Open consultation: Delivering justice for victims: A consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system

17th January, 2022 8:51 am

This consultation seeks to understand how victims can be better supported through and beyond the criminal justice process across England and Wales.

This consultation is being held on another website. Respond online or by email to victimsbillconsultation@justice.gov.uk

Foreword

Every year, one in five people in our country will become the victim of a crime. Some will be bewildered by what’s happened to them. Others will be left picking up the pieces of their lives. All victims should feel confident to pursue justice. We have a moral duty to protect these victims of crime. It is the right thing to do.

It is also essential at a practical level, in order to ensure that we have the most effective justice system. By reporting crimes to the police, engaging with prosecutors to make sure their evidence and testimony is heard in court, they enable criminal justice agencies to secure convictions and make our communities safer.

Too many victims feel that the system does not deliver justice for them. Too many feel let down by the system, which can compound the pain and suffering from the original crime. As a result, a worrying number of victims disengage from the justice process altogether, meaning that justice is not delivered in those cases, and the public is left exposed to criminals who remain free to carry on offending.

This must change, and the Government is determined to improve the service and support that victims receive – from the moment a crime is committed right the way through to their experience in the courtroom. I want to guarantee that victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. Rather than feeling peripheral to the process, we want victims to be supported so that they can participate properly at every step.

Our plan for delivering a world-class service to victims has five critical elements.

First, we need to amplify victims’ voices in the criminal justice process. We want to ensure agencies communicate with victims better, so, we are consulting on the requirement for the prosecutor in a case, or certain types of cases, to communicate directly with victims before they decide whether to charge a suspect and again before trial. We also want to strengthen the voice of communities, by making explicit provision for community impact statements in the Victims’ Law and Code, so that their use is mainstreamed in appropriate cases and the police, CPS and court understand the wider scale and extent to which crime can blight whole neighbourhoods.

Second, we need to increase the transparency of the performance of our criminal justice agencies. We want to make criminal justice more open than ever, so that we can measure and manage what’s important, understand the problems in the system, and address them more effectively. Alongside this consultation, I am separately publishing the first national criminal justice scorecards so we can see where in the system victims are being failed and take steps to fix it. They will bring together data to give a cross-system view of performance, including measures that matter to victims, such as how long it takes for cases to progress across the criminal justice system. They will drive up standards, so that we can see how the system is delivering for victims and can spread the very best practice. In the new year, we will follow up with the publication of localised scorecards – to enable geographic comparisons in performance.

Third, we need to make sure that there are clear lines of accountability for when victims do not receive the right level of service. We will enshrine the Victims’ Code in law to send a clear signal about what victims can and should reasonably expect from the criminal justice system. It follows that we must also hold the respective agencies to account for delivering for victims. We propose to strengthen oversight mechanisms and their focus on victims across the board, from complaints procedures through to reinforced inspection regimes nationally, and Police and Crime Commissioners locally. That will give victims more effective redress, when something does go wrong, and improve accountability for those responsible.

Fourth, we want to support victims to rebuild their lives through accessible and professional services, and ensure that criminals pay more to support these services. Under our proposals, we will increase the victim surcharge, so criminals pay millions of pounds more towards crucial victim services. This will mean criminals paying more to right their own wrongs and help victims to recover from what has been done to them. We want to improve the commissioning and co-ordination of support services, and strengthen the support available from Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), which we know make victims almost 50% more likely to stay engaged with the criminal justice process.

And finally, we want to ensure there are better tools to protect victims and prosecute culprits. We have already begun to improve the trial experience for victims, by rolling out pre-recorded cross-examination (known as Section 28) for vulnerable victims. That way, those who want to, can give evidence earlier and outside of the courtroom, subject to judicial discretion – to make the process less traumatic. I now plan to expand this provision for sexual and modern slavery victims to all Crown Courts nationwide, with the specific priority to make sure that any victim of rape, subject to the permission of the court, has the opportunity to record their evidence without the ordeal of having to take part in a live trial. This has the potential to increase successful prosecutions and earlier guilty pleas. We will be guided by ongoing evaluation of data from courts already trialling section 28, and we will work carefully with the judiciary and criminal justice agencies on a national roll-out.

Delivering a Victims’ Bill will meet our manifesto commitment, giving victims the justice they deserve as we build back better, stronger and fairer after the pandemic.

Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP

Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice

 

 

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