The Injustice System

A little under a week ago an official conference was arranged between my daughters and one of the young men who burned their house down 14 months ago. My wife and I went along to support them. There was a representative from the police, the young man and his mother, his counsellor, their lawyer and a Victims of Crime support worker for my family. Ironically, the support worker was there because she believed the girls needed support. However, technically, as there was no direct impact on my daughters (i.e. they were not in the house at the time) they were not seen, in a legal sense, as victims of crime, despite the fact that they lost most of their belongings and were rocked by the event.

Let me say from the outset I think these conferences are a great idea. They do allow perpetrators to hear of the damage that they have caused. The charges and outcomes were all read out and the questions with regard to motivation and reasons were put to the young man. I also applaud the fact that the system is trying to prevent these young people from committing further crimes. It was pointed out that a 6 months age difference (if technically he had been an adult) could have meant 5-10 years in gaol.

My daughters were amazing. I was so proud of them. They were gracious, forgave and reflected Christ in a wonderful way and were a witness to the gospel. The lawyer even said at one stage that he had never been at such a meeting with so strong a sense of forgiveness.

However, some aspects of  this process still sat uneasily with me.

One of the subtle aspects of this process was that the perpetrator becomes the “victim” in need of help. I agree that he needs help but he is also the person who created this situation. Yet the process seems to turn the tables somewhat. My daughters who were the victims, received no assistance, were largely left out of the information loop, were offered no counselling for the trauma suffered and, largely, became bystanders. All the attention was on the young man.

Maybe I am biased because I am the dad, but the “system” as well meaning as some its motives may be, is not a “just” system. There were all these people involved but the real victims were sidelined. That bothers me – not just for my daughters but for the many others in this situation. My daughters have a strong network of family, friends and church. Not everybody has that. What constitutes a “Victim of Crime” needs serious reconsideration.

For us as a family, however, at the end of the day, even if the legal system had been a disillusionment, we could celebrate the grace of God. We went to their new home, had a meal together and thanked God for His care over the last 14 months.

Categories: Ethics, Family | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Injustice System

  1. This raises the whole issue of justice which has always fascinated me. My reaction to the perpetrator can be of at least three types. I can wear the therapist cap and see him as having a disease which needs “curing” and think this could be done through everything from counselling to punishment, taking a pill, or removing that part of his brain which may have caused that kind of behaviour. Result: he goes back on the street to never commit the crime again and become a perfect citizen. Or perhaps i can wear the social science cap and punish him in some way so as to be a warning to others. As long as I can demonstrate through anecdotal, or better still statistical evidence, that this “warning” is an effective preventative measure, then society will be a better place because of my punitive actions. I can also take a position where “appropriate” punishment “ought” to happen as a natural consequence of a misdemeanour. This will appeal to my basic sense of being human and having a sense of universal justice.It will sit well with ideas of compassion, empathy, the Golden Rule and other philosophies that make our civilisation above that of animals and the will also appeal to the great big “J” in my Myers Briggs typology (if I has one!).
    This quandary gives me some sympathy for those workers in the vineyard and the overwhelming mystery of grace, a grace which your daughters so clearly demonstrated.

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