Plans for a Victim’s Law set out in a consultation published today (December 9) are designed to ensure that victims will be better heard, served and protected.
The legislation proposed by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab would result in greater consultation with victims during the criminal justice process to ensure their voices are properly heard and hold agencies such as the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and courts to greater account for the service they provide to victims.
Greater consideration to victims’ views would be taken at regular points during their cases. Proposals include an explicit requirement for prosecutors to meet the victims of certain crimes before making a charging decision in order to understand the impact.
The consultation also outlines plans for community impact statements, which would provide an account for the collective impact of an offence, including in cases where there is no clear victim – such as attacks on public places or anti-social behaviour.
Plans to increase the Victim Surcharge have also been set out. These ensure that criminals contribute more towards crucial victim services. This penalty fee – which offenders are made to pay when they are sentenced for crimes - goes back into funding support services for victims and can be as low as £22 for a conditional discharge. Under the new plans the minimum rate could be increased to £100.
As part of a greater drive for transparency and accountability, the Government has today published the first quarterly performance scorecards spanning the entire criminal justice system as part of a greater drive for transparency and to hold justice agencies to account. The publication of this data is designed to identify and address concerns, including key information on the volumes of cases going through the system and the time taken for investigation, charging and completion at court.
The scorecards also shine a light specifically on the response to rape and sexual violence. The aim is to use this data to help drive a major increase in the number of prosecutions reaching court.
It was also confirmed today 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.
Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is responsible for victim’s services in the two counties. In February she agreed to the largest ever contract for victim services agreed by a commissioner outside London.
“Having spent considerable time in Plymouth following the tragic shooting there in August, and as commissioner of services for those affected by it, I am well aware of the impact of such crimes on a wider community, and think the community impact statements could be a useful way of capturing that harm so services can better respond to it,” she said.
“For too long criminals have paid a sometimes paltry sum towards victims services and I think the proposal to hugely increase this sum is long overdue. It is totally right that they should pay more so more and higher quality services can be provided for victims of crime.
“In relation to the data scorecards out today, I was raising concerns about delays in the criminal justice system – particularly in relation to sexual offences – before Covid struck. The pandemic has made the situation even worse so the publication of timely data will help us to expose and understand these challenges.
“The expansion of the scheme that allows sexual offence and modern slavery victims to give pre-recorded evidence to court is a common sense proposal that will reduce the trauma and stress of court appearances.
“Brought together these improvements should secure more convictions, prevent further crime and make neighbourhoods safer.”
In Devon and Cornwall the charity Victim Support is commissioned to deliver services for the Police and Crime Commissioner as her strategic partner. Its chief executive, Diana Fawcett, said: “The Victims’ Bill is a real opportunity to improve victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system. Our research has found time and time again that victims do not always receive their rights and entitlements, and so the Government’s focus on strengthening victims’ rights is welcome.
“There needs to be a real shift in the way victims are treated by the criminal justice process. We will work to ensure that the Victims’ Bill makes a meaningful difference to victims of crime, and we will encourage victims and survivors to make their voice heard during the consultation.”
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 www.victimsupport.org.uk or by phone on 08 08 16 89 111.