"Giving wildlife a voice in Hong Kong’s courts: Law professor Amanda Whitfort has introduced ‘victim impact statements’ for trafficked species to push for tougher prosecution of wildlife crimes"
17 July 2020
Hong Kong is an international hub for the illegal trade in wild species, which is estimated to be worth up to US$23 billion a year globally. It is also a major buyer of these species, which include protected animals and plants, as well as their parts and products...
Amanda Whitfort, associate professor in the Faculty of Law at Hong Kong University and a specialist in criminal and environmental law, is working on bridging this knowledge gap to enable the Hong Kong judiciary to make better sentencing decisions. Whitfort is also a barrister and prosecutes for Hong Kong’s Department of Justice.
Working together with scientists and experts from Hong Kong University and the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, one of the things Whitfort has done is introduce to Hong Kong courts victim impact statements for trafficked species.
A victim impact statement gives the victim of a crime the chance to make a judge aware of how they’ve been affected. Animals and plants are obviously unable to speak in court, and wildlife crime is often seen by legal professionals as “victimless”.
Whitfort’s victim statements seek to change this by speaking on behalf of the trafficked species. They explain not only the suffering an animal endures when caught and shipped, but also the impact on the species as a whole, detailing for example the significance of a particular seizure in relation to the total population of a species left in the wild.