|Handbook on Justice for Victims (UNODCCP, 1999, 132 p.)|
|Chapter IV: Advocacy, policy-making and law reform: the role of civil society|
Each year victims of crime suffer enormous human and financial losses. Yet too few funds go to preventing, assisting, protecting and empowering victims.
1. General revenues
Governments may be looking for ways to reduce their expenditures. It may therefore seem impossible at first to find ways to provide better services to victims.
On the one hand, the priorities of existing agencies such as health care, police and prosecutors may be changed in the interests of better meeting the needs of victims. On the other, new technology can facilitate processes such as payment of restitution by offenders.
All of this requires work such as that identified in the earlier sections of this chapter.
2. Innovative means of funding assistance to victims
There are many innovative ways to fund programmes for victims, assistance and compensation being two examples.
Several countries are using additional fines on offenders. Through an amendment to the criminal code or sentencing statute, judges are empowered to order a special fine that will place the payment in a fund that can only be used for services to victims. Some central government agencies resist these amendments on the grounds that they do not allow for appropriate setting of fiscal priorities, but such arguments must be met by stressing that fiscal priorities tend to be influenced by those who have the most funds already, whereas the victim movement needs some special protection.
In the United States, the federal Crime Victims Fund is derived not from tax dollars but from fines and penalties paid by federal criminal offenders. A total amount of $530 million was contributed through this mechanism in 1996. The Fund is administered by the Office for Victims of Crime. Nearly 90 per cent of the money collected each year is distributed to states to assist in funding their victim assistance and compensation programmes, which are the lifeline services that help many victims to heal. Federal victim assistance funds help to support over 2,500 local victim service agencies, such as domestic violence shelters, children's advocacy centres and rape treatment programmes. Compensation funds provide reimbursement to victims for out-of-pocket expenses resulting from crime, including medical and mental health counselling costs, lost wages and funeral expenses.
Some countries use the money seized from organized crime. Their statutes empower the State to expropriate the ill-gotten gains of persons involved in racketeering and organized crime. The seized property is sold and the proceeds used for programmes such as crime prevention and services for victims.
Some countries provide for punitive reparation orders over and above civil damages. Various efforts have been made to facilitate civil reparation, such as facilitating access to legislation and court decisions. Some high-profile cases have successfully obtained damages from the offender and also from a third party who facilitated the offence by taking adequate precautions to protect the victim. Special legislation can "bankrupt" offenders or place their assets and income in some form of protected fund so that victims can claim restitution before the assets have been dissipated.
Some have advocated that a fixed percentage of the gross expenditure on police, courts and prisons go to the work of a commission or office that is promoting change for victims.
In Germany victim support schemes are fully financed out of private contributions from private individuals and businesses. In France compensation is financed in part through private insurance schemes.
In Victoria, Australia, victim services are funded from government revenue. These funds have been reallocated away from direct payments to crime victims and towards meeting all their medical, dental, counselling and other needs. This "package" approach enables all the needs of the victim to be met in a timely and efficient manner. In addition to medical costs, which are generally covered by the national Medicare scheme, a victim is entitled to up to $60,000 coverage of costs associated with victimization. In addition, families of homicide victims receive a cash payment of $100,000.
1 See, for instance, the report of the Secretary-General entitled "United Nations Standards and Norms in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Addendum: use and application of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power" (E/CN.15/1996/16/Add.3 of 10 April 1996).
2 In the 1960s, the first programmes for Governments to provide financial compensation to victims of crime were ascribed to the dedication of Margery Fry, who lobbied, lectured and pamphleteered to persuade New Zealand, England and Wales to establish victim compensation programmes. Much of the initial interest in restitution by the offender to the victim is attributed to the dedication of Hans von Hentig. The growth of a broader concern for justice and assistance for victims is credited to Benjamin Mendelsohn.
In the 1970s, several organizations were launched to bring together those committed to canvassing for improvements and providing services and more responsible justice to victims of crime. In 1975, the National Organization for Victim Assistance was founded in the United States of America. In 1979, the National Association of Victim Support Schemes was formed in England and Wales. In 1984, the Institut national d'aide aux victimes et de mediation was founded in France and Plaidoyer-Victimes in Quebec, Canada. Internationally, the World Society of Victimology was launched in 1979. Today many affluent countries have such organizations.
3 In the United States, the total annual costs of medical expenses, mental health counselling and lost wages alone are estimated at $403 per person and substantially more for victims. Total costs of crime, including the operations of police, courts and corrections, private security, property loss and estimates of loss of quality of life, exceed $725 per person for countries such as the United States.
Even in the United States - one of the world's most successful economies - little of this money goes to victims for prevention, assistance, protection, compensation or empowerment. For instance, in 1996, 110,000 victims received an average of approximately $2,000 from state compensation programmes.
It is relatively easy to estimate the costs of policing, justice and corrections for a particular country, where a central statistical bureau provides this information. For instance, for the United States the costs per year are about $100 billion for a population of 265 million, or about $375 per person or nearly $1,000 for the average family. The other estimates are harder to obtain. However, the mere listing of types of costs is sufficient to impress most policy makers.
4 Thus, 60 per cent of the crime of which police are aware in industrialized countries is reported by victims. If victims did not provide information to the police and cooperate with prosecutors, there would be few cases.
5 At the federal level, the Office for Victims of Crime was established by the 1984 Victims of Crime Act to provide federal funds to support victim assistance and compensation programmes around the country and to campaign for the fair treatment of crime victims. The Office for Victims of Crime administers grants for programmes designed to benefit victims, provides training for the diverse professionals who work with victims and develops projects to enhance victims' rights and services. Its mission is to help provide victims with justice and healing. In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime sponsors training on a variety of victims' issues for many different professions, including victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the clergy and medical and mental health personnel. Training on victim-witness issues is also provided for some 70 federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense and the National Park Service.
6 The provisions are limited by four other sections, including the following: "Only the victim or the victim's representative shall have standing to assert the rights established by this article. Nothing in this article shall provide grounds for the victim to challenge a charging decision or a conviction; to overturn a sentence or negotiated plea; to obtain a stay of trial; or to compel a new trial. Nothing in this article shall give rise to a claim for damages against the United States, a State, a political subdivision, or a public official."