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Baroness Newlove publishes her one-year Strategic Plan as Victims’ Commissioner

“You will not be surprised to see that scrutiny of the Victims and Prisoners Bill will be my primary focus for the year.”

Baroness Newlove has written to the Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk MP, to share her Strategic Plan for her one-year term as Victims’ Commissioner (October 2023 to October 2024).

Setting out her objectives for the year ahead, Baroness Newlove wrote: “You will not be surprised to see that scrutiny of the Victims and Prisoners Bill will be my primary focus for the year.”

This comes as the Victims and Prisoners Bill is set to return to Parliament in the coming weeks, following its mention in the King’s Speech. She will be writing to Ed Argar MP in the coming days to set out her initial thoughts on how the Bill might be enhanced.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill includes measures aimed at improving victims’ experience of the criminal justice system. In her Strategy, the Victims’ Commissioner sets out how she will use her term to advocate for the development of a comprehensive Bill that not only upholds government commitments to victims but also brings about transformational change in the criminal justice system and how it operates.

The Victims’ Commissioner believes the overarching theme for the Victims and Prisoners Bill must be victim empowerment, with victims better informed, listened to, able to challenge, and appropriately supported.

To this end, Baroness Newlove will set out in a letter to Ministers that she will be pushing for the Bill to ensure criminal justice agencies are held to account in their delivery of victim rights (the Victims’ Code). The Victims’ Code sets out in law the minimum level of service that victims should receive from the criminal justice system.

She will say the Bill must provide vulnerable victims with specialist support and rights, and she is calling for the remit of the Victims’ Code to be extended to include victims of serious crime, who are currently wholly or partially excluded.

Alongside the Victims and Prisoners Bill, the Victims’ Commissioner will be closely monitoring government progress on implementing the commitments it made as part of the End-to-End Rape Review. This includes the nationwide roll-out of pre-recorded cross examination (Section 28) to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

The Victims’ Commissioner will also turn her attention to the growing open caseload in the Crown Courts, in particular the sizeable backlog of cases outstanding for more than a year. She will also monitor victim attendance at parole hearings, including empowering victims to give informed consent to attend hearings and to provide the best possible wraparound support for them.

Baroness Newlove also outlines the research work her office will undertake and publish. This includes a review on the use of victim advocates and providing a retrospective on progress made in the arena of anti-social behaviour since the publication of the 2019 report Living A Nightmare.

She has also 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 will be one of the most extensive of its kind. Fieldwork begins in November and the results are expected in the New Year.