Victims of crime will get better support from the police, courts and other criminal justice agencies as a new Victims’ Code comes into force today (Thursday 1 April).
They will be told what to expect at every stage of the justice system including, for the first time, their automatic right to be told when a perpetrator is due to leave prison.
Victims of sexual violence will be able to choose the gender of their police interviewer and there will be clearer advice on when they can have their evidence pre-recorded ahead of a trial – rather than face the stress of cross-examination in front of a packed courtroom. Where an offender is a foreign national offender, victims will for the first time have the right to know when they are deported.
Today’s milestone will pave the way for a new Victims’ Law, on which Ministers will consult this summer. It seeks to underpin victims’ rights in legislation and ensure justice agencies are held to account for delivering them.
Chief Superintendent Jon McAdam is leading the Putting Victims First initiative for Lincolnshire Police. He said: "Being the victim of a crime can make you feel overwhelmed, frightened or vulnerable, and we want you to know that will put you at the heart of our investigations as we work to bring the offender to justice. We have long held the view that putting victims first is the right way to police, and we welcome the newly revised Victims' Code of Practice and the very clear expectations it provides to victims."
The Code brings together 12 overarching rights that are straightforward, concise and easy to understand – outlining the minimum level of information and service victims can expect at every stage of the justice process. These include:
- For the first time, eligible victims will be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS) and offered a Victim Liaison Officer (VLO), who provides vital updates on offenders as they serve their sentence, including their potential release from prison. A VLO can also help victims apply for licence conditions to reduce the chance of them encountering an offender in the community and assist with requesting reviews of Parole Board decisions.
- Victims of sexual violence or domestic abuse will be able to choose the gender of police officers that interview them. They will also be directed towards the support of independent advisors who provide emotional and practical help, regardless of whether the crime is reported to the police – following a £27m investment to boost their numbers.
- The ability for vulnerable victims to have their cross-examination pre-recorded away from the courtroom - reducing the stress of giving evidence in court, which many find intimidating.
- Greater flexibility over when and how a Victim Personal Statement (VPS), which tells the court how the crime has affected the victim, can be made – recognising that for many the impact of the crime may not be immediately apparent. Victims will also be able to request a copy of their VPS for them to refer to in future.
- The right to be informed the reasons why a suspect will not be prosecuted. If unhappy, victims will also be able to ask the police or Crown Prosecution Service to review this decision.
- For the first time, the Code sets out the rights of victims of Foreign National Offenders to be updated on when an offender’s deportation may occur
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: "We all want a system which delivers justice and the launch of the new Victims’ Code is to be welcomed as an important step in the right direction. Under the Victims’ Code, everyone has a right to support following a crime. The Victims’ Code sets out the services and information victims of crime are entitled to from criminal justice agencies — like the police, CPS, and the courts — from the moment they report a crime to the end of the trial. This new, simplified Victims’ Code represents a positive step forward for victims. These 12 rights are well set out and should provide some much-needed clarity for victims and victims’ services.
“I also welcome the government’s commitment to consult on victims’ legislation in the summer. A victims’ law would ensure that victims’ rights, such as to information, making a personal statement and accessing independent support services, are legally enforceable. With a Victims Law, we have the opportunity to truly transform the victims’ experience of the justice system. I look forward to engaging with the government in the coming months to make this law a reality.”
The new Code is part of recent action across government to build back confidence in the justice system. This includes a £100m investment into services tackling violence against women and girls, a landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to better protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice, and 20,000 extra police and new legislation to cut crime and boost public protection. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions is being spent to deliver speedier justice for victims and reduce delays in courts caused by the pandemic.
01 Apr 21 3:31 PM