Final-year Criminal Justice and Criminology students have advocated for victim-focused reforms of the criminal justice system in their end-of-semester capstone presentation event at Swinburne University of Technology’s Hawthorn campus.
Under the supervision of Swinburne Law School lecturer, Dr Rachael Burgin, the students in the capstone unit have applied their knowledge by researching the rights of victim-survivors in the criminal justice system.
Dr Burgin, who is also an Executive Director of Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, says there is currently significant political and social interest in the topic.
“In Victoria, the Victims of Crime Commissioner is undertaking a systemic inquiry into victim participation in the criminal justice system,” Dr Burgin says.
“We were lucky enough to have the Commissioner talk to the students to inform their projects. Similarly, Katrina Marson, prosecutor in the ACT Office of Public Prosecutions’ Sexual Offences Unit, spoke to them about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommendations and her position as a critical representative in the criminal justice system.”
Reflecting on the students’ work over the semester and on display at the capstone Presentation Event, Deputy Department Chair of Swinburne Law School and Course Director of the Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology Dr Natania Locke says, “I am very proud of the excellence exhibited by our final year students in this project. I am also grateful to the various industry leaders who have contributed their valuable insights for the benefit of our students.”
Criminal Justice & Criminology students Zeynep Inal, Harrison Leigh and Helin Bayram
Re-traumatisation a factor
Student Helin Bayram’s interest in criminal justice and criminology began when she would watch TV shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds with her family. Her capstone group argued for the legal representation of victims of sexual offences.
“We discussed the general dissatisfaction and re-traumatisation that occurs from the start of the crime to the end of the criminal justice process,” Ms Bayram says.
“Cross-examination is traumatising, and we discussed how legal representation could help during that process.”
The issue of re-traumatisation was also a focus for student Zeynep Inal.
“My group chose independent legal representation for victim-survivors of sexual assault,” Ms Inal says.
“In our research, we found that the justice needs of sexual assault victim-survivors are not met during the trial process. We decided that they need the added support of a secondary auxiliary lawyer to meet their justice requirements and mitigate the re-traumatisation that they face at trial.”
Student Harrison Leigh valued the creative independence the semester provided to explore and research a topic so thoroughly.
“I think we were prouder of our presentation because of this,” Mr Leigh says.
“My group focused on the issue of survivor-victims’ information-based rights and argued that they are not adequately protected in Victoria. This unit has also changed my opinion on the justice system and opened my eyes to how it treats survivor-victims.”