Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A voice for the victims of crime

For too long victims of crime have lacked confidence in our criminal justice system. That has to change.
There have been too many examples of innocent people being let down by the justice system. There has to be a better way to ensure victims’ rights are properly protected.
All victims of crime need proper support appropriate to their circumstance, whether it’s somebody who has had their wallet stolen in the street or a victim of domestic violence who lacks the confidence to report the assault.
The current government simply isn’t interested in standing up for victims of crime. It left the position of Victims’ Commissioner vacant for over a year. It has repeatedly dismissed calls for improved rights for victims and witnesses.  The contrast between that and the attitude of Dr Alan Billings, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who has given half of the Commissioner’s allowance to support victims in South Yorkshire, is telling.
Labour’s Victims’ Taskforce, established in December 2013 to look at the detail of what this law should include, has now published its findings. The taskforce included Doreen Lawrence, who led the campaign for justice for her son Stephen.
Their report outlines the rights that could be in such a victim’s law, including a right to have your crime recorded, the right to appeal a decision if the authorities decide not to charge someone and the right to know basic information about your case.
The report also recommends new arrangements for controlling the way vulnerable victims and witnesses are treated in court, and a new mandatory duty on those working with children so that non-reporting of child abuse becomes a criminal offence
The current Victim’s Code of Conduct is an improvement on its predecessor, but toothless. A beefed-up Code and a Victims’ Commissioner, given powers of enforcement, would make a big difference.
I know that local people want a government that stands up for victims of crime. We all need the next government to deliver a justice system fit for innocent victims and witnesses.
You can read the Victims’ Taskforce Report at