Saturday, May 26, 2018

The matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then*

Here is an interesting op-ed by Lindsay Rodman, concerning the current Canadian bill concerning, among other things, victims' rights in courts-martial. Her comments on US military justice's provision for victims' counsel are notable. Excerpt:
In the U.S. military, we had a well-established corps of victim advocates, many of whom were licensed clinical social workers, to help victims of sexual assault obtain services and work through the justice process. The fact that they were civilians and the fact that they were not able to advocate in court or with the force of legal argument made victims feel powerless in the process. As such, they clamoured for their own lawyers.

I was dead set against it. The Bill of Rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution does not envision a third party in criminal trials. The rights of the accused are well understood in the United States, and the assertion of someone else’s rights, by a lawyer, throughout the justice process seemed anathema. I deeply sympathized with the victims in U.S. military sexual-assault cases – as a female Marine it would have been impossible not to. But I also believe deeply in principles of justice and the process, and I feared this would upend the whole system and tip the balance unconstitutionally away from the rights of the accused.

I was wrong. The sky has not fallen. There are still serious questions about implementation of this relatively new legal concept. There is significant litigation in U.S. military courts of appeal trying to sort out when and how the Victims’ Legal Counsels can speak in court on behalf of their clients. But, the system continues to work and the feedback from victims has been overwhelmingly positive.
Andrews v Styrap (1872) 26 LT 704, 706 per Bramwell B.

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