1st Edition

A History of Victims of Crime How they Reclaimed their Rights

By Stephen Strauss-Walsh Copyright 2023

    This book examines the evolution of the contemporary crime victim’s procedural place within modern Western societies. Taking the history of the Irish crime victim as a case study, the work charts the place of victims within criminal justice over time. This evolves from the expansive latitude that they had during the eighteenth century, to their major relegation to witness and informer in the nineteenth, and back to a more contemporary recapturing of some of their previous centrality. The book also studies what this has meant for the position of suspects and offenders as well as the population more generally. Therefore, some analysis is devoted to examining its impact on an offender’s right to fair trial and social forms. It is held that the modern crime victim has transcended its position of marginality. This happened not only in law, but as the consequence of the victim’s new role as a key sociopolitical stakeholder. This work flags the importance of victim rights conferrals, and the social transformations that engendered such trends. In this way victim re-emergence is evidenced as being not just a legal change, but a consequence of several more recent sociocultural transformations in our societies. The book will be of interest to researchers, academics, and policy makers in criminal law, human rights law, criminology, and legal history.


    Table of Instruments

    Case Law

    1 Introduction


    Research question


    Contribution to knowledge


    PART I

    Historical context

    2 A contextual study of victim centrality in eighteenth-century Britain


    The eighteenth century


    The victim of crime

    In the popular imagination



    3 The causes and outcomes of the exclusion of victims from the nineteenth century Irish justice system


    The nineteenth-century causes of victim exclusion

    A fading noblesse oblige and a laissez-faire revolution

    Urbanisationwithin an industrialising Ireland

    Greater resident numbers move to cities

    Problems with the victim-centred system are emphasised

    The prevalent hesitancy regarding pursuing actions

    Britain’s closest colony lists towards revolution

    British hegemonic rule becomes almost impossible

    The “fear of the crowd” and a move from “status to contract”

    Disorder sees social unrest become a persistent Irish issue

    The“Leviathan State” engenders punitive advancements

    Novel organisations begin dictating chastisement

    Reformalters regulation of juridical frames

    Traditionally overlooked transgressions Are prosecuted

    The impactof victim exclusion in nineteenth-century Britain

    Punishment becomes successfully centralised



    Sociological transformation

    4 Feminism and victimology highlight hidden victimisation



    The birth of the study of victims


    Consciousness-raising and -changing


    5 Domestic drivers of change re-establish the victim


    Reported crime rates—from stability to disorder

    The low crime society of the 1940s and 1950s

    The Evental moments that qualitatively changed crime

    Watershed moments in Irish criminal history

    The evolution of victim advocacy in Ireland

    The emergence of the victim’s voice in the public sphere

    Media reporting

    Graphic and pervasive crime portrayals

    Mass victimisation surveys

    Data suggests an increase in the reporting of victimisation

    Victims of child abuse

    The victim in the consciousness of the Irish people



    Legal reformative evolution

    6 Charting the Irish victim’s juridical re-integration—the evolution of the victim as a rights bearer in Ireland


    Supranational instruments provide victims with entitlements

    International law courts allocate privileges to victims

    The Irish judiciary recognise the victim as a rights holder


    7 The legal reincorporation of the crime victim


    The protection and accommodation of victims

    An expanded criminal calendar

    Pre-trial reforms

    Preliminary investigations

    Trial reforms

    Greater account taken of victim privacy during disclosures


    8 Legal reincorporation of victims after trial

    Post-trial reforms


    Civil process reforms

    The civil law—a viable justice avenue


    9 Conclusion




    Stephen J. Strauss-Walsh teaches Criminology and Criminal Law at the University of Galway. His research is focused on victims and crime. He has a First-Class Honours Law Degree and PhD from the University of Limerick, Ireland.

    ‘By his thought-provoking historical assessment of victim rights in Ireland, Strauss-Walsh provides an innovative analysis of the empowerment of crime victims in the modern period. The removal and relocation of victims in criminal law and procedure continues to define the contours of justice in the modern trial context, making A History of Victims of Crime a must read for anyone interested in the socio-legal context of victim rights law reform.’

    Professor Tyrone Kirchengast, Associate Professor of Criminal Law, University of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, Australia

    ‘Tracing the emergence of a new legal culture of inclusion in regard to victims in the Irish criminal process, Strauss-Walsh provides fascinating historical and sociological context. This book is a wonderful addition to our understanding of the fall and rise of the victim in criminal proceedings in Ireland.’

    Professor Yvonne Daly, Full Professor of Criminal Law and Evidence, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Ireland