MoJ Commitment to victims
On 15 September, the Ministry of Justice put some more flesh on the bones of its frequent promises to improve the experience of victims of crime by publishing a series of pledges entitled Our Commitment to Victims.
There are five key pledges:
- Establish a new nationwide Victims’ Information Service by March 2015, and develop this into a comprehensive service that allows victims to access the information and support they need.
- Strengthen the protection for vulnerable victims by making the experience of going to court a better one.
- Increase transparency and accountability, to ensure criminal justice agencies are held to account for the services they provide to victims.
- Introduce a Victims’ Law to guarantee key entitlements for victims.
- Develop plans for paying compensation to victims up front, rather than victims having to wait for their money.
Victims Information Service
The Victims’ Information Service will consist of an online portal and helpline which will provide information about helping services, local restorative justice schemes, how to seek compensation etc. From 2016, victims will also be able to use the VIS to submit complaints to any of the criminal justice agencies and provide feedback of their experiences as victims in order to provide public ratings of local police, courts, CPS etc.
Victims will also be able to keep up to date with how their case is progressing via TrackMyCrime.
Vctims will be given more options about how and where they give evidence and vulnerable witnesses will be able to give their evidence away from what can be an aggressive courtroom environment. The needs of victims and witnesses will formally be considered as court buildings are modernised.
Transparency and Accountability
The MoJ is in the process of developing ways to measure victims’ satisfaction with the service they receive from the criminal justice system which they will require police, courts etc. to publish. The different CJS inspectorates will produce an annual appraisal of the quality of victim and witness experiences, with the first one due in 2015.
A new Victims’ Law will guarantee key entitlements for victims by enshrining the Victim’s Code into primary legislation. This commitment is scheduled rather vaguely – “in the next parliament”. Key components are:
- The right to make a Victim Personal Statement
- Early identification of vulnerable witnesses/victims
- Automatic referral to support organisations
- Information for victims about their case at every stage
Perhaps the most concrete of the commitments in this document is the plan to consult on a new compensation system which would mean that victims received compensation on conviction, rather than having to wait for months and years “as and when the offender is able to pay.”
In my opinion, this is a rather short document, relatively light on the details for ensuring that (as every political party has repeated for the last decade or more) victims are put at the heart of the criminal justice system.
Please share your views on what you think are the most important areas for victims and witness of crime via the comments section below.