Capt. Gabe DeVaux | Special Victims’ Counsel, Legal Assistance Office
A special victims’ counsel is a military attorney available to represent victims of specific crimes. SVCs educate their clients about the military justice process and zealously represent their clients’ interests from the beginning of an investigation until the final action on the case.
Since its inception, an SVC only represented victims of sexual crimes. However, because of the program’s success, victims of alleged domestic violence will also qualify for representation by an SVC starting Dec. 1. SVCs will ensure their clients’ rights are protected and provide valuable insight into the military justice process.
Crime victims have enumerated rights under Article 6b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
SVCs work to ensure that these rights are upheld on behalf of their clients.
Victim rights include:
• The right to be reasonably protected from the accused;
• The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of pretrial confinement and preliminary hearings, courts-martial, and clemency or parole board proceedings;
• The right not to be excluded from any public hearing or proceeding unless a military judge or investigating officer, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim … would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that hearing or proceeding;
• The right to be reasonably heard at a pretrial confinement hearing, a sentencing hearing or clemency and parole board hearing;
• The reasonable right to confer with the counsel representing the Government at the above listed hearings;
• The right to receive restitution as provided in law;
• The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
• The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the dignity and privacy of the victim.
The SVC’s primary duty and loyalty is to his or her clients — no other person, organization or command. There may be times during the military justice decision-making process when the prosecutor’s wishes and the victim’s wishes diverge. In these situations, the SVC advocates for the victim’s desires regarding the case. SVCs ensure that victims are both heard and protected throughout the court-martial process, all while maintaining complete confidentiality and respecting the attorney-client relationship.
An SVC can be requested through any of the following: sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate, the Family Advocacy Program, military investigator (CID or MPI), victim-witness liaison, or trial counsel. An SVC is available and can be requested at any time throughout the justice process, even if originally declined.
Once an SVC has been requested, an initial consultation between the victim and SVC will be coordinated.
For more information, call the Legal Assistance Office at 684-4944.