Victims of Crime Research Series
Summary Report on Victim Impact Statement Focus Groups

Appendix A

Moderator’s Guide for Victim Impact Statement Focus Groups


Good evening and thank you for coming here tonight. My name is MODERATOR NAME. I am with a research firm in Ottawa called ARC Applied Research Consultants.

We are under contract to the federal Department of Justice to conduct three focus groups on Victim Impact Statements – one here, and the other two in XXX and XXX.

The purpose of these groups is to provide information to the Department of Justice on how Victim Impact Statements are working for victims. These groups are just the first step in the process of studying current practices, and considering how to improve them in the future.

We have asked you here tonight to discuss your experiences with, and opinions of Victim Impact Statements. We hope that you will feel comfortable talking to me and to each other about these experiences and opinions. The discussion will cover how well Victim Impact Statements work now and how they might be improved.

There are no or wrong answers here. We welcome your opinions and encourage you to speak freely (but politely).

Before we ask you to briefly introduce yourselves, there are several things I will mention:

Please use first names only. Name tags have been provided for you. This is to protect your privacy.

You will see a one-way mirror behind me. Behind the mirror are representatives of the Department of Justice and XXXX. They can hear the discussion, but will not participate in it.

The discussion will be tape-recorded. This is so that I will not get writer’s cramp trying to take notes as you talk. It is very important that only one person speak at a time. Otherwise, I will not be able to follow the discussion on the tape.

We will be providing you with a $40 honorarium following the discussion.

Please help yourselves to the sandwiches etc. behind me.

Just to get started, let’s go quickly around the table. Please tell us your first name and how long it has been since you prepared your Victim Impact Statement. If you wish to briefly say something about the crime of which you were a victim, please feel free to do so. However, the purpose of this group is to discuss Victim Impact Statements. So, if you prefer not to say anything about the crime, that is fine as well.

Topics for discussion

How did you first become aware that you could prepare and submit a VIS? Who told you about this?

When did this happen? Was this early enough (to complete statement before sentencing)?

Were you actively encouraged to complete a VIS, or was it presented as more of an option available
to you?

What is your understanding of what Victim Impact Statements are supposed to do?

What information were you given about Victim Impact Statements and their use?

Was this information clear and complete?

Did you have any unanswered questions about VIS at that time?

What problems if any did you have in completing your statement?

Did you request anyone’s assistance to fill it out? Was this assistance helpful?

Were you told of any restrictions on the types of information which could be included in a VIS?

Would there have been other information that you would have liked to include in your VIS?

Did you have any concerns (e.g., privacy, safety) about completing the VIS?

What happened with your VIS after you completed it?

Were you kept up-to-date?

Were any parts of your VIS changed? If yes, by whom?

Why did this happen? What was your reaction to this?

Do you know if a judge received your VIS? How do you know this?

Did the offender receive a copy of your completed VIS?

Did you know that this would happen? If not, had you known, would you still have decided to complete a VIS?

Were you questioned by the Defence lawyer on your VIS?

What were your reactions to this?

Did you know that a Defence lawyer might question you on your VIS?

If not, had you known, would this have caused you to change your mind about completing a VIS?

Did you ask if you could read your VIS aloud?

Were you permitted to do so?

Had you had this opportunity, would you have taken it? Yes/no, why not?

Did the judge refer to your VIS in sentencing?

Would you go through the process of completing a VIS again knowing what you know now?

Did you get anything positive out of the experience?

Did you experience any frustration with the process?

What would have made the process better/easier for you?