The strategy launched in Parliament today has been reviewed after Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower, where there were “too many failures” to support those affected by the disasters.
By Simran Kaur
The first ever cross-government Victims Strategy was launched today – with ministers promising crime victims will not become “victims of the process.”
The new strategy aims to encourage more victims to speak out by giving them the confidence that they will be understood, protected and supported.
Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Edward Argar, said in Parliament that the strategy will be supporting bereaved families to receive support from the beginning of a disaster through to the court hearings and beyond. Argar said: “We must ensure that those who are victims of crime do not become victims of the process.”
The Victims Code is set to be shortened and made more user-friendly to help those who’ve suffered crime to know their rights.
Angela Durkan, from Bradford, a victim of burglary last year told Leeds Hacks: “I wish the Victims Strategy was put in place a couple of years ago. During the time of the burglary, I don’t feel like I received enough support from the police because I wasn’t kept up to date with the process of what was happening.
“I was given a crime number, got asked questions and they left and I barely heard anything since. I still don’t know if anybody had been caught for committing the crime. I’m glad this strategy has been launched but it may be too late for us to get the justice we needed.”
Victim support charity
Victim Support, an independent charity across England and Wales, aims to support people suffering from traumatic events or crime.
The charity aims to help people cope and recover from the effects of crime. Services are free and available to anyone, regardless of when the crime happened and whether or not the crime has been reported to the police.
Victim Support works locally with victims to give them the help whenever they need it, as well as campaigning nationally to bring victims forward so they can be supported.
Chief officer of Victims Strategy, Diana Fawcett, told Leeds Hacks: “We are pleased to see the Government meet its manifesto pledge to introduce a Victims’ Law. By enshrining victims’ rights in the law we can finally ensure that they exist in practice and not just on paper. Hopefully, we will see the justice system held accountable for failing to implement these rights, which are too often not upheld or respected.
“A commitment to review the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is also excellent news. While compensation is so important to victims, too many of the rules governing the scheme are fundamentally unfair. For example, victims of the most serious crimes such as sexual assault can be denied deserved compensation because they have committed the most minor of crimes, such as not paying their TV license. Other victims fail to get compensation because by the time their court case finishes, it is too late for them to claim. This should change.”
Changes still needed
Diana Fawcett believes that the strategy could still do more to support victims:
“We are seeing an increasing trend of support services for victims being taken out of the hands of specialist, independent providers. We believe that support services for victims must be entirely independent of the police and the justice system. Recent polls show that 71% of people agree. Independent services can advocate for victims and ensure they get the rights and services that they need.
“We have also long campaigned for changes to the court experience for victims. We want to see a significant improvement in waiting times for trials which currently average around nine months from offence to completion and almost double in sexual offences cases. This adds to victims’ distress as well as making trials and evidence significantly less effective.”