Legal representation of your case in the court is very important. If you are trying to save some legal fees by not taking legal representation that is your attorney to the court, you will end up paying more amounts if you make a compromise with your rights and interests. The Commission notes the importance of legal representation as a means of enforcing rights. The Commission points out that ‘rights are useless unless the people who have those rights are aware of them, their significance, and how to use them effectively’. We would suggest that this view applies equally to the victim and the accused. The Commission further recognises that it is not the primary function of either the presiding officer or the prosecutor to act as protector of the victim’s rights.
Indeed, it is explicitly noted that there are times when the victim’s interests and those of the prosecution may substantially diverge, with the Commission stating that ‘the role of the prosecutor is not that of a legal representative for the victim’. This condition is applicable in special cases of crime done by the accused person. Furthermore, the adversarial nature of our trial process means that victims, as main state witness are often subject to gruelling cross-examinations by defence attorneys, charged with protecting the interests of their clients. Given that sexual offences are treated as a crime against the State and that neither the prosecutor not the presiding officer carries any responsibility for protecting the rights and interests of the victim, it’s not surprising that we see the levels of secondary victimisation that we do.
The Commission points to a number of instances where the victim’s rights or interests may be infringed upon throughout the criminal justice process. This can happen to anyone who is under trial. These include limited access to information from the time that the victim reports the crime through to sentencing, parole and release Inappropriate questioning from the accuse (both in terms of content and manner) during the trial And limited input at some crucial stages of the proceedings, such as bail and sentencing(which are very important), which can result in weakening of the case that is charged on you. We have, throughout our submission made a number of recommendations for improving the victim’s position. We believe that the presence of a legal representative charged with protecting the victim’s interests will substantially bolster the effect of both our recommendations and the many positive changes recommended by the Commission. This will help you as the case can take some remarkable turns in your favour and more is your possibility of winning the case than in the absence of any of your legal representative.
We recommend therefore that a legal representative for the victim be present throughout the pre-trial process, at the trial (where necessary and appropriate) and at sentencing. The lawyer will help you, guide you and will find justice for you.