Less than one in five victims is offered the chance to make a Victim Personal Statement for court hearings. The Victims’ Commissioner is today calling on the government to use legislation to strengthen victims’ rights.
The right to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) is a key entitlement in the Victims’ Code. The Code sets out all of the victim’s entitlements as they journey through the criminal justice system; and the Victims’ Commissioner believes it is failing victims, as there are no powers to force criminal justice agencies to comply.
Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, issued the warning as figures reveal that only 15 per cent of all victims of crime were offered the opportunity to make a VPS in 2015/16; and the proportion of victims offered has languished at this rate for the last three years.
Publishing her latest review on the compliance of the Victims’ Code, the Victims’ Commissioner found that giving victims the opportunity to make a VPS was being disregarded by police forces.
A VPS is the only opportunity for victims to explain, in their own words, the impact of the crime against them.
A concerned Baroness Newlove is calling on the Ministry of Justice to place the treatment and support for victims high up their priority list.
Baroness Newlove said:
“Enough is enough. No-one can claim that victims are ‘at the heart of the criminal justice system’ when these figures suggest that the Victims’ Code is no more than a wish list. More needs to be done to support victims of crime.”
The Victims’ Commissioner believes that in order to address this long-standing issue, the rights and entitlements for victims should be enshrined in law. All victims should be offered the opportunity to make a VPS at court and Parole Board hearings; and there should be sanctions in place for criminal justice agencies who do not fully comply with the Victims’ Code.
“There are laws in place to protect the rights of offenders – but nothing to protect the rights of victims. Yet again victims’ rights are being ignored, which is why I want to see a Victims’ Law that makes a difference. A law that protects, respects and supports victims, and ensures that they receive fair and open access to justice.”
As part of her role, the Victims’ Commissioner reviews compliance of the Victims’ Code. In November 2015, Baroness Newlove first assessed whether victims were being offered the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement. The review found that a systemic failure to offer victims this opportunity left them unfairly silenced within the criminal justice system.
Over a year later, this review also investigated whether any particular types of victims are less likely to be offered the opportunity to make a VPS than others. It found that:
- victims of violent attacks were more likely to be offered a VPS than victims overall;
- victims aged 65-74 were less likely to be offered a VPS than victims overall;
- incidents involving black victims were less likely to be offered a VPS, compared to 2014/15; and,
- victims in the East of England were less likely to be offered the opportunity to make a VPS for incidents that took place in 2015/16, compared to incidents overall.
The Victims’ Commissioner will continue to review compliance of the Victims’ Code and highlight her findings to government. Her next review will look at the entitlements children should expect to receive under the Code.
The data is taken from the Crime Survey for England & Wales 2015/16