Giving Victims of Intimate Partner Violence Offences a Voice in Indigenous Sentencing Courts
For approximately fifteen years, Indigenous sentencing courts have been providing an avenue for Indigenous offenders, communities, and in some cases, victims, to have a greater voice in a sentencing process. Elders or Community Representatives work together with a judicial officer in understanding an offender’s behaviour, and in determining what penalty should be imposed to not only punish the offender but to assist in their rehabilitation. In most jurisdictions breaches of family and domestic violence orders can be referred for sentencing in an Indigenous sentencing court. Feminist scholars have argued that the presence of gendered power imbalances in hearings concerning family and domestic violence make alternative justice processes, that are often less formal than a conventional justice process, unsuitable for victim participation. Despite these views research has found that Indigenous sentencing courts, while not well equipped to eradicate the presence of power imbalances between an offender and victim, do attempt to address imbalances of power through ‘shaming’ the offender in culturally appropriate ways and by creating a forum that is more meaningful to an offender than a mainstream sentencing process. This paper traces the extent to which victims of family and domestic violence participate in Indigenous sentencing courts in different jurisdictions, and using data collected from interviews with victims of intimate partner violence offences, explores what benefits, if any, victims experience from having the opportunity to have a say in sentencing processes that allow Indigenous cultural knowledges and values to be present.
Court of Conscience
Law not elsewhere classified