Victim Participation: A Historic Overview

  • Kerstin BraunEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology book series (PSVV)


In many early societies, the individual victim, or their kinship group, was responsible for crime control through different forms of private prosecution. Private prosecutions were partially undertaken to recover financial losses arising from the criminal act. State involvement in these proceedings was rare or non-existent. No firm distinction between criminal law and civil law existed at the time. Over the course of history, the understanding of crime changed from that of a violation of individual victims’ rights to that of a violation of the rights of the state or the sovereign. Respectively, a division between criminal law and civil law, including the law of torts, developed. Yet, this changed understanding did not automatically translate into a reduced role for victims. Rather, they continued to be important for initiating criminal prosecutions. Yet, from the nineteenth century onwards, most Western criminal justice systems introduced public police and prosecution services who carried out criminal investigations and prosecutions on behalf of the state. As a consequence, crime victims were no longer required as active participants in the criminal justice system and their role was mostly reduced to that of a witness for the state. The poor treatment of victims gave rise to concerns during the second half of the twentieth century and led to, what some call, the ‘rediscovery’ of the victim. Since then victims and their role have featured prominently in law, policy and discourse in the jurisdictions selected for analysis in this volume.


Private prosecutions Public police and prosecution services Historical role of victims Marginalisation of victims Rediscovery of crime victims Victim-related law reform 


  1. Ackermann, M. (2006). Die Rechtsbehelfe des Verletzten gegen die negative Anklageentscheidung des Staatsanwaltes in den USA. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Adam, K. (2009, April 12). Alle wollen Opfer sein. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.Google Scholar
  3. Ash, M. (1972). On Witnesses: A Radical Critique of Criminal Court Procedures. Notre Dame Lawyer, 48, 386–425.Google Scholar
  4. Asp, P. (2012). Prosecutor in Swedish Law. Crime & Justice, 41, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbot, J., & Dodier, N. (2014). Repenser La Place des Victims au Process Penal. Revue Francaise de Science Politique, 64(3), 407–433. English translation by Railard, S.-L. Rethinking the Role of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, Lawyer’s Normative Repertoire in France and the United States Revue. Francaise de Science Politique, 64(3), 23–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker, P. (2011). Eine kurze Einfuehrung in die deutsche Rechtsgeschichte. Munich: GRIN Verlag.Google Scholar
  7. Bennett, J. M., & Castles, A. C. (1979). A Source Book of Australian Legal History: Source Materials from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. Syndey: The Law Book Company.Google Scholar
  8. Berard, J. (2016). Can a Patriarchal World Be Corrected by a Criminal Law? Feminist Struggles, Penal Justice and Legal Reform in France (1970–1980). Laws, 5(12), 1–14.Google Scholar
  9. Bibas, S., & Bierschbach, R. A. (2004). Integrating Remorse and Apology into Criminal Procedure. The Yale Law Journal, 114(1), 85–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blackstone, W. (1768). Commentaries on the Laws of England (Vol. 3). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  11. Booth, T., & Carrington, K. (2007). A Comparative Analysis of the Victim Policies Across the Anglo-Speaking World. In S. Walklate (Ed.), Handbook of Victims and Victimology (1st ed., pp. 380–416). Devon: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Bundesregierung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. (2003, November 11). Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Verbesserung der Rechte von Verletzten im Strafverfahren (Opferrechtsrefromgesetz- OpferRG) text identitical with Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Verbesserung der Rechte von Verletzten im Strafverfahren (Opferrechtsreformgesetz-OpferRG) der Fraktionen der SPD und B90/GR, BT-Drucks 15/1976.Google Scholar
  13. Bundesregierung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. (2009, March 3). Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Staerkung der Rechte von Verletzten und Zeugen im Strafverfahren (2. Opferrechtsreformgesetz) identical with Gesetzesentwurf der Fraktionen der CDU/CSU und SPD Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Staerkung der Rechte von Verletzten und Zeugen im Strafverfahren (2. Opferrechtsreformgesetz) BT-Drucks 16/12098.Google Scholar
