New legislation will put victims firmly at heart of the justice system

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Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has announced he is publishing draft legislation that will put the “needs and voices” of victims “firmly at heart of the justice system”.  The Bill has been designed to provide  better support for victims, increase conviction rates and, many expect, pave the way for the first victims’ law.

The reforms to the support for victims of crime legislation were announced on the 25th May and include:

  • Greater powers to cement voice of victims and improve support placing victims firmly at the heart of the justice system
  • The need for prosecutors to meet victims before certain trials
  • The need for offenders to pay more towards the cost of crimes (this is expected to raise a vital additional £20m by 2025 for support services like rape support centres)
  • Victims being asked for their views at regular points during their case
  • Greater accountability placed on agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police for the services they provide to victims
  • Clearer routes of redress for victims if they do not receive the support they are entitled to
  • The right for victims to attend Parole Board hearings in full and submit questions during the process, for example to query an offender’s suitability for release
  • The requirement for the Parole Board to consider victims’ views and concerns before making a decision on a case

The new Victims’ Bill will also ensure Police and Crime Commissioners, local authorities and health organisations work together to find the right support services for victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence and other serious violence to maximise the benefits and effects of that support.

And from the service  providers side, the legislation will establish a statutory definition for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to assure victims they will receive a consistently high standard of support from them.

It also makes it easier for victims to make complaints about the service they have received as they will no longer have to go through their local MP before speaking to the relevant Ombudsman.

The reforms have come as the government rush to tackle the growing number of victims of crime across the UK, most notably the 27% rise in rape and sexual offences over the last 2 years, something Mr Raab referenced in his speech at the launch:

“No victim should feel lost in a faceless system. We’re amplifying victims’ voices, boosting their rights at every stage and making criminals pay more to help victims recover.  We’re doing this because it is morally the right thing to do to strengthen the care for victims, but also because it is operationally critical to drive up convictions – and keep our streets safe.”

The reforms were immediately welcomed by Diana Fawcett, Chief Executive of the independent charity Victim Support:

“It is vital that victims have stronger rights, better support and real influence in the justice system.  The Victims’ Bill announced today presents a true opportunity to improve victims’ experiences and we look forward to continuing our work with the government to ensure that the final bill leads to meaningful change for victims.”

If you or your client have been a victim of crime and you would like to discuss how we could help you progress your case, please contact us today.