Meeting with National Policing Lead for Victims and Witnesses: 16 January 2018
The National Police Chiefs’ Council brings together all police forces in the UK to assist the co-ordination of national operations. They enable independent chief constables and their forces to work together to improve policing for the public. The National Policing Lead for Victims and Witnesses is the Council’s representative for victim-related matters. They are an active member of the police force and the post is held by the Assistant Chief Constable from Staffordshire Police, ACC Emma Barnett.
Meeting date: 16 January 2018
Victim Personal Statement
The Victims’ Commissioner (VC) asked the National Police Lead (NPL) when the national script for victim personal statements (VPS) would be introduced across the criminal justice system. She was conscious that her VPS Review, which had specifically recommended the script, was published in November 2015 and the recommendation had not been acted upon.
The NPL advised that since taking on this role in the summer of 2017, she had met with victims’ leads in HMCTS and CPS and this issue had been on the agenda. They were all committed to introducing the script and the plan was for this to happen within the next six months.
There was a wider discussion between the VC and NPL about improving overall compliance with the Victims’ Code of Practice, specifically in relation to the VPS. It was accepted that the majority of victims do not recall the offer of a VPS being made to them. Police forces were thinking about whether there are better ways of making the offer, maybe after the initial contact with the victim, using PCSOs or even volunteers. Police forces are also considering alternative ways of victims providing their VPS through technology such as the capture of VPS on Police Body Worn Video devices.
There was a wider discussion between the VC and the NPL about improving overall compliance with the Victims’ Code and its links with victims’ satisfaction. The NPL informed the VC that she is engaged with the Ministry of Justice on the development of a Victims’ Strategy in which victims’ rights and entitlements will feature.
VC Review into Registered Intermediaries
The VC’s review into registered intermediaries (RIs) was to be published the next day. The NPL had not had the opportunity to study the recommendations, but she picked up on the concerns that certain police forces had a poor record in respect of timely payments to RIs. She agreed that this needed to be addressed.
Looking ahead, the VC and the NPL discussed how to increase awareness of the RI role and the benefits to victims. The NPL is keen to progress this along with the use of RIs as a special measure and special measures overall.
The VC asked whether the police were close to making an official response to the recommendations to the Henriques report. She was particularly concerned by the recommendations that the police should assume a supportive but neutral position when victims of sexual abuse case forward and that they should be referred to as complainants until the point at which there had been a conviction.
The NPL confirmed that the National College of Policing was considering the recommendations and would in turn be making recommendations to the National Police Chief’s Council.
The VC raised the issue of recent rape trials collapsing due to a failure on the part of the police and prosecutors to disclose mobile phone evidence to the defence. These high-profile cases obviously had serious and unacceptable ramifications for defendants.
In addition, the VC was concerned that these failures and the resulting reviews of ongoing prosecutions would have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of victims and would also undermine the confidence of future juries in the competence of criminal investigations. It was important that this issue was tackled as a matter of priority.
The NPL confirmed that the issue of disclosure was a national one with both the Police and the CPS reviewing their approaches. The volume of phone material gathered during criminal investigations presented significant challenges for police. Furthermore, the current guidance written 20 years ago and had not kept pace with the recent developments in electronic communication.
The NPL will keep the VC informed of progress on this issue.
(National Disclosure Improvement Plan has subsequently been published by NPCC & CPS)
Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage
The VC expressed concern at the recent drop in Honour Based Violence (HBV) prosecutions and whether this reflected a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system on the part of victims.
The NPL agreed to look liaise with HBV National Police Lead and get back to the VC.
The next meeting will take place in 6 months.