Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system consists of the State and Commonwealth institutions, agencies, departments and personnel responsible for dealing with the judicial aspects of crime, the victims of crime, the persons accused or convicted of a crime, other related issues and processes. The criminal justice system refers to a network of agencies that responds to a crime, including the police, courts and prisons. It is important that each of these arms uses the resources and processes available to protect the society in as fair a manner as it can. Society expects that the criminal justice system should achieve and maintain particular goals, standards and values in society, and that crimes be eliminated efficiently and effectively under limited resources. It is argued that modern criminal justice system is actually an беinjusticeбж one. From many perspectives, it appears as though the criminal justice system serves injustice rather than justice. Discretion of police officers and prosecutors as well as the law enforcement functions carried out by judicial officers are important to pinpoint whether or not the criminal justice system should be labeled the criminal injustice system. It is no doubt a well thought-out system. But in reality, as well as when it is applied in practice, its flaws are apparent.

The main concern for the criminal justice system is to determine and dispense justice. Justice, however, is a concept that is difficult to define. In the administration of criminal justice, it is important to apply the law equally to all citizens irrespective of their social, economic and political discrepancies. It certainly could be argued that the law itself could not be fair if it is discriminating against certain individuals or groups within the society. The major flaw of the criminal justice system is discrimination, on the basis of ethnicity, gender and class. In determining the fairness and effectiveness of the system, the discretionary powers of various agencies have to be evaluated. Is this power empowered upon those agencies being abused in a discriminatory manner? In determining how fair and effective the criminal justice system is, all aspects in relation to discretionary powers, discriminatory behaviour and procedures, the police, the judiciary, corrections, juvenile justice, indigenous issues, victims' rights and offenders' rights need to be scrutinized and evaluated. To illustrate that the criminal justice system is actually an injustice one, there are a few examples we can look at in the Australian context.

The police have enormous discretionary powers - one of which is the power to either charge or divert offenders from the criminal justice system. Within this discretionary power, there is a potential for that power to be abused, especially with corruption being an entrenched culture of the police force. The police have a wide discretion in relation to their law enforcement duties. They may selectively enforce certain laws, or may choose to selectively police certain groups of people. Police discretion has regularly been exercised in a manner that is unacceptable by the general public. It seems that further constraints are necessary to be imposed upon police discretion, particularly in relation to arrest, bail and custodial practices. At the very least, the authority of police in relation to certain aspects of arrest, bail and custodial procedures should be mandatory rather than discretionary and they should be subject to further training, close supervision and monitoring. Complaints about police have included inappropriate responses to hate crimes against homosexuals and their not taking complaints of racial abuse by non-English speaking people seriously. Traditional policing methods are reactive, focusing on street crime and protecting the private property. All these could be seen to have reflected the interests of the dominant group. It is never easy to measure whether the police work effectively or not. However, it could be questioned amongst the claims of corruption and inappropriate responses.

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