The use of victim impact statements (‘VISs’) from family victims in homicide matters, particularly as evidence of aggravating factors, is contentious in NSW courts. Until July 2014, the law prevented VISs influencing penalties imposed on homicide offenders (Previtera). However, the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 was amended in 2014 in order to overrule Previtera and enable VISs to ‘count’ in sentencing homicide offenders. This article draws on a case study of 39 homicide sentencing judgments, July 2014–April 2017, to determine whether, and if so the extent to which, the new law has changed the role of VISs from family victims in sentencing. It also considers the practical implications of these findings for future family victims and argues that not only has the new law made little practical difference to the use of VISs in homicide matters, but there are also potential adverse consequences for family victims in the sentencing process.
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