Baroness Newlove: Victims still let down by justice agencies

“I raised concerns about the process, the process was almost worse than the actual journey of being a victim.” 


Justice agencies fail to demonstrate compassion, empathy or patience when handling complaints from victims, a report by Baroness Newlove says.


In the first of a series of major independent reviews, the Victims’ Commissioner found that many victims feel ignored, unimportant and confused when raising concerns about their treatment.


By taking into account the experiences of over 200 victims and assessing the performance of all criminal justice agencies listed in the Victims’ Code, the review found that there was ‘inadequate attention to the personal touch victims need.’


Almost 75 per cent of the victims consulted during the review were unhappy with the response they received and over 50 per cent found the relevant agency’s complaints process difficult to use.


One victim told Baroness Newlove: “I’m just frightened…I think they will harass me if I complain about the way they have treated me and my daughter.”


Another victim described how daunting the complaints process was: “I raised concerns about the process, the process was almost worse than the actual journey of being a victim.”


Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove said:


“It is shocking how many victims told me how ignored, dismissed and confused they felt when they tried to raise concerns about their treatment.


“All it takes is basic human decency to explain to a victim, in a sensitive and timely way, why something has gone wrong and what they can do about it.


“I have seen excellent examples of work by agencies across the country but it’s clear that many victims are still not getting the service they deserve.


“That is why I have set out very clear standards which I expect Government and all criminal justice agencies to follow when addressing concerns from victims.”


Victims’ rights campaigner Maggie Hughes, whose son Robert was left in a coma after a terrifying ordeal on holiday, said:


“We victims are not just complainers. If anything, we are thrown into a new world of rules and regulations and then into a dark labyrinth of the unknown.


“This important report shows just how crucial it is to listen to victims. If we feel that we are not satisfied with a service, then we should be able to get clear guidelines on how to complain, regular updates and a full explanation of the outcome.”


In her review, Baroness Newlove highlights the positive work and good practice taking place but says there is a clear gap between what criminal justice agencies describe and what victims’ experience.


The Commissioner has set out a new set of standards which she expects Government and agencies to adopt when responding to concerns from victims:


Victims’ Commissioner’s Standards – victims should receive under the Victims’ Code:


  • Clear information from agencies and service providers on how they will support them in raising a concern or making a complaint about the service they have received
  • Information on how informal concerns can be submitted and dealt with, in additional to processes for the submitting of formal complaints
  • Details on how agencies and service providers will keep victims informed of the progress of their complaint at all stages
  • The option to state their preferred method of communication with an agency or service provider when raising a concern or making a complaint
  • Clear information to understand what to do if not happy with the response that has been received, including details about the role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the right to complain to them
  • Information on how they might be able to be involved in developing, reviewing and improving an agency’s or service provider’s complaints process.


Agencies and service providers should ensure they offer to all victims:


  • A clear statement about the support they will provide to victims who wish to raise a concern or make a complaint about the service that has been provided
  • Processes to deal with concerns swiftly and informally where appropriate, in addition to processes to deal with more formal complaints
  • A commitment that they will deliver mandatory training and development plans for all staff who deal with victims’ complaints
  • A commitment to ensure that all staff who interact with victims, have in place a performance objective reflecting how they will be held accountable for treating victims with empathy, dignity and respect
  • Properly defined processes and recording practices which enable victims complaints to be handled proactively and appropriately
  • A published statement on whether they will apply the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s Principles of Good Complaint Handling in their complaints processes
  • Publish information illustrating how complaints from victims have led to improvements in services.


A full copy of the report can be found here: A Review of Complaints and Resolution for Victims of Crime_January2015