The Commissioner and CEO met for an introductory discussion about the work of the CRCC and how it engages with victims. The CEO of the Office of the Victims’ Commissioner was also present.
Work of the CRCC
The CEO opened the conversation by saying she wanted to do more stakeholder engagement.
CRCC had experienced a big increase in casework.
The CRCC website was very old fashioned and they are going to revamp it.
The vast majority of cases are not referred to the Court of Appeal. This year it has referred 29 cases.
All applications are looked into to see whether there is anything in the application, or anything that they can see in the case, and about half are allocated to a Case Review Manager who looks into the case in more detail to see looking for new evidence that could give rise to a real possibility that the court would quash the conviction (i.e. the CCRC’s test for referral). They conduct the necessary investigations to decide whether in fact anything does give rise to a real possibility. The cases that fall away at the earlier stage (before allocation to a Case Review Manager) include those cases (around 40%) where the applicant could still appeal direct to the appeal court and we cannot see any exceptional circumstances that mean we should review the case even though a normal appeal is still possible.
At each stage the CRCC reviews whether it is appropriate to tell the victim/ family. This is influenced by whether there is media interest including local media interest. The CRCC almost always tell the victim/family before referring a case and before telling the applicant.
The Commissioner asked how they contact the victim. The CEO advised that they usually tell police, who will work with the CRCC to draft the communication.
The Commissioner asked whether they contact the victim using the Victim Contact Scheme as this is responsible for liaising with and sharing information with victims after trial. The CEO advised that they go to the VCS in some cases. this depends on the age of the victim and the level of police engagement. The CRCC use the police more often as they employ former police officers who work as investigations advisers and who can liaise with the police.
The Commissioner advised there may be better ways of initiating contact. Some victims will be vulnerable and it is important that CRCC get the communications right. By this stage in the sentence, some victims will have a relationship with their Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) within the Victim Contact Scheme.
Alternatively, they may have a relationship with their victim supporter or advisor. The provision of this support for vulnerable victims is run by victims’ hubs. We should not break the ongoing support and lines of communication already put in place for victims.
The Commissioner also explained that there will be a newly reconfigured probation service and she wanted to see co-location between victim hubs and VLOs. All Police and Crime Commissioners have victim hubs and the Commissioner explained how these operated.
The CEO agreed with the Commissioner that with vulnerable victims, it was important to get the communication right. A high proportion of CRCC cases are sex offences and in many cases the victim will know the offender. It is important that the victims do not get to hear about referrals through unofficial channels, which might be distressing.
The Commissioner acknowledged that victims are not the main business for CRCC and she suggested setting up a round table with representatives of charities who support victims to discuss engagement with those who are vulnerable. The CEO confirmed that the CRCC would welcome this.
The CEO asked the Commissioner if she would like to visit their office at some future point and speak to staff. The Commissioner said she would be delighted to do so.
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