At their last Meeting in Kingstown in 2002, Law Ministers considered a draft Commonwealth Statement presented to them by the Commonwealth Secretariat, and referred it to Senior Officials for further consideration and refinement. In preparation for the Senior Officials Meeting (London 2004) the Secretariat wrote to all Commonwealth Law Ministries requesting comments on the draft. Based on the responses received, the Secretariat prepared a number of possible amendments to the Kingstown Draft which it presented to Senior Officials for their consideration.
In considering the proposed amendments to the draft Statement, Senior Officials discussed inter alia, the following issues:
* the need to strike an appropriate balance between the need to protect the interests of victims and the need to ensure that the rights of accused persons are not overridden;
* the need to ensure that the role of the prosecutor remains impartial;
* in respect of parole hearings, the need to allow for flexibility in the wording such that victims have a choice as to whether or not they want to make representations and also to take into account the fact that not all countries have provisions for parole hearings;
* the need to limit the scope of the Statement to cover serious crime only and not all crimes;
* in respect of Restitution Orders, the issue of the time that this could take and the need perhaps to limit such orders to uncontroversial cases or uncontested quantum of damages;
* the possibility of making specific reference to the rights or interests of vulnerable victims, for example children, and in particular children who have been the subject of abuse or victims of sexual crime;
* the need for sensitisation of judicial officers on the issues covered by the Statement.
Senior Officials decided to constitute a small working group to consider in detail the Statement and agree on the detail and wording of the amendments to be made to the Statement. The Working Group produced a re-drafted Statement which was then agreed to by the plenary of the Senior Officials Meeting.
Senior Officials then decided to recommend to Law Ministers a revised Draft Statement as annexed to this paper. Law Ministers are asked to consider and adopt the Draft Statement in its revised form.