Too often victims feel intimidated and forgotten, treated as an afterthought by a 'system' that makes their already horrific experience worse. As Victims' Minister my role is to champion the needs of victims and ensure that their voices are heard. One of the ways I am tackling this is by revising the Victims' Code so that victims have stronger, clearer entitlements.
The Victims' Code may sound like it's only a document, but what it will do for victims cannot be underestimated. Crucially it sets out their entitlements. Victims must know what they are entitled to, that the Criminal Justice System will work harder for them and that they will get the help and support they need and deserve. This revamp of the Victims' Code has been one of my main priorities and just this week I have heard from victims and the organisations that support them just how important getting this right is.
The revised Victims' Code will tell victims what they can expect from the moment they report a crime to the end of a trial, and who to demand help from if it is not provided. At each stage the revised Code will set out the entitlements for victims as well as the duties of our Criminal Justice System services. As a statutory document it will allow victims hold the criminal justice system to account.
So what's in the revised Code?
- A more straightforward guide to help victims understand and navigate the Criminal Justice System
- Minimum entitlements for all victims of crime and an enhanced service for victims of serious crime, the most persistently targeted and vulnerable or intimidated victims who may need more support such as pre-trial therapy and counselling
- A clear set of duties for criminal justice agencies to fulfil so they can provide timely information and support to victims
- For the first time, the Code includes information on the Victim Personal Statement which gives victims a louder voice during criminal proceedings
- Also for the first time, the Code includes information on Restorative Justice for victims of adult offenders which helps to bring together those harmed by crime or conflict with those responsible for the harm, to find a positive way forward
- A separate section for children and young people and their parents or guardians so it is clear what they are entitled to from criminal justice agencies
One of the key ways the Victims' Code will help victims is by setting out how victims can get help if they don't get the support they need.
We know that, no matter how hard we try, sometimes things do not go as they should. That is why it is important that victims have access to a clear and effective complaints process if they feel their entitlements under the Code have not been met. Agencies will now have to provide a timely, reasoned explanation responding to the victims' concerns. This may include an apology or the commitment to improve existing practice to make sure any mistakes never happen again. In the revised Code we have also made sure that the onus is on criminal justice agencies, and not victims, to ensure all complaints made by victims reach the right agency.
All victims deserve to know that the Criminal Justice System will work as hard as possible to deliver justice for them and help them recover and move on with their lives. This is very close to my heart and absolutely imperative to the success of the criminal justice system.
If you want to have your say on the draft Victims' Code information on the consultation and the draft Victims' Code can be found here
The consultation closes on 10 May