chapter  2
34 Pages

Defining ‘victims’

Criminal victimization is a malleable concept. It is a label which can evoke great public sympathy1 as well as personal catharsis and a sense of closure for all those affected by crime (Miers 1980, 1991). It is the successful attainment of ‘victim status’ in the eyes of the public and those working within the criminal justice system which in most cases will grant a person access to the range of official and unofficial support mechanisms and financial redress available in many jurisdictions. The recognition of different parties as ‘legitimate’ victims of crime is therefore a vitally important issue in its own right. As such, this chapter is devoted to a discussion on the meaning and scope of the phrase ‘victim of crime’ in the jurisdictions under review. Analysis of this issue reveals two underlying themes. First, across all nine jurisdictions one can appreciate an expansion of official notions of victimhood in recent years, to include ever wider categories of individuals affected in some way by criminal (and other) activities. Second, it will be highlighted that victim status is increasingly afforded by reference to the harms suffered by a given individual or group. The following discussion will reflect on the implications of such developments, for policy makers and victims themselves, in the nine jurisdictions under review.