Just Interests: Victims, Citizens and the Potential for Justice. By Robyn Holder. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2018.

Date01 June 2019
Published date01 June 2019
Just Interests: Victims, Citizens and the Potential for Justice.By
Robyn Holder. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2018.
Reviewed by Albert W. Dzur, Department of Political Science and
Philosophy, Bowling Green State University
This critical examination of the status of victims in the criminal
justice system takes up the ways they are marginalized in legal
theory and practice. Grounded in a qualitative study, the book
shows that victims have complex interests in pursuing justice and
that their expectations for the justice system are often unmet. A
practical and compelling idea of the victim as citizen emerges,
over the course of the book, to identify their hopes and capabili-
ties for being constructively involved.
The book is enriched by the author’s 15-year service as an
independent statutory advocate for victims’ rights in Canberra.
Her regular interactions with victims “revealed their bewilderment
with a system they thought they would know;” working alongside
legal professionals made it evident that their well-intentioned ideas
about justice pushed victims to the sidelines: “people as victims
were excluded, ignored or diverted … As a ‘victim’ they were seen
as a problem for law to manage and contain” (2). This seemed like
a lost opportunity to express and cultivate citizenship: to consider
“what had happened and what should happen next” regarding the
particular case “but also to debate and deliberate the issues that
confronted both victim and offender, and the social, political, eco-
nomic, and cultural aspirations they held for themselves and for
others” (2). Where were the “procedural and institutional spaces
for citizens to produce justice” (2)?
Conceptions of victims in legal theory legitimate this marginali-
zation, while practitioner attitudes help reproduce it. Though harm
to victims—as reported by victims themselves—is often necessary to
put criminal cases in motion, victims are not seen by legal profes-
sionals as having much of value to contribute to the production of
justice. Indeed, mainstream legal theory conceives of victims as
threatening the impartiality of the proceedings with a relentless
focus on winning their case. In addition, the prosecutors Holder
interviews for this book admit that victims are “ignored as a class of
people” and “nowhere to be seen” (93). This is unfortunate,
Holder points out, because her research shows victims to have “just
interests” that are broader than self-interest and reflect concern for
the process, the offender, and the community. Otherwise well-
meaning court professionals, she argues, have such low
Book Reviews 623

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