The criminal justice system is not providing the highest quality service to many victims and does not always invest the time and attention needed in cases, a new report has found.
An inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMI Probation) found that a combination of competing demands, high workloads, poor communication and lack of experience were contributing to victims not always receiving the best service.
Their joint report, Meeting the Needs of Victims in the Criminal Justice System, assessed whether the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Probation Service understand what victims need, if they meet those needs and if they provide a good service.
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said:
Complying with the Victims’ Code must go beyond simple box-ticking – it’s about understanding what victims need, making sure their rights are delivered, and supporting them through the whole criminal justice process.
I welcome this important joint inspection of treatment of victims in the criminal justice system. It tells us police, prosecutors and probation are prioritising process over helping victims. It re-enforces my own view that all too often our criminal justice system hits the target but misses the point.
The report highlights the importance of effective scrutiny, ensuring practitioners have a better understanding of what victims need and improved communication across the different agencies. I agree with all these findings.
The government’s Victims and Prisoners Bill gives us the opportunity to change all of this. It can be a real game-changer. However, it needs strengthening. This Bill must put in place robust and independent scrutiny, more transparency and proper accountability. Without this, I fear we will simply not address the shortcomings highlighted by the Inspectors.
I welcome the inspectorates’ sensible recommendations. The government and Parliament must make sure the Victims and Prisoners Bill meets the challenge and becomes a catalyst for change.