Note of meeting between Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove (VC) and Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) Susan Acland-Hood (SAH)
(To note, this meeting took place before the launch of the government’s victim strategy on 10th Sept).
In 2017 the Government announced the rollout of section 28 video-links for vulnerable victims and witnesses, including children.
SAH outlined the need to ensure that before roll out that everyone was happy with the quality of supporting IT services. SAH explained the work actively under way to ensure this.
SAH stressed would always be an open court environment, even when entire case is held via video link.
Court environment for victims and witnesses
SAH explained the rationale of focussing on those courts which fall well below the standard expected for victims and witnesses. All courts were being provided with screens to be used for special measures.
VC expressed concern about the impact of victims and witnesses caused by court closures. Need the confidence to go to court.
SAH now said analysis is based on where people are travelling from
rather than the distance to the next court from the court being closed. She also explained that real time data is being used to calculate journey times.
What is a reasonable distance to have to travel to court? This autumn HMCTS will publish their response to the consultation which asked this question.
VC outlined the impact of last minute relisting on victims and witnesses. SAH talked through some examples of good practice to prevent cases from falling at the last minute e.g. Gateshead and Newcastle now list together.
Vulnerable victims and witnesses
VC asked about how vulnerable victims and witnesses are protected across different courts, e.g. is the fact a perpetrator has broken a protective order flagged to the family court. SAH said that where these things were a matter of public record they would be flagged but there were limits to data sharing; and agreed to come back with more detail.
Mental Health Review Tribunal
SAH to consider recommendations of VC regarding Mentally Disordered Offenders and revert with HMCTS’s considered response.
The VC’s newsletter will now be circulated within HMCTS.
SAH agreed to quarterly meetings between OVC and HMCTS staff.