  14. Burns, P. (1975). Private Prosecution in Canada: The Law and a Proposal for Change. McGill Law Journal, 21, 268–297.Google Scholar
  15. Cardenas, J. (1986). The Crime Victim in the Prosecutorial Process. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 9, 357–398.Google Scholar
  16. Castles, A. C. (1982). An Australian Legal History. Sydney: The Law Book Company.Google Scholar
  17. Chesterman, M. (1999). Criminal Trial Juries in Australia: From Penal Colonies to a Federal Democracy. Law and Contemporary Problems, 62(2), 69–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cooley, R. (1958). Predecessors of the Federal Attorney General: The Attorney General in England and the American Colonies. The American Journal of Legal History, 2(4), 304–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Corns, C. (2000). Police Summary Prosecutions in Australia and New Zealand: Some Comparisons. University of Tasmania Law Review, 19, 280–310.Google Scholar
  20. Deppenkemper, G. (2004). Beweiswuerdigung als Mittel prozessualer Wahrheitserkenntnis: eine dogmengeschichtliche Studie zu Freiheit, Grenzen und revisionsgerichtlicher Kontrolle tatrichterlicher Ueberzeugungsbildung, para 261 StPO, para 286 ZPO. Osnabruecker Schriften zur Rechtsgeschichte (Universitaet Osnabrueck). Goettingen: V&R Unipress GmbH.Google Scholar
  21. Dignan, J. (2005). Understanding Victims and Restorative Justice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Droysen, G. H. (1868). Grundriss der Historik, auf der Basis seiner Vorlesung ueber die Theorie der Geschichtswissenschaft in propaedeutischer Absicht, zwischen 1857 und 1882/83 quoted in Luederssen, K. (2002). Historische Erkenntnisinteressen moderner Kriminalpolitik. In K. Luederssen (Ed.), Die Durchsetzung des Oeffentlichen Strafanspruchs: Systematisierung der Fragestellung (pp. 21–38) Koeln: Boehlau.Google Scholar
  23. Douglas, H., & Snyder, F. (1989). Policing and Prosecution in Britain, 1750–1850. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  24. Edwards, C. (2005). Changing Policing Theories for 21st Century Societies (2nd ed.). Annandale, NSW: Federation Press.Google Scholar
  25. Erez, E., & Tontodonato, P. (1990). The Effect of Victim Participation in Sentencing on Sentencing Outcome. Criminology, 28(3), 451–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ferber, S. (2016). Stärkung der Opferrechte im Strafverfahren – Das 3. Opferrechtsreformgesetz. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift, 2016(69), 279–282.Google Scholar
  27. Forster, C. (2013). Victims of Crime Compensation Schemes: Compensating Victims of Family Violence. Precedent, 116, 40–44.Google Scholar
  28. Forsyth, W. (1875). History of Trial by Jury. New York: James Cockcroft & Company.Google Scholar
  29. Frey, L. (1850). Die Staatsanwaltschaft in Deutschland und Frankreich. Erlangen: Verlag von Ferdinand Ente.Google Scholar
  30. Gardner, J. (1990). Victims and Criminal Justice. Office of Crime Statistics. Adelaide: South Australian Attorney-General’s Department.Google Scholar
  31. Garkawe, S. (2005). Victims Rights Are Human Rights. Paper Presented at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the 1985 UN Victims Declaration, Canberra, November 16, 2005.Google Scholar
  32. Griffin, K. T. (2000). Ministerial Statement on the Review on Victims of Crime and the Government’s Response to it. Legislative Council Hansard, December 7, 2000, South Australian Parliament (pp. 869–873).Google Scholar
  33. Grimm, J. (1899). Deutsche Rechtsaltertümer (Vol. 1., 4th ed.). Leipzig: Dieterich. cited in: Loeffelmann, M. (2006). The Victim in Criminal Proceedings: a Systematic Portrayal of Victim Protection under German Criminal Procedure Law (Part 1: Rights of Participation and Victim Protection). In United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (Ed.), The Use and Application of the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power–Twenty Years After Its Adoption- Resource Material Series No. 70 (pp. 31–41). Fuchu, Japan: UNAFEI.Google Scholar
  34. Guthke, T. (2009). Die Herausbildung der Strafklage: Exemplarische Studien anhand, deutscher, franzoesischer und flaemischer Quellen. Koeln: Boehlau Verlag.Google Scholar
  35. Hall, M. (2017). Victims of Crime, Construction, Governance and Policy. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Heber, A. (2014). Good Versus Bad? Victims, Offenders and Victim—Offenders in Swedish Crime Policy. European Journal of Criminology, 11(4), 410–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hubig, S. (2008). Die historische Entwicklung des Opferschutzes im Strafverfahren. In F. Fastie (Ed.), Opferschutz im Strafverfahren- Psychosoziale Prozessbegleitung bei Gewalt- und Sexualstraftaten (2nd ed., pp. 285–302). Leverkusen, Opladen: Verlag Barbara Budrich.Google Scholar
