A Victim’s Story – Published by Request

Thank you to this brave victim Jo & to MAMAAUK for allowing us to share this important story on our website. Sadly, it is yet another example of how victims of crime can be treated so appallingly by the Criminal Justice System. Poor processes, inept staff and breakdown of communication often lead to catastrophic mistakes that can deeply affect the victim’s life and well-being. The crime is hard enough to overcome but the victim is then faced with an unjust process that repeatedly ignores their needs and human rights. This is NOT a criminal justice system ‘fit’ and ‘fair’ for all who partake in it. Jo’s story highlights why we must campaign for victims rights to be equally as important as the offenders and placed firmly into statutory law.

A Victims Story – Published By Request

My name is Jo. This is my story. This is my life. It’s an ordinary name carried by someone who should have had an ordinary childhood leading to an ordinary life.

When I was eight years old my ordinary life changed forever. My mother married Keith Williams and they had a son together. My new brother would later become my rock, my confidante and my best ally. I didn’t know that then. My new step-father raped me. He continued to rape me for a period of seven years, until he had an affair and left my mother.

I never told. I thought I never would. He was gone. It would stop. I would never have to see, hear, smell or touch the monster that irrevocably ruined my ordinary life again. At fifteen years of age I believed the nightmare I had endured at the hands of the monster that had infiltrated our family had finally ended. Completely unaware of how long my nightmare would, in fact, continue I tried to return to my ordinary existence.

And then he returned to my town. And moved into a pub, becoming the landlord. I was an almost ordinary woman at that point, although living with what he had done to me was an incredible and continuous struggle. But now, as a grown woman, I fully understood what this monster had done to me. Taken from me. I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about him and his sick perversions. Perversions that allowed him to carry out the acts against me that he had. I knew he had abused me and the trust I put in adults close to me.

By this point my brother knew what his father had done to me. We also know that he had a young daughter. My brother was deeply concerned for his half-sister and after much discussion I decided, for that child’s safety, to go to the Child Protection Unit and tell them what had happened to me at the hands of this man. I fully believed at the time that I was going to them in confidence. I wasn’t ready to go to the police. But the Child Protection Unit did. The police visited me and I told them I didn’t want to engage with them. I was terrified. Of him. Of dragging up all those memories. Of going through a court procedure that I knew was heavily weighted in favour of my abuser. But the police said I had to and if I didn’t engage with the Criminal Justice System willingly then they would subpoena me. So, somewhat reluctantly, I told. And when I told something I never expected happened. There were others like me. Other victims he had abused in the same way he abused me. They came forward too. They told. And he was charged. He was found guilty of five rape offences and one indecent assault. The trial judge compared him to Fred West, such was the heinousness of his crimes against me and each and every one of his other victims. The experience of the trial, for me, was almost as traumatic as the offences he committed against me, and in a state of trauma I never fully grasped the implications of his sentence. It would take me 12 years to realise this. In 1999 Keith John Williams was sentenced to 5 life sentences to serve a minimum of 12 years. And that was the bit I never understood. Minimum of 12 years. And nobody within the criminal justice attempted to ensure I understood. So when, last year, my Victim Liaison Officer contacted me to tell me that Williams had secured a parole hearing I began to unravel again. Thrown straight into shock and trauma I tried to comprehend how someone who had been given five life sentences could possibly be released after serving little over 12 years.

I was informed I could present a Victim personal Statement, and I did. I was told I could request that the statement should not be disclosed to the offender, so I did. My decision to attempt non disclosure was not a difficult one. Williams had contacted me toward the end of his sentence to tell me “It wasn’t over yet” and that he “would see me soon”. He had phoned me, written to me and sent two people to visit me with messages from him. Throughout his sentence the monster had taunted me and left me in fear. I was granted non disclosure and my relief was immense, though the lead up to his parole hearing had still had a great affect on me. I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. I lost weight. I was prone to tearful outbursts. And angry outbursts. And hours of confusion that left me bewildered. Nobody attempted to offer me any independent support to help me through a time that was fraught with anxiety. I was left to simply get on with it. And I tried to get on with it, without much success. My emotional state was not only affecting me but those that loved me and those that I loved.

In November last year I was contacted and told that his parole had been denied. And that not only was his bail denied but that he had been moved back to secure conditions. Pleased (the wrong word but the only one I can think of to describe my feelings at this news) as I was with the result I was also left angry knowing that in two years time he would be entitled to apply for another parole hearing. I saw a future where every couple of years I would have to engage in another traumatic hearing. How wrong I was.

On 23 April 2013 your VPS was sent by your Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) to the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) who submitted it to the Parole Board along with a non-disclosure application. The Board approved the application, and at that point PPCS should have sought an undertaking from Mr Williams’ legal adviser that on receipt of the VPS they would not disclose its content to him. Mr Williams’ legal adviser was aware that a non disclosure application had been submitted, but unfortunately they were never sent the necessary documentation, or the VPS, and were therefore unable to make representations to the Board.
ln light of the procedural error, Mr Williams’ legal representative wrote to PPCS following the conclusion of Mr Williams’ Parole Board review. Unfortunately, since the correct process had not been adhered to, the case had to be re-referred to the Board, for a fresh hearing. You can of course submit your VPS again, or make a new one, and PPCS will again apply for this to be withheld from Mr Williams if this is what you would like.”

There followed a brief apology for the impact this error would have on me.

I then received a further letter informing me of the date of the hearing. I did submit another Victim Personal Statement. Again I requested non disclosure. Again I was granted non disclosure. Perhaps to add insult to injury Williams legal team appealed the non disclosure decision. So I was informed. I now felt as though I was losing my mind entirely. I asked “if they win the appeal what can I do to challenge that”. I was told nothing. If he won that part of the appeal someone within the PPCS would decide if the decision were to be to challenged. Or if my statement could be withdrawn. I, it seemed, had no rights. His legal team lost their appeal and non disclosure remained.

But at the second parole hearing Williams was granted parole. Just six months after being denied parole Williams was to be released. Because of a “procedural error.

I was informed, first by telephone, and then I was informed again in writing. I think it is important that I share the content of the letter with you.

“I am writing to inform you that the offender in your case was released today. The police in your area has been notified. All conditions are in place as discussed

If you have any queries at all please do not hesitate to contact me.” And that was it. The sum recognition of me, of my trauma, of his abuse of me, of a system that a blind man could see had failed me on every level, was little more than three lines.

But I have learned a lot. I have learned that not all grown-ups can be trusted with our well being. I have learned that not all systems can be trusted with our well being. I have learned that claims that victims will be part of the criminal justice system are not true. I have learned that claims that victims will be at the heart of the criminal justice system are not true. I have learned that a victim has no rights. I have learned that within the justice system we become less than human when we become victims and the offenders rights trump the victims at every juncture.

I have learned that not only bad men and woman traumatise, demoralise, victimise or brutalise us. I have learned that the Criminal justice System, in its current form, will also continually and without prejudice re traumatise, de-moralise, re-victimise and brutalise victims. And that isn’t justice or anything that closely resembles it.

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