Victims Code Reform consultation ticks victims’ rights off the government agenda but is the job now done?

Whilst the reform of the victims code sets out to explain the criminal justice process to the victim and outlines the journey the victim can expect, it is just a ‘code’, a signpost if you will and nothing more. By its own definition, the code is not legally enforceable and therefore, ‘If a service provider fails to provide you with the services that you are entitled to under this Code that does not in itself make the provider liable to any legal proceedings.’

Therefore, how is the proposed reform a significant advance on the current code that is in place? Sadly it is not.

How can the code properly safeguard the rights of victims of crime?

It can’t – even though this should be its primary purpose!

Agencies can and will continue to ignore the code either through lack of awareness of what is in it or because agencies fail to do their job properly. Louise Casey, former Victims Commissioner rightly said ‘ ..victims are afforded vague codes and unenforceable charters, with no real route of complaint’. This code is being updated and reformed, but this appears to be little more than a tweaking of the current code, which holds very little weight legally as none of it is enforceable and agencies can expect nothing more than a ‘point of the finger’ when they fail to meet the standards set out in this code. Therefore, does this code show a real care, understanding or commitment to victims in this country?

In my opinion, the government is taking the approach of spending or rather, wasting time , energy and resources on reforming something that will prove to be meaningless. Personally, ALL agencies have breached the victims’ code many times during my case. As a victim, I was given the option to write a complaints letter and after receiving a long winded apology letter which offered me no redress, then what? It was then up to me to navigate through a complicated complaints system in order for the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to hear my complaints. But I ask the question again, then what? Sadly, nothing. Mistakes are made again and there is no incentive on these bodies to do anything more than apologise. The victim, however is left in the soul destroying position of being treated with little or no respect by the very agencies that are supposed to ensure that they receive justice. The code, like this government, in relation to victims rights, shows no backbone, no teeth nor real commitment to the victim.

Showing a commitment to the rights of victims and giving agencies the clear message that treating victims in a manner that only exacerbates their pain and suffering must not be tolerated, is quite straightforward: place victims’ rights into statutory law to ensure ALL criminal justice agencies have to do their job properly and therefore, ensure victims basic rights are upheld within the criminal justice process. Many MP’s from all parties have claimed to want to place victims’ rights first and at the heart of the criminal justice system. Sadly, just empty words with no meaning otherwise a victims rights bill would be a reality.

If you are a victim of crime or work with victims, by all means spend your time answering the questions on this victims code reform consultation and do make your views heard. But, if you are truly dedicated to victims and the rights of victims in this country, then you should be asking the same question – why are we reforming a code that is legally unenforceable and repeatedly ignored when we could be doing this job properly and placing victims rights into statutory law?

Victims Code Reform Consultation>>

A stalker made my life hell… but justice system made it worse

CRIME victim Claire Waxman has launched a scathing attack on the criminal justice system which has caused her as much anguish as the stalker who ruined her life.

She has called on the Government to create a “Victims Bill” of legal rights and protection to end what she says is “state-sanctioned abuse, marginalisation and discrimination” of crime victims.

During nearly a decade of torment, Claire, 37, discovered police originally laughed off her complaints of stalking and, when the harassment continued even after the offender had spent time in jail, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped a case against him for fear of breaching HIS human rights.

Now the stalker is back on the streets and Claire this week told The Sun how the Probation Service, which was meant to warn her of his release, did not know they were meant to do so until she told them.

To read the full article on please click the button below:

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Claire Waxman Radio Interview

To hear Claire Waxman speak out about why we need this victims bill, listen to her on Victoria Derbyshire 22nd February 2013 by clicking the button below.

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Stalking victim Claire Waxman believes she has been let down so badly by the criminal justice system and that this form of ‘state sanctioned abuse, marginalisation and discrimination’ should no longer be tolerated by victims of crime.

Claire who helped campaign for the new stalking law last year is campaigning