For the fifth year running, victims of crime continue to be deprived of the opportunity to make a victim personal statement. Only one in six victims (16 per cent) said they were offered the chance by police to make a statement for the year ending March 2018.
This is despite a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) being one of the key entitlements available to victims under the Victims Code. The statement offers crime victims the opportunity to express how it affected their lives physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. Significantly, the account is articulated in the victim’s own words.
Baroness Newlove said: “I’m disappointed that data in my fourth report reveals little progress since 2013/14. The fact that only one in six victims are offered this opportunity robs people of their chance to have their say in court. This is despite more than half of victims (57 per cent) who were offered a VPS choosing to make one, and most victims who did so (68 per cent), feeling it has been taken into account by the justice system.
“It is clear to me, police aren’t sufficiently raising awareness among crime victims about their right to make a personal statement. This must change.”
The Report highlights discrepancies by age, religion, marital status, long-term illness/disability, area type, region and offence. They include;
- The percentage of crime victims living in the North East offered a VPS halved to just 8 per cent against a national average of 16 per cent. In the East of England this was only 10 per cent.
- Older victims aged 35 to 44 were nearly twice as likely to miss out on making a VPS compared to younger victims aged 16 to 24 (13 per cent compared to 25 per cent).
- Victims of vehicle-related theft (10 per cent) and criminal damage and arson offences (13 per cent) were less likely to involve the victim being offered a VPS when compared to all incidents.
- Victims who are married/in a civil partnership (13 per cent) are less likely to be offered the opportunity to make a VPS than the average for all victims, whereas victims who are single are more likely to be offered one (20 per cent).
With the provision of VPSs so patchy, the Commissioner has repeated her call for a Victims’ Law to provide victims with statutory rights, giving victims the right to be heard, to be informed and to challenge. This would include the right for all victims to make a VPS in court and during Parole Board hearings.
Last month, the VC welcomed publication of the Government’s Victims Strategy, which included the proposal to record and monitor when a VPS has been made, as a step in the right direction.
Baroness Newlove said: “My report underlines the crucial importance in offering a VPS to all victims. I know first-hand many victims cherish their opportunity to share their experiences in the knowledge that the court has listened, and it counts for something.
“I’ve passionately backed victims’ entitlement to have a voice in the justice system. Yet these findings demonstrate that we still have a long way to go.
“Only a Victims’ Law, which sets out statutory victim rights can truly transform justice and drive change across the criminal justice system.”