Baroness Newlove’s last Annual Report covers the period from April 2018 to March 2019. It includes a look ahead with new VC Dame Vera Baird, progress on objectives, plans for the next year and budget and spending.
EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 ON THURSDAY 27 JUNE 2019
Victims’ Commissioner’s Annual Report – Commissioner urges reform in culture of criminal justice system. Time to give victims a level playing field with offenders, giving justice to all. The outgoing Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, has published her 2018/19 Annual Report, a year in which the treatment of victims moved to the top of the political agenda, following reforms to the parole process and the launch of the Government’s Victim Strategy, with a promise of a Victims’ Law.
You can read the Annual Report here.
Baroness Newlove says:
“For many victims, the criminal justice system can appear a hostile environment. The process of getting justice can be as traumatic as the crime itself. We need to change the culture of our justice system. But this can only happen by putting victims on a level playing field with offenders. This does not mean we diminish the rights of offenders. It is about giving justice to all, both offenders and victims.”
Baroness Newlove calls for victims to be given statutory rights, covering three areas:
The right to challenge. Criminal justice agencies would be required to demonstrate their policies and procedures are compatible with these core rights, and should be held to account if they fail.
Baroness Newlove uses her report to highlight deficiencies in a key victim service, providing criminal injuries compensation:
“I regard criminal injuries compensation as an integral part of the support on offer to victims. Yet my review found the process of applying for compensation can be extremely stressful, in part because victims need to constantly repeat their story. For someone struggling with PTSD, this can be retraumatising.”
She welcomes the Government’s decision to consider her recommendations for change as part of its Victim Strategy review of criminal injuries compensation as an opportunity
She also singles out particular groups of victims who she believes, have not been receiving the support they deserve. These include victims of mentally disordered offenders, who lack the same entitlements as victims of offenders who serve a prison sentence. She has called for an end to this disparity in treatment:
“The trauma and distress experienced by victims of serious sexual and violent crime, including homicide, are the same irrespective of the status of their offender.”
She welcomes the fact the Ministry of Justice and Department of Health are working together to see how her recommendations can be implemented.
She also brings to light the treatment of victims of sexual violence, who, she believes, are receiving a terrible deal from our criminal justice system.
The National Crime Survey for England and Wales shows more than four in five of those who suffer a sexual assault never report it to the police so they never see justice. Indeed, fewer than 2% of victims of sexual assault see their perpetrator convicted in the courts:
Baroness Newlove said:
“This troubles me, as it demonstrates a breakdown in confidence between victims of sexual violence and the criminal justice system. How has this been allowed to happen? for many victims, the criminal justice journey is as harrowing as the crime itself. This is unacceptable. We are letting these victims down badly.”
Baroness Newlove‘s report emphasises key issues for victims who report crimes,such as the importance of belief and damage caused by disproportionate invasions into their private lives and poor communication.
At the end of her term of office, Baroness Newlove published a report on the treatment of victims of anti-social behaviour, a subject close to her heart:
“The families I speak to are law-abiding, quietly getting on with their life, minding their own business. Yet their experiences follow an–all–too familiar pattern being bullied and intimidated to a point that destroys their quality of life and well-being. They describe the strain on their mental health, sleep patterns, work and relationships.”
Baroness Newlove expressed concern how persistent ASB was approached by police and local agencies, with each incident often treated in isolation, and insufficient attention given to addressing the root causes. She called for an overhaul of the Community Trigger, giving victims greater rights and input.
Baroness Newlove retired as Victims Commissioner on 31 May 2019 and was succeeded by Dame Vera Baird QC. Dame Vera says:
“Baroness Newlove has been a powerful advocate for victims and I am determined to build on her legacy. I want to see justice for victims. For me, this means their voice is heard, their needs are fully considered throughout the criminal justice process and they are treated with respect.”
Looking ahead, Dame Vera’s priorities include pressing for stronger rights for victims that are easier for victims to access. She wants to see measures put in place to monitor compliance with the Victims Code and will be calling for the Victims’ Commissioner to be given a stronger national role in dealing with any shortfall. She intends to press for national standards in respect of victims’ services to ensure top quality services wherever a victim lives and will also examine the in-court treatment of victims and witnesses.
“In this fantastic role, a great deal is possible, as long as everyone acknowledges that they too may, one day, be a victim of crime and works to ensure that current victims have all the entitlements and services they would, in that circumstance, want for themselves.”
Notes to Editors:
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