In this section, the government asks about the impact of their proposals on people with protected characteristics
- Question 49: Have we correctly identified the range and extent of the equalities impacts under this consultation in the equality statement? Please give reasons and supply evidence of further equalities impacts that are not covered as appropriate.
We note that this question references the ‘equalities statement’, however, this does not appear to form part of the consultation document itself, nor is it published separately. As such, we cannot comment on the statement, but we do have the following observations about equalities.
As outlined in various ways in our response (see below) we have highlighted that there are existing inequalities in the criminal justice system, including discrepancies in the numbers of certain categories of victims offended against and in contrast to those who actually engage with the system. There will, we assert, be discrepancies in charging rates and rates at which Code rights are met in some crime types along demographic/ equalities lines but this is currently largely ‘unmeasured’.
We have raised concerns about the inaccessibility of the consultation in general and specifically for certain groups of victims. Indeed, we wrote requesting that deaf and disabled victims be provided with accessible versions of the consultation, which were eventually made available nearly 6 weeks after the consultation opened (see letter of 16 December). We have also written asking for an extension in time for those groups to respond and await a response, although early indications are that organisations can request a 2-week extension which will be considered on a case by case basis (see letter of 24 January and response of 26 January). This risks a dearth of engagement from exactly the least heard and most marginalised groups of victims. This is problematic when you consider the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and broader equalities issues around the legislation, as these are exactly the groups that may be in the best position to point out any unintended equalities issues with the legislation.
Although we see that you assert ‘Our proposals are designed to make it easier for all victims to report crimes, access support and engage with the criminal justice process’ we would be keen to understand how you plan to mitigate existing inequalities because without doing so you risk further entrenching them. For example, specialist ‘by and for’ services often live in a near-permanent state of existential crisis of funding. This could be mitigated by a national framework for commissioning and ring-fenced centralised funding for the ‘by and for’ sector. Without including specific provisions for minority groups, minority groups will still be comparatively disadvantaged relative to the majority.
Equalities impacts and considerations are fundamental to this consultation and we have made reference to these considerations throughout our consultation response. Below follow a sample of some of the key observations and recommendations in our consultation response.
- We recognise that this is a consultation that is largely concerned with the treatment of victims whilst they engage in the criminal justice system (CJS). This is crucial and much-needed work. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of victims of crime, particularly of high-harm crimes, do not engage with the CJS. Chapter Three considers in-depth the well-being of the widest proportion of victims, including the commissioning of the ‘by and for’ sector.
- We specifically note that black and minoritised women and disabled women, including learning disabled women, appear to be the least likely victim cohorts to engage with the CJS. We are also concerned about whether older or younger people and people of particular faiths are over-represented in victimisation and under-represented in engagement with the criminal justice system. In Chapter 1 we, therefore, request that the Ministry of Justice commission research to explore the detailed characteristics of who does and who does not engage with the CJS, why this is the case and how the CJS could be improved to remove barriers and meet the needs for all victims.
- We set out in Table 1 the relevant metrics we believe are required to effectively measure Code compliance. This includes data that tells us who the victims are. This is so that we can, for example, ensure that different groups are getting equal access to services, and also so that we simply know the core demographics of the victim population, in a similar way to knowing the demographic composition of the offender population.
- In Chapter 1, we argue that the Ministry of Justice should issue easy-read, BSL and other accessible versions and foreign-language editions of the Victims’ Code. Compulsory training on Code rights and compulsory collection of data on Code performance, particularly in order to guarantee the Public Sector Equality duty, should also be a condition put onto all victims’ services contracts, whether they are commissioned locally or nationally.
- In Chapter Three, we strongly recommend that any duties are co-designed with the relevant specialist sector(s) especially those involved in providing ‘by and for’ services. We strongly recommend that the difficulties faced by specialist ‘by and for’ organisations are mitigated in the design of any duties. We strongly recommend that government provides long-term sustainable funding for services, including ‘back-room’ costs and ring-fenced funding for specialist ‘by and for’ services. We strongly recommend that government co-designs with specialist ‘by and for’ organisations a national framework for commissioning.
- In Chapter Three, we call for the consideration of the needs of men and boys who experience interpersonal crime, and we recommend a central government strategy that would set a clear expectation.
- In Chapter Three, we strongly recommend that there is an amendment to Section 5 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to require Police and Crime Commissioners to provide a plan for victim services as part of their five-year policing plan and this should include a requirement to set out within that plan how they intend to meet their Public Service Equality Duty.
- In Chapter Three, we consider ‘invisible’ victims. These are groups of victims who are less ‘seen’; these include disabled victims (especially learning -disabled victims), migrant victims, adult victims of child sexual abuse, older victims, and incidental or collateral victims who are not recognised as such in their own right, such as the parents or siblings of children who have experienced child sexual abuse. It is important that these victims are made more visible and are able to access support.
- In Chapter Three, we strongly recommend that any victims law contains a non-discrimination clause to ensure that victims who have insecure immigration status are treated as victims of crime not as ‘suspect’ immigrants.
- In Chapter Four, we consider the definitions of IDVAs and how these must include flexibility to ensure that the roles provided by ‘by and for’ specialist services are encapsulated within the definition and not excluded. By and for’ services provide highly tailored services for groups of victims with protected characteristics. This includes LGBT+, Deaf, disabled and black and minoritised victims and survivors of domestic abuse as well as migrant women.