Friday, 7 September 2012

VIS allows victims to state impact of crime before sentence is meted out

PETALING JAYA: Little known to them, victims have for some time now been allowed to state the impact of a crime before the judge decides on a sentence under amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.

The victim impact statement (VIS), which can influence a punishment, would expedite the disposal of criminal trials, said the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Under the amendments introduced from June 1, the victim or a family member can, on request, make a statement explaining the impact of the offence.

If the victim or a family member cannot attend a proceeding, the court might at its discretion accept a written statement, the A-G Chambers said.

However, in the recent cases of sex crimes, VIS had not been used.

In the case of 21-year-old Chuah Guan Jiu, who was convicted of raping his 12-year-old girlfriend, the victim was not informed of her right to make the statement, Deputy Solicitor-General II Datuk Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah told The Star.

“The victim was not informed of such a right by the DPP as evidence was adduced that the accused was her lover and she consented to the sexual intercourse.

“As such, a victim impact statement from her would not have contributed to pressing for a severe sentence,” Tun Abdul Majid said.

He said a VIS “will help the court in meting out the appropriate sentence with the victim appearing to inform the court of the suffer- ing incurred”.

“At the same time, the victim or family can make known to the court whether they have forgiven the accused.”

Shrouded by controversy: Chuah has been grabbing the headlines as many deem his conviction ‘too lenient’.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said allowing the victims to express how they were affected would allow the courts to understand the full impact of the crime.

“It means more to hear the account from them. It is more sincere ... They can express their grief,” he told The Star.

Abdul Gani added that if the victim could not bring themselves to speak, their counsel could deliver the statement for them.

“If, for example, you were speaking out against a gang of drug dealers, you'd be scared to see them face to face,” he said.

He, however, said it would be better if the VIS came from the victims as their emotion would be more influential than any aggravating factors put forward by a prosecutor.

The VIS has already been implemented in many countries, including Australia, Finland, South Africa, Britain and the United States.

“The VIS is a vehicle for victims to express how they feel and be part of the criminal justice system in the proceedings against the perpetrator,” said Tun Abdul Majid.


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