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‘A wake-up call’: New survey shines spotlight on poor treatment of victims

The interim Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove.

Victims’ Commissioner publishes 2022 Victim Survey survey results as she prepares to address the House of Lords in response to the King’s Speech.

  • New survey reveals 71% dissatisfied with the police response to the crime; 34% would not report a crime again.
  • Baroness Newlove: “These statistics should serve as a wake-up call for all those involved in the justice system.”

Download the 2022 Victim Survey.

Ahead of Baroness Newlove’s first speech in the Lords on 8 November following her re-appointment as Victims’ Commissioner, a new survey reveals a troubling picture of how victims experience the criminal justice system.

The findings come as the landmark Victims and Prisoners Bill is set to return to Parliament. Baroness Newlove plans to welcome the re-introduction of the Bill in the debate on the King’s Speech in the House of Lords.

Launched last summer by the previous Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird KC, the survey sought to understand victims’ priorities and gain insights into their experiences of the criminal justice system over the preceding three years (2019-2022).

Around 500 victims responded, providing new and concerning insight into the victim experience of the criminal justice system:

  • 71% of respondents were dissatisfied with the police response to the crime.
  • Over a third (34%) of respondents said they would not report a crime to the police again, consistent with 2021 and 2020 surveys.
  • 70% of respondents felt that they had to wait too long for their case to come to court (up from 66% in 2021).
  • Only 8% of respondents were confident that they could receive justice by reporting a crime.
  • Less than a third (29%) of respondents were aware of the Victims’ Code.
  • Only 29% said they were offered the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement, a drop from 39% in 2021.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill includes measures aimed at improving victims’ experience of the criminal justice system. It will be a key area of focus for Baroness Newlove, having been asked by Ministers to scrutinise the Bill in her capacity as Victims’ Commissioner.  

Reacting to the survey’s findings, Baroness Newlove said: “These numbers simply must not be shrugged off as they concern me deeply. For when victims lose trust in the system, they’re less likely to report crime. These statistics should serve as a wake-up call for all those involved in the justice system.

“This survey echoes what we’ve heard in years prior. And as the Victims and Prisoners Bill returns to Parliament, it’s our moment to finally deliver the transformational change that victims need. The Victims and Prisoners Bill must be that catalyst. We must act now, amidst all the present challenges in the criminal justice system, because victims will not wait – and nor should they.”

The survey results show procedural justice remains as just as important to victims as securing a conviction. Procedural justice means victims feeling they have been treated fairly and with respect by the criminal justice system. For example, it can include being kept informed on the progress of an investigation, meeting the prosecuting barrister ahead of the trial or being able to read their victim personal statement in court.

However, year-on-year victims are reporting that they are not receiving the service they expect and deserve.

For the largest proportion of victims (24%), when faced with eight options the most important factor when reporting a crime to the police was having the crime fully investigated. However, 82% of respondents reported not being confident that police would thoroughly investigate the crimes reported to them. In fact, for those respondents who did report a crime, 59% felt their concerns were not taken seriously, and victims voiced a lack of action taken by police:

  • “Nothing has been done. I feel let down and if [I] was required [to give] evidence in the future I wouldn’t due to my experience.”  [Victims’ Survey 2022, page 13]
  •  “The police took 9 months to contact me and even consider investigating the case. There were too many officers involved in my case, 13 in fact, it was passed from person to person before I even gave a statement and this felt [like] I was being violated and other victims in my case did too. we thought it was not taken seriously.” [Victims’ Survey 2022, page 4]

The length of time that victims are having to wait for justice remains a concern. 45% of respondents agreed that the police investigation took too long (compared to 54% in 2021). Only 9% were confident that the courts were effective at dealing with cases promptly, the same figure as 2021. There is an open caseload (often referred to as a ‘backlog’) of around 65,000 trials in the crown courts according to the latest data, up from around 40,000 before the pandemic hit in 2020.

Baroness Newlove said: “Victims aren’t asking for much; they’re asking for fairness – a level playing field, where their needs and rights are considered alongside those of the offenders. A capable and competent justice system that is sensitive to the needs and interests of victims, delivers procedural justice, and gives victims a voice in proceedings is the key to better justice for everyone.”

In one of her first moves as Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove has commissioned one of the most extensive victim surveys to date. Conducted by YouGov, the survey will encompass a sample group of 3,000 victims, ensuring representation from across England and Wales. This marks the largest survey ever undertaken by the Victims’ Commissioner and one of the most extensive of its kind. Fieldwork begins in November and the results are expected in the New Year.

Notes to editors

2022 Victim Survey

  • The survey report is published on the Victims’ Commissioner website.
  • The survey was conducted while Dame Vera Baird KC was Victims’ Commissioner (17 June to 9 September 2022). Dame Vera Baird’s term ended on 30 September 2022.
  • We received 489 responses to an online survey. The survey was posted on the Victims’ Commissioner’s website and social media and was shared through partner organisations, victims’ services and other agencies.
  • The survey explored victims’ experiences with the police, victims’ services, the courts and the CPS, the Criminal Justice System as a whole, and the Victims’ Code of Practice (Victims’ Code).
  • Respondents had reported or been a victim of crime in the last three years (2019-2022). The sample was self-selecting and cannot be viewed as representative of all victims in England and Wales. 
  • The previous Victims’ Surveys for 2021 and 2020 can be found on our website.