  38. Husabo, E. J. (2010). History and Tendencies in the Development of Criminal Procedure Law in the Scandinavian Countries, and in Norway in Particular. Law & Justice Review, 1(1), 19–34.Google Scholar
  39. Ivankovic, A., & Altan, L. (2017). Requirements and Recommendations for Support Services in Serbia-Establishing a National Victim Support Service. Multi-Donar Trust Fund for Justice Sector Support in Serbia and Vicitm Support Europe. Retrieved from
  40. Joergensen, L., & Badse, C. (2014). FRANET: Victim Support Services in the EU: An Overview and Assessment of Victims’ Rights in Practice. Retrieved from
  41. Joutsen, M. (1987). The Role of the Victim of Crime in European Criminal Justice Systems: A Cross-National Study of the Role of the Victim. Helsinki: United Nations European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI) Finland.Google Scholar
  42. Kade, C. (1900). Die Privatklage in den Strafprozessordnungen der Jetztzeit, insebesondere in der deutschen R.Str.Pr.O. Berlin: Heymann.Google Scholar
  43. Kawese, V. (2014). FRANET: Victim Support Services in the EU: An Overview and Assessment of Victims’ Rights in Practice-Sweden. Retrieved from
  44. Kerin, R. G, Honourable (2001). Victims of Crime Bill, Second Reading Speech, South Australian House of Assembly, Hansard, September 27, 2001, 2305.Google Scholar
  45. King, P. (1984). Decision-Makers and Decision-Making in the English Criminal Law 1750–1800. Historical Journal, 27(1), 25–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kirchengast, T. (2006). The Victim in Criminal Law and Justice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Klerman, D. (2001). Settlement and the Decline of Private Prosecution in Thirteenth-Century England. Law and History Review, 19, 1–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kurland, P. B., & Waters, D. W. M. (1959). Public Prosecution in England, 1854–79: An Essay in English Legislative History. Duke Law Journal, 1959(4), 493–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Langbein, J. H. (1973). The Origins of Public Prosecution at Common Law. American Journal of Legal History, 17, 313–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Langbein, J. H. (1984). The Constitutio Criminalis Carolina in Comparative Perspective: An Anglo-American View. In P. Landau & F.-C. Schroeder (Eds.), Strafrecht, Strafprozessrecht und Rezeption, Grundlagen, Entwicklungen und Wirkung der Constitutio Criminalis Carolina (pp. 215–225). Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.Google Scholar
  51. Langbein, J. H. (2003). The Origins of the Adversarial Criminal Trial. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Langbein, J. H. (2005). Prosecuting Crime in the Renaissance: England, Germany, France. Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange.Google Scholar
  53. Langsted, L. B., Garde, P., & Greve, V. (2014). Criminal Law in Denmark (4th ed.). Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
  54. Ljungwald, C., & Elias, R. (2010). The Emergence of Crime Victims as a Target Group in the Swedish Social Services Act. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 11(2), 170–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lütz-Binder, E. (2009). Rechtswirklichkeit der Privatklage und Umgestaltung zu einem Aussoehungsverfahren: Untersuchung unter Auswertung der Privatklageverfahren der Jahre 1992–2002 aus den Amtsgerichtsbezirken Landau/Pfalz, Neustadt/Weinstrasse und Ludwigshafen/Rhein. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  56. Laughlin, A. M. (2009). Learning From the Past? Or Destined to Repeat Past Mistakes? Lessons from the English Legal System and Its Impact on How We View the Role of Judges and Juries Today. Widener Law Review, 14, 357–382.Google Scholar
  57. Marsh, I. J. C., & Melville, G. (2004). Criminal Justice: An Introduction to Philosophies, Theories and Practice. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McCarthy, L. (1990). Victims of Crime. In J. Wallace and G. T. Pagone (Eds.), Rights and Freedoms in Australia (pp. 166–170). Annandale, NSW: Federation Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  59. McDonald, W. F. (1975). Towards a Bicentennial Revolution in Criminal Justice: The Return of the Victim. American Criminal Law Review, 13, 649–673.Google Scholar
  60. McDonald, W. F. (1976). Criminal Justice and the Victim. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  61. Meder, S. (2008). Rechtsgeschichte: Eine Einfuehrung (3rd ed.). Stuttgart: Boehlau UTB.Google Scholar
  62. Meyer, A., & Romanova, M. (2014) FRANET Victim Support Services in the EU: An Overview and Assessment of Victims’ Rights in Practice. Retrieved from
