There's a noticeable lack of acknowledgement of victims in Green Criminology, it's one of the biggest problems with eco harms that victims are so hard to identify, and maybe one of the reasons green criminology is kept on the fringes of criminological consideration.
Lack of victim consideration pops up somewhere else in criminology: as a frequently made critique against our current Criminal Justice System.
A key critique of our CJS is that it tries to decentralize the victim. Many argue that the victim should be the primary focus of sentencing policy, criminal proceedings (in court) and in the investigation stages (e.g. keeping a victim updates on the progress of the case, if arrests have been made, if CPS is prosecuting).
However, many victims who have been through the CJS argue that the victim is forgotten, not kept informed, and is largely ignored.
Research that explores the nature of Secondary Victimization (Condry, 2010) goes as far as to say that the CJS victimizes the witness again, in the form of character assassination in court (especially in sexual assault/rape cases) and forcing the victim to relive the traumatic experience of the crime over and over again (in the form of re-interviewing by the police, and testifying in court in front of a bunch of strangers).
While effort has been made recently to re-centralize the victim, and provide more help and support to those who are victimized (with the creation of Witness Support Service, and Victim Support - a NGO that provides emotional and practical help to victims) many argue that this still isn't enough.
However, while the CJS lack of victim attention seems more like an intentional decision that has been made (to focus research, and court practises on the offender, rather than the victim), that isn't the case with green criminology.
In this niche area if criminology, we face different issues. Principally, the difficulty in identifying victims, which makes launching an investigation or reaching a conviction virtually impossible. These are some of the reasons that victims are so hard to spot:
- The victimization can occur a long time after the criminal/harmful act
- The offender often hasn't directly caused the victimization (e.g. if a company disposes of waste into a river, and that river goes on to poison a water supply for a town, and some people in that town get sick - that's more of an indirect result, especially when you compare it to common assault)
- The victims often aren't human: animals (e.g. fish poisoned in a polluted river) or the environment (e.g. the damaged ozone layer)
- The offender is often hard to identify
E.g. taking something that the UK do: if a country decides to export all of it's E-Waste to Thailand, where it can be "recycled" by children (being paid $1.50/day) to burn plastic away to access precious metals found in E-Waste - and then the child gets lead poisoning, who do the blame? Do you charge an entire country? Do you hold Thailand responsible for having such lax regulatory laws?
- These crimes often transcend national borders, which makes applying one countries laws on the perpetrator more difficult (e.g. take the above example, while this would contravene UK law, Thailand have much more relaxed legislation regarding handling of dangerous materials), this includes the laws designating who is a victim after an act occurs.
In both these areas, victims are woefully missing. The key difference between these two areas of study is that in the CJS, there is an effort being made to re-centralize the victim.
Whereas, within green criminology, continual government de-regulation teamed with the growth imperative of capitalism requiring more and more irreparable damage to be done to our planet, there is less national motivation to do anything about these problems - which is particularly bad news for victims of eco crime.
Condry, R. (2010) Secondary Victims and Secondary Victimization. In: International Handbook of Victimology, pp. 219-249.