Balancing the scales in a homicide trial

AuthorJoan Deane
PositionFounder member of AdVIC
Judicial Studies Institute Journal [2007:1
Our criminal justice system works very well…for the
accused. It does not work well at all for victims, or their families
in the case of homicide. From the moment someone is murdered,
the family of that person is thrown into immense trauma, and has
to cope with a system within which they have no legal status at
all. The State brings a trial for murder or manslaughter against
the accused. In doing so, the State represents its citizens, who
have a right to expect their interests to be protected, and a right to
see justice done in relation to the most serious crime of all.
However, the interpretation and application of our laws, while
serving the rights of the person accused of murder or
manslaughter, afford no recognition or rights to the victim, or the
victim’s family. Indeed, this process is called a Criminal Justice
System – one does not have to wonder too much as to why it was
not originally called a Victim Justice System, for we feel justice
is rarely realised for victims.
A criminal trial for murder seems to be unbalanced from
the very beginning. Is the presumption of innocence, enjoyed by
the accused under our common law system, a good enough reason
why the defence team is allowed to know what the prosecution
case is in advance of a trial, while the prosecution, having to
prove the guilt of the accused, is not permitted to know what the
Founder member of AdVIC, a registered charity run by families bereaved by
homicide, for families bereaved by homicide. Text of an address delivered at
the National Judicial Studies Institute Conference, on November 17 2006.
AdVIC is very grateful to Gayle Killilea (LL.B.) and Anthony McGrath
(B.C.L., LL.M.) for their assistance.

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