Victim's Family Roles in Criminal Procedures: dilemma and conflicts Su-Syan Jou, Yu-Sheng Lin, Hung-En Sung, Le-Wei Teng, Wei-Ting Syue, Chen-Fu Pai, Yi-Fang Lu
This paper examines the dilemma and conflicts associated with the rolesof a victim's family in the modern criminal justice system of Taiwan. We draw upon an empirical investigation of a criminal court case which involved the killing of a police officer. The study also bases on its analysis of the results of restorative justice meetings with some of those accused of the crime and the victim's family, and the analysis of associated pre-sentence reports. The paper argues that at the trial phase, victims serve as 'witness' - providing factual information about the crime. However, victims' family members or friends have little or no role at this stage. At the sentencing phase, judges must normally apply general penal principles, but exceptionally may take into account victims' family impact statements, with the outcome of restorative justice meetings, and pre-sentencing reports as part of their sentencing decision-making process. The paper argues that victims' family impact statements should be best used to enhance the understanding of the nature and harm of the crime, rather than weighed as part of a calculus of aggravating or mitigating factors. It further argues that given that the parole decision is essentially a risk-based assessment in which there can be little purpose served by including victims' family statements at the parole phase. However, parole boards could profitably use them in relation to release conditions. In conclusion, it is recommended that courts in respect of certain selected crimes: (1) ensure properly conducted and compulsory pre-sentence reports; (2) establish standardized procedures for the use of impact statements; (3) formally take into account of the outcomes of restorative justice meetings when establishing sentence.