The past 15 years court have been presented with statements written by and indeed read by victims of crime.
These documents can be strangely controversial, inevitably they are written from one perspective but in many respects they are not tried or tested nor tempered in the flames of court room procedures. Inevitably, courts have become properly spectacle about claims made by some "victims." Sadly we have all become accustomed to the injured party in an assault case claiming that they haven't left the house for months only to discover that their facebook shows them ab-sailing down a rock face in Snowdonia before heading out to a all night rave at Butlins.
There are more arbitrary ways in which "victims" can affect defendants cases. if a victim who fails to keep appointments with police officers having ensured everyone that they would like to make a statement can mean that cases adjourned leaving a defendant in custody awaiting sentence and possible release. Many "victims" can make comments about their mental state which are wholey unverified and are not even subject to comment by qualified medical professionals.
When so many sentencing guidelines require an assessment of "harm" in order to properly fit a matter into the sentencing matrix it is vital to have properly scrutinise defendants statements, dealing with as much corroboration as possible. For everyones sake both the police and CPS could be encouraged to devote their resources to this increasingly important area of criminal practise.
The criminal procedure rules might also be amended to ensure as if the victim impact statement is to be relied upon, it ought to be served seven days before the sentence hearing.