  63. Mittermaier, C. J. (1854). Die Muendlichkeit, das Anklageprinzip, die Offentlichkeit und das Geschworenengericht in ihrer Durchfuehrung in den verschiedenen Gesetzgebungen; dargestellt und nach den Forderungen des Rechts und der Zweckmassigkeit: mit Ruecksicht auf die Erfahrungen der verschiedenen Laender. Stuttgart: Cotta. Cited in: Collin, P. (2000). ‘Waechter der Gesetze’ oder ‘Organ der Staatsregierung’? Konzipierung, Einrichtung und Anleitung der Staatsanwaltschaft durch das preussische Justizministerium von den Anfaengen bis 1860. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.Google Scholar
  64. O’Connell, M. (2011). Victim’s Rights: Integrating Victims in Criminal Proceedings. Retrieved from
  65. Orfield, L. B. (1953). The Growth of Scandinavian Law. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press for Temple University Publications.Google Scholar
  66. Parkinson, P. (2010). Tradition and Change in Australian Law (4th ed.). Pyrmont, NSW: Thomson Reuters.Google Scholar
  67. Peter, M. (2010). Measures to Protect Victims in German Criminal Proceedings. A Summary with Special Focus on the Key Points of the Second Victims’ Rights Reform Act. In United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (Ed.), The Enhancement of Appropriate Measures for Victims of Crime at Each Stage of the Criminal Justice Process—Resource Material Series No. 81 (pp. 125–137). Fuchu, Japan: UNAFEI.Google Scholar
  68. Pollock, F., & Maitland, F. (1898). The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (Vol. 1., 2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Rubin, E. L. (2003). Trial by Battle: Trial by Argument. Arkansas Law Review, 56, 261–294.Google Scholar
  70. Safferling, C. (2011). The Role of the Victim in the Criminal Process—A Paradigm Shift in National German and International Law. International Criminal Law Review, 11(2), 183–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schmahl, H. L. (1980). Das Adhaesionsverfahren im Daenischen Recht. Itzehoe: E.A George OHG.Google Scholar
  72. Schmidt, G. (1979). Die Stellung des Verletzten im schwedischen Strafprozess. In A. Kaufmann, G. Bemmann, D. Krauss, & K. Volk (Eds.), Festchrift fuer Paul Boeckelmann zum 70. Geburtstag am 7. Dezember 1987 (pp. 847–859) Munich: Beck.Google Scholar
  73. Schmidt, E. (1995). Einfuehrung in die Geschichte der deutschen Strafrechtspflege (3rd ed.). Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
  74. Seipp, D. J. (1996). The Distinction Between Crime and Tort in the Early Common Law. Boston University Law Review, 76, 59–87.Google Scholar
  75. Shapland, J., Willmore, J., & Duff, P. (1985). Victims in the Criminal Justice System. London: Gower Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  76. Sidman, A. (1976). The Outmoded Concept of Private Prosecution. The American University Law Review, 25, 754–794.Google Scholar
  77. South Australia Justice Strategy Unit. (1999). Victims of Crime Review-Report One. Adelaide: Justice Strategy Unit, Attorney General’s Department.Google Scholar
  78. Stehle, S. (2007). Das Strafverfahren als immaterielle Wiedergutmachung. Hamburg: Verlag Dr Kovac.Google Scholar
  79. Stephen, J. F. (1883). A History of the Criminal Law in England (Vol. 1). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  80. Stolleis, M. (2014). History of Social Law in Germany. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Strang, H. (2002). Repair or Revenge: Victims and Restorative Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Stubbs, W. (1870). Selected Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward the First. Oxford: Clarendon Press Series.Google Scholar
  83. Tham, H., Roenneling, A., & Rytterbro, L.-L. (2011). The Emergence of the Crime Victim: Sweden in a Scandinavian Context. Crime and Justice, 40(1), 555–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Tobolowsky, P. M., Beloof, D. E., Gaboury, M. T., Jackson; A. L., & Blackburn, A. G. (2016). Crime Victim Rights and Remedies (3rd ed.). Durham: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  85. US Department of Justice cited in Spalek, B. (2017). Crime Victims Theory, Policy & Practice (2nd ed.). London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  86. Williams, B. (2005). Victims of Crime and Community Justice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  87. Zauberman, R. (2000). Victims as Consumers of the Criminal Justice System. In J. Goodey & A. Crawford (Eds.), Integrating a Victim Perspective Within Criminal Justice: International Debates. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  88. Zauberman, R. (2011). Crime Victims and the Criminal Justice System: An Illustration from a French Regional Victimization Survey. In A. K. Mehra & R. Lévy (Eds.), The Police, State, and Society: Perspectives from India and France (pp. 109–130). Delhi: Pearson Education India.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

Personalised recommendations