1st Edition

The Use of Victim Impact Statements in Sentencing for Sexual Offences
Stories of Strength

ISBN 9780367524197
Published March 18, 2021 by Routledge
206 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Drawing on extensive research from Australia, this book examines the experiences of sexual offence victims who submit a victim impact statement. Victim impact statements are used in sentencing to outline the harm caused to victims. There has been little research on the impact statement experiences of sexual offence victims. This book fills this gap, examining the perspectives of six adult female victims and 15 justice professionals in Australia. This is supplemented by analysis of 100 sentencing remarks, revealing how courts use such statements in practice.

This book examines victims’ experiences of preparing and submitting statements, justice professionals’ experiences of working with victims to submit statements, and the judicial use of impact statements in sentencing. It identifies an overarching lack of clarity around the purpose of impact statements, which affects the information that can be included and the way they can be used by the court. It consequently explore issues associated with balancing the expressive and instrumental purposes of such statements, and the challenges in communication between professionals and victims of crime. The findings highlight several issues with the operation of impact statement regimes. Based on these findings, the book makes recommendations to clarify such regimes, to improve communication between justice professionals and victims of crime, and to enhance the therapeutic goals of such statements.

An accessible and compelling read, this book is essential reading for all those engaged with victimology, sentencing, and sexual violence.

Table of Contents

1.Introduction  2.Victim Participation in Sentencing  3.Victim Impact Statements – Australian Law and Policy  4.Judicial Use of Impact Statements in Sentencing   5.Balancing the Expressive and Instrumental Purposes of Victim Impact Statements  6.Victim Experiences of Impact Statements and Sentencing: Challenges in Communicating with Victims  7.Conclusion

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Rhiannon Davies is a public servant in Australian government. She has previously worked in legal practice and in the law faculties at Flinders University in South Australia and the University of Tasmania.

Lorana Bartels is the Criminology Program Leader in the Centre for Social Research and Methods at the Australian National University. She is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Canberra and University of Tasmania and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.


This is an exceptional and exhaustive work regarding victim participation and the crucial value of victim impact statements in the context of the sentencing of sexual assault victims. Davies and Bartels have produced a remarkable analysis of this area in the Australian legal context. Through powerful case examples, the authors give context to the therapeutic value of such statements. Beyond its obvious relevance and importance to an Australian readership, the book makes a major contribution to the area of therapeutic jurisprudence and assures its relevance to audiences internationally.

David B Wexler, Honorary President, International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Arizona, Professor of Law, University of Puerto Rico

This volume greatly enhances our understanding of victims’ perspectives of the use of victim impact statements in sexual offence cases. Based upon original research, the authors make a number of key recommendations to improve sentencing policy and/or legislative reform from a victim-focused perspective. The primary focus is upon Australia but this important book contains lessons for all common law jurisdictions.

Julian Roberts, Professor of Criminology, University of Oxford and Executive Director, Sentencing Academy of England and Wales 

Ever since the criminal courts began to give recognition to the important roles that victims can and should play in criminal justice processes, policymakers have been keen to see how victims’ experiences may have changed and whether the reforms that were put in place met expectations. Combining qualitative interviews with victims and justice professionals with an analysis of sentencing remarks, Dr Davies and Professor Bartels present a timely and unique victim-focused perspective that now provides those involved in judicial processes with guidance for effective acknowledgment of victims at sentencing. The evidence presented is convincing. The recommendations for future policy development are persuasive.

Rick Sarre, Emeritus Professor, University of South Australia and Past President, Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology

By combining interviews with victims and justice professionals with the analysis of sentencing transcripts, Davies and Bartels provide unique insights into the complexity of ensuring that victim impact statements achieve their potential to give victims voice, validation and vindication. Their findings and recommendations are relevant to all jurisdictions that make use of victim impact statements in the sentencing process. This book is essential reading for judicial officers, justice professionals and policy-makers interested in supporting victims of sexual assault through the criminal process, as well as providing compelling new material for lecturers and students.

Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania and Professor Emerita, University of Tasmania