Dame Vera Baird QC publishes the second part of her analysis of victimisation data in the Crime Survey for England and Wales

Virtual victim support – used during the Coronavirus lockdown – must not replace face to face contact after the crisis has ended. That is the message from the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC.

It comes as she publishes the second part of her analysis of the victimisation data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) over the last five years.

Her report looks at victims’ responses to questions about their contact with victims’ support services, restorative justice, and information, advice and support, between 2014-15 to 2018-19 and has been collated using Office for National Statistics data.

The report found, in 2018-19:

  • More than nine out of ten victims who had face-to-face contact with victims’ services said it helped them to cope with the impact of the incident;
  • For those who did receive victim support, a phone call was the most common type of contact with the second most common kind being a leaflet. Fewer than half said that receiving a leaflet or letter helped them to cope;
  • More than a third of victims who had any type of contact said it did not help them at all to cope with the impact of the incident This number varied across crime types and those reporting sexual offences, burglaries, threats to commit violence and violent offences were most likely to say that victim support services DID help them to cope with the impact of the incident;
  • Nine out of 10 victims said they did not receive any information, advice or support following the incident; and
  • Less than 5% of victims were offered restorative justice despite more than a quarter of respondents saying they would have taken up the offer.

Dame Vera said: “During the Coronavirus crisis those who provide help and support to victims have had to innovate  to continue working. Many of them have been using digital technology to give much-needed help and support.

“But my analysis shows the most effective victim support is through face to face interaction especially for those who are victims of the most serious offences. So those commissioning victims’ services should not automatically favour virtual services which come at lower cost, when those who have suffered serious crime derive much more value from meeting and talking to their support workers in person.”

She also highlighted the underuse of restorative justice saying: “It is clear that more victims would appreciate the chance to consider restorative justice than are currently being given the offer and we should not overlook that it can be beneficial to both the victim and the offender.”

Continuing: “Good quality victim services can assist victims especially those of the most serious crimes, if they are delivered face-to-face. However there is food for thought here about in what circumstances, and how this kind of support is delivered, to make sure it hits its target.

“We must all rise to the challenge and ensure victim services are delivered in the best way to people in the aftermath crimes, who are often in considerable need.

Dame Vera’s first report was published on March 25. It found growing dissatisfaction on the part of victims in how their cases are handled by the criminal justice system.