For too long, victims and witnesses have been seen as an after-thought to the workings of our criminal justice system. Public confidence has been shaken by media reporting of victims of horrific crimes being ignored and traumatised witnesses on the end of aggressive cross-examinations. This can only be to the detriment of a system that only functions if citizens come forward, provide information, report their crimes and help the authorities prosecute those responsible.
That's why Labour has decided to act. We believe that things have got to change if we are to restore the public's faith. And that's why Ed Miliband and I have set up the Victims' Taskforce with the precise remit to come forward with a Victims' Law and other recommendations of what needs to change in our justice system.
And the Taskforce is already hard at work. Monday is the first meeting of the Taskforce with leading figures from across the justice, victims and charities landscape. It is the first of a series of engagements over the coming months with victims, campaigners and activists. I'm encouraged that Keir Starmer QC, Peter Neyroud and Baroness Doreen Lawrence have already put on the agenda radical topics for discussion such as the right to review decisions of the police not to charge and thinking big on ideas like changes to how and where victims come forward and report crime. I'm sure that as their work progresses further radical changes will come to light.
Keir, Peter and Doreen bring their enormous experience to the task ahead. Keir was until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions and understands better than most how the system needs to improve. Peter is one of the country's leading experts on the police, having previously been a Chief Constable. And Doreen is a tireless campaigner on behalf of all those victims who've been on the end of injustice.
Together they recognise the need for change and I look forward to the autumn when they are due to report. Our commitment would see the next Labour government bring into force the country's first primary legislation enshrining the rights of victims and witnesses.
It's seems most people get the need for change. Except that is for the government. On their watch, victims have been an afterthought. Take the Victims Commissioner - designed to be a thorn in the side of the government and authorities on behalf of victims and witnesses. This government left the position vacant for over a year. The current incumbent - Baroness Newlove - is hamstrung as she was only appointed part-time. Victims need someone full-time, banging the drum, rather than a part time under resourced one.
The government's view seems to be dominated by money as if financial penalties on criminals alone make good the experience of victims and witnesses. This is a very narrow approach and ignores totally how the police, prosecution services, courts, probation, prisons and parole services are in need of serious reform if we are to deliver the change we need. With their half-hearted response the government have shown they aren't up to the challenge. Only Labour can deliver a justice system fit for victims and witnesses.
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