The criminal justice system can have both a positive and a negative impact on the mental health of victims of crime.
The justice system by allowing victims to confront assailants with the damage that they have caused may hold the prospect of allowing them to come to terms with their experiences. Reaching a court settlement may be part of
the healing process by providing public recognition of the harm suffered and legitimizing the victims need for support.
Studies have shown that improvements in victims’ mental health outcomes are linked to the victims perception of justice systems as fair and transparent entities that are able to reach a considered and just outcome.
Unfortunately, though, much existing research suggests that criminal justice systems may not ful?lling this role for many victims of violent crime. Justice systems which are seen as confusing and arbitrary, due a lack of social support for victims and a dearth of timely information, are almost certainly damaging victims’ con?dence and leading to cases being dropped, with the victim feeling further victimized by the process .
In the future restorative justice courts need to consider mental health outcomes for victims of violent crime, there needs to be improved advocacy services from the police and other victim support workers, improvement of notification systems for victims, victim impact statements to be presented by the victim and at plea bargaining and sentencing stages.
Criminal justice systems need to give more consideration of how their processes impact on the current and future mental health of the victim.