Justice for all, or justice – depending on the status of the offender?

S. Jenkins 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has sparked much public debate and controversy over the behaviour of organisations and conditions in institutions. The published case studies from the Royal Commission are illustrative of certain groups of victims, types of offenders or institutional bodies.

This paper has its basis in a wider PhD on access to rights and remedies for victims of crime where offenders are unavailable to the criminal justice system, and presents an analysis of the Royal Commission case studies.

The analysis compares the experiences of victims of abuse where the offender has been held accountable through the formal criminal justice system to experiences of victims where the offender was unknown, or who has since died or become incapacitated and as a result is unable to be held formally accountable.

There is a focus on access to remedies such as victim’s compensation schemes, either state or church run, and to other services such as ease of access and costs of counselling, as well as comparison of victim experiences where the institution is or is not able to be sued civilly for criminal actions because of the institution’s legal status.

As well as these remedies, access to certain victim’s rights such as the ability to make a victim impact statement and have the conduct publicly denounced are also examined, and comparisons drawn between access to rights for victims, contingent on the status of offenders.

The paper concludes with some observations about inequalities created amongst victims purely because of the status of the offenders in the criminal justice system, as well as some recommendations for further research.


Sharyn is a solicitor in NSW and the High Court. She was admitted to practice in 2009. She has practiced mostly in the area of criminal defense for a private firm, but has also practiced in wills and estates, particularly contested estate matters. She is the current secretary of the Central West Law Society, and a member of the Law Society’s Young Lawyers Criminal Law Committee.

Sharyn has been teaching at CSU since 2013, and completed her diploma in learning and teaching in higher education in 2015. She was the honours co-ordinator for Justice Studies for the second half of 2015, and the Course Director for Law for the first half of 2016.

Sharyn qualified as a registered nurse in 2001 and worked in several emergency departments, including RPA. Whilst working in emergency Sharyn developed an interest in law, and completed her Diploma in Law through the Legal Profession Admission Board. She completed her Master of Laws in 2012 through UNSW, specialising in both International Law and Crime and Criminology. She is a current PhD candidate with UNSW, looking into outcomes for victims where offenders are unavailable to the criminal justice system.”

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