There needs to be an improvement in the way that criminal justice agencies carry out their obligations regarding the VPS process to victims. The recommendations I have made will go some way to help that happen and close the gap between what should be happening and what happens in practice for victims.

The way these improvements can be brought about will be through a number of changes that cannot all necessarily be measured, but are important to victims. I have therefore used this review to identify a number of standards which I think will assist agencies to carry out these recommendations.

Where agencies are able to demonstrate that they are meeting these standards, they will be more likely to be fulfilling their duties to victims under the Victims’ Code.

Victims’ Commissioner’s Standards:

  • All relevant agencies should ensure the VPS process is applied effectively and must put sufficient monitoring in place to demonstrate this. It is for each agency to determine which of the following they need to monitor to enable the Criminal Justice Board, and others, to accurately identify:
    • number (and percentage) of VPSs offered
    • reasons why a VPS was not offered or taken up
    • when the VPS was offered
    • whether (and how often) the victim was offered to update the VPS
    • number (and percentage) of requests to read a VPS aloud
    • number (and percentage) of requests to read a VPS aloud and whether the VPS was granted or refused (including reasons for refusal)
    • number (and percentage) of cases finalised where a VPS was considered
    • whether victims were told if (and how) their VPS was used
  • Agencies should provide sufficient help to support victims throughout the VPS process and provide assurances of how this will be delivered.
  • All agencies should commit to using a standard ‘script’ describing the purpose of the VPS once it has been produced and to reflect this in their training materials. In the meantime, agencies should set out how they will ensure that their staff provide accurate explanations to victims about the purpose and contents of a VPS.
  • Agencies should ensure that staff (including staff commissioned to do this work on their behalf) are properly trained on the VPS process from beginning to end, as well as training regarding their own agency’s specific VPS function.
  • Agencies should demonstrate their commitment to ensure that all staff (including staff commissioned to do this work on their behalf) have in place a performance objective reflecting how they will be held accountable for treating victims making a VPS with sensitivity, dignity and respect.

 

To access the full report: The Silenced Victim – A review of the Victim Personal Statement