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Victims’ Commissioner works with Probation Service to reform the Victim Contact Scheme

A joint statement from the Victims’ Commissioner and the National Probation Service in response to the Victims’ Commissioner’s letter of 7 August.

“Dame Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner, wrote to the Director General – Prisons and Probation – urging improvement in the information supplied to victims of serious crime about the perpetrator of the offence in the months or years after they have been sentenced. The probation service Victim Contact Scheme can provide this information to victims of violent and sexual crimes in cases where the offender receives a sentence of one year imprisonment or more.

The Victims’ Commissioner met with Sonia Flynn, Chief Probation Officer and received a positive update on the work being done with HMPPS Victim’s Team to enhance and expand the Victims’ Contact Scheme. The focus is on improving the quality of the contact that victims have received so far, and where possible expanding the victim contact scheme in response to concerns raised by both the Victims’ Commissioner and the Victims’ Minister. These reforms are all subject to final approval and we look forward to publishing more detail in due course.

The Victims’ Commissioner was pleased to note that, as a direct result of her request, victims are now informed of the prisoner’s current categorisation status in the annual contact letter. Previously victims were only informed if a prisoner was in open or closed conditions.

The Victims’ Commissioner has called for victim liaison officers, who are based in the Victim Contact Scheme, to be co-located with local victims services so that there is a seamless transition from victims support services until the end of the trial to the Victim Contact Scheme post-trial. The Probation Reform Programme will work with Courts Recovery programme to ensure that we take the ‘chance’ of covid to begin constructive discussions with victims’ services on how, effectively to ‘ co-locate’ in current circumstances and in future.

The Victim Contact Scheme will also use more digital methods of contact in future as a means of maintaining contact with victims.

Sonia Flynn, Chief Probation Officer and Executive Director Women and Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner”.