Victims deserve better from our legal system

James Humphries


 

Justice not only has to be done but be seen to be done. The latter is not happening. Victims in both civil and criminal law are witnessing lenient results and therefore are not able to seek closure.

Stuart Hall received 15 months for indecently assaulting 13 girls.This is just over 1 month for each assault. This makes me apoplectic with rage. Placing Hall’s sentence into context, the Goldman Sachs banker Elias Preko was given 4.5 years for helping launder $5 million from Nigeria into the UK. No doubt this was illegal, but when placed side by side with Hall, the latter’s sentence puts our justice system to shame.

“Case Law”, the legal system will scream. Without precedent how could we possibly have a just legal system? However the victims experience the results of any sentence just as much as the alleged perpetrator. The victims are not the centric part of judgements and this is unequivocally not just.

Civil Law has exactly the same exasperating problem, victims of unfair dismissal do not witness justice being served. I heard about a case similar to this in recent work experience at a law firm. X is sexually abused at work. X makes a formal complaint. X is sacked for bringing the firm into disrepute.

The natural reaction for anyone with an ounce of morality would say X deserves compensation of a year’s salary if not more. X also deserves for the alleged perpetrator of the sexual offence to be put through the judicial system. However,  old firm don’t want to pay their compensation, file for bankruptcy and liquidation. X receives nothing. X’s claim is against a firm that no longer exists. The victim, X, receives no compensation, and incidentally, loses out financially due to legal costs.

Some will point out that the length of any sentence is subjective, and  the victims should not be the arbiter of the length of penal justice. However, in any case, there is a prosecution and defence. X and those girls have been ignored and this is not just. It is time for judges to be brave, and to formulate a fairer sentence code for victims to believe in. Otherwise, what is the point in having an inclusive legal system with two sides of every coin?

Victims are not centric to legal judgements. The Law may be done to a T, however, sometimes common sense has to prevail. Appealing to the Attorney General should not happen at all. The sentence should respect the victims as well as give the alleged perpetrator hope for a better future. The balance has swayed to the latter. Victims deserve better.

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