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It’s about time we focused on the needs of the victim

Anyone who has been present in a court in recent years might have noticed part of a sentence dished out by magistrates or a judge is a so-called victim surcharge.

It’s about time we focused on the needs of the victim

Most criminals convicted at crown courts like this one in Exeter will have to pay a victim surcharge. (Credit: Neil Owen/Geograph)

This fee is typically set at around £20, with the money raised pooled and distributed via the Ministry of Justice to fund victim services via grants to Police and Crime Commissioners.

For years the surcharge level has been set at this rate, often failing to reflect accurately the harm caused by the acts of the perpetrator.

So I was delighted last week when the Government announced a raft of measures aimed at securing more convictions, preventing further crime and make neighbourhoods safer.

Among the plans for a Victims’ Law was a proposal to raise the victim surcharge to as much as a £100 minimum.

Such a plan would give a considerable boost to the resources available for victims of crime. And as the person responsible for commissioning victim services in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, I think this is a great idea.

That was not all Justice Secretary Dominic Raab unveiled on Thursday, as he attempted to shift the focus of the criminal justice system firmly onto the needs of those affected by crime.

The consultation also outlines plans for community impact statements, which would provide an account for the collective impact of a crime such as attacks on public places or anti-social behaviour, and criminal justice agencies now have to publish more data to aid transparency.

It was also confirmed that victims of sexual and modern slavery offences will be spared the trauma of giving evidence in court through the national roll out of a scheme enabling pre-recorded evidence across all crown courts in England and Wales.

Another piece of legislation which is closer to being written up in the statute books is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which last week moved forward to the reports stage.

If enacted will deliver many key changes that matter to our communities, increasing sentences for murderers and other serious offenders and the penalties faced for those who assault emergency service workers.

All too often the focus of the criminal justice system appears to be on the offender. These important pieces of law have the potential to really swing it in favour of supporting the needs of the victim, reinforcing confidence in the system and making more resources available for those harmed by others. They can’t come soon enough.

If you have been a victim of crime in Devon, Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly practical and emotional help and advice is available, 24 hours a day, via Victim Support via webchat at or by phone on 08 08 16 89 111.