The judicial relevance and impact of victim impact statements in the sentencing of rape offenders

Authors Amanda Spies

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 31 Issue 2, p. 212 – 234


This article explores the relevance and importance of victim participation in criminal justice proceedings, specifically the use of victim impact statements in the sentencing of rape offenders. It questions the restorative framework within which victim participation has developed and, analyses key court decisions to establish if the restorative purpose of victim impact statements are adhered to. Feminist arguments are explored and focus on the dangerous influence victim impact statements might have in reinforcing sexist and racist stereotypes in an already conservative criminal justice system. Although the South African government advocates for a criminal justice system that supports restorative justice principles, its sovereign state character maintains a retributive framework. The conclusion is reached that victim impact statements are of little use in sentencing practice, as its restorative character is distorted by retributive outcomes.