Criminal justice agencies at risk of failing young victims of crime

Criminal justice agencies are at risk of failing children and young people who come forward to report crimes because they are not being taken seriously, Victims’ Commissioner has today warned.

Publishing her review into the treatment of children and young victims of crime by criminal justice agencies, the Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove was disgusted to discover that these victims were made to feel like criminals, were accused of wasting the police’s time or simply not believed when reporting a crime against them.

The ‘Are We Getting it Right for Young Victims of Crime?’ review interviewed young victims of a violent or sexual offence to find out whether they were receiving their entitlements as set out in the Victims’ Code. The review found:

  • victims felt that they were not taken seriously, and some felt this was because of their age;
  • many of the young victims felt that they were not believed by the police, social workers, teachers or by society as a whole;
  • many victims were frustrated at the lack of information about the progress in their case; and,
  • some victims had lost faith in the criminal justice system as a result of their treatment and the lack of a conviction.

Baroness Newlove said:

“These children and young victims feel let down by the system that is meant to protect them. It is time attitudes towards them were changed.

“I want to see agencies working together to make sure young and vulnerable victims feel supported through the criminal justice process. They deserve to be taken seriously, for their allegations to be thoroughly investigated and to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said:

“It is critically important that children who have been victims of crime are not victimised again by the criminal justice system. When children tell authorities that they have been a victim of a violent or sexual crime, it is vital that they are listened to and that their allegations are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.”

Some victims also felt that their requests for support or special measures through the criminal justice process were turned down or not properly applied:

  • one victim of rape was told there were no female police officers available to interview her and was interviewed by male officers on three separate occasions, despite asking for a female officer each time; and,
  • another victim explained that she was allowed to use a screen when giving evidence at court, so she didn’t have to face the offender, but the offender was still in the courtroom and saw him when she left from behind the screen

The review also highlighted areas of good practice in the treatment of victims, including:

  • most victims had an adult with them when interviewed by the police;
  • most victims were informed about some of the special measures that could be put in place to help them give evidence at court; and,
  • all of the victims who gave evidence at court received a pre-trial visit, which they found very useful.

The Victims’ Commissioner believes that there should be further research into how best to support children and vulnerable victims of crime. She is recommending that:

  • criminal justice agencies review policies and procedures in relation to childhood victims, including any literature that these victims receive;
  • children should be given access to registered intermediaries if they need them;
  • a single point of contact or children’s advocate should be made available for child victims of violent or sexual offences;
  • victims’ satisfaction monitoring for childhood victims and their families should be carried out; and,
  • the judiciary should ensure defence barristers adhere to practice directions when questioning vulnerable victims.

The Victims’ Commissioner will continue to review compliance of the Victims’ Code and highlight her findings to government. Her next review will look at how criminal justice agencies monitor victims’ satisfaction and use this information to improve service provision.


Are We Getting it Right for Young Victims of Crime? A review of Children’s entitlements in the Victims’ Code