BARONESS NEWLOVE has welcomed the Ministry of Justice’s first ever cross-government Victims Strategy. It promises to deliver seismic change to improve support for crime victims. The Commissioner backs proposals that make clear the specific support that victims can expect, starting immediately after a crime, and ending long after any court case at every step of their justice journey.
In response to the publication Baroness Newlove, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales said:
“This is a timely focus on the needs and rights of victims, and is a major step forward towards ensuring they receive the care, support and justice they deserve.
“Victims consistently tell me that they feel their status in the criminal justice system is weighted towards the offender. As Victims Commissioner I have long been calling for a Victims Law to ensure that the rights of victims are central to the delivery of our justice system.
“I welcome this Victims’ Strategy which brings us a step closer to seeing a Victims Law on the statute books. Such a law will mean that no victim in the future will have to fight for the support they’re entitled to.
I will continue to push government to ensure that victims whose lives may be devastatingly transformed by the crime committed against them, are afforded the rights they so justly deserve.”
In response to the proposal to introduce an Independent Public Advocate the Victims’ Commissioner said;
“I am passionate about giving victims of the most serious crimes an independent advocate, whose responsibility it is to support them through their criminal justice journey, advising them and sign-posting them to relevant support services. The advocate would be a professional, whose role is to represent the interests of the victim as opposed to a specific criminal justice agency.
“I hope the proposed advocate scheme for victims of major incidents is the first step towards this universal provision.”
The strategy also reflects areas which the Victims’ Commissioner has previously made recommendations to government.
In June, Baroness Newlove highlighted the desperate need additional Registered Intermediaries. The government has now said their number will rise by 25% in 2018. Baroness Newlove said;
“Any growth in the number of Registered Intermediaries is a positive step towards giving all victims and witness fair access to justice. However, the number of RIs must rise to meet demand – I don’t believe an increase of 25% goes anywhere near far enough. Recruitment also needs to be across the country and with the right communication specialisms.”
The strategy also promises a review into how victims of Mentally Disordered Offenders are treated. This follows the VCs recommendations to government in August. The commissioner reacted by saying;
“I would like my office to work alongside the MoJ to make sure we get any amendments to policy right in this area. For example, I believe the Victims’ Code must afford the same entitlements to victims of both restricted and unrestricted patients as those given to victims of serving prisoners. This includes the right to be part of the Victim Contact Scheme and being able to make and present a Victim Personal Statement at the Tribunal.”
You can read more about the Victims Strategy here.