a greater association with good in their lives should have more of a say in sentencing criminals. This is because they are in a position to contribute most to what a law-abiding community would want to happen. If only we all could have had a say on people who have wronged us in the past, then maybe justice well and truly could have been done.

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