Grasshoppers Rather Than Ants? - Ideal Victims, Just-World Belief and the Reduction of Victim Compensation in Swedish Law
Abstract: Monetary compensation to victims of crime can take different forms and be paid by different actors. The rules for calculating the compensation sometimes mandate reduction of the amount awarded for various reasons. This reduction can potentially be experienced by victims as a “secondary victimisation”. In the present work, the factors behind reduction of victim compensation in Swedish law and what they suggest about the law’s view of the victim are explored. The author employs a variety of methodological approaches throughout the work. Established law on the reduction of damages, criminal injuries compensation and compensation under the Payment Services Act is determined through legal dogmatics. The legislative history of these rules as described in the parliamentary records is uncovered via a combination of legal historic and legal genetic approaches. The author uses two partially contrasting and partially complementary theoretical models from outside the legal field to analyse and discuss the rules on compensation reduction and their history. First of these models is Christie’s theory of the ideal victim, a classic in victimology which describes how victims exhibiting certain stereotypical characteristics match societal expectations of the victim and are thus more likely to receive support from others. The second model is Lerner’s just-world hypothesis, a socio-psychological theory which provides an explanation for why some seemingly innocent victims are met with negative societal reactions. The author finds similarities between both models and the legal rules, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, markedly larger support for Christie’s theory. Three main factors behind victim compensation reduction in Swedish law are identified: the victim’s moral standing, their causal connection to the crime, and their financial situation. Of these, the author deems causality the most significant factor today, whereas finances has been important historically. This suggests that a lack of causal contribution to the crime is a crucial aspect of the law’s conception of the victim of crime.
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