Towards Justice for Victims: A New Role for Victim Impact Statements in Sexual Violence Cases
This dissertation argues that the current approach to victim impact statements in New Zealand serves victims poorly. The primary purpose of victim impact statements is to provide information about harm, in order to assist the sentencing judge to assess the seriousness of the offending. This limits the extent to which victim impact statements can meet victims’ needs and protect their interests. This dissertation proposes a new role for victim impact statements (with a focus on their use in sexual violence cases). It argues that the purpose of victim impact statements should be to meet victims’ needs for recognition, acknowledgement and assistance with recovery, and to protect victims’ interests in reparation and prevention of further harm from the offender and from the sentence imposed on the offender. Meeting these needs and protecting these interests is necessary to provide justice for victims. Finally, this dissertation argues that victim impact statements should not be used to assess the seriousness of the offending.