I'm pleased to report that a new Victims’ Code has come into force, paving the way for a landmark new Victims’ Law, which Ministers will consult on this summer and which will underpin victims’ rights in legislation and ensure justice agencies are held to account for delivering them.
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:
- Victims will be offered a Victim Liaison Officer who will provide them with automatic updates when offenders may be due to leave jail. They can also help victims to apply for licence conditions to reduce the chance of them encountering an offender in the community, as well as assisting with requesting reviews of parole board decisions.
- Victims of sexual violence or domestic abuse will be able to choose the gender of the police officers who 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 told 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 new code forms part of the Government's efforts to build more confidence in the justice system. This includes a £100 million investment in services tackling violence against women and girls, the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, 20,000 extra police, and new legislation to cut crime and boost public protection. Hundreds of millions are also being spent on delivering speedier justice for victims and reduce delays in courts caused by the pandemic.
As the Member of Parliament for East Surrey, it has been a privilege to work with the fantastic women at East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service (ESDAS) and Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid (RBWA), who work tirelessly to support victims of sexual and domestic abuse across East Surrey. To support their work, you can donate to ESDAS here and RBWA here.