In this paper I shall try to do two things: first, for those who do not have a detailed knowledge of criminal procedure in England, I shall give a bird's-eye view of what the victim's legal position is today. Secondly, I shall examine the difficulties, theoretical and practical, which make it hard to give the victim the deal which many of those who claim to speak for victims believe they ought to have.
In the last twenty years the victim, for long the “forgotten man” in the criminal justice system, has been rediscovered. Politicians of all parties have learnt that victims, and those who identify with them, have votes, and therefore need to be placated. Up to now, however, this has mainly been done by words rather than deeds.
An example is the document rather grandly entitled “The Victim's Charter”, which the Government issued in 1990 (with a revised version in 1996). Contrary to what the title “Charter” might lead one to suppose, this document confers no rights or privileges, but merely lists the ways in which the various parts of the machinery of criminal justice ‘ought’ to be sensitive to the position of the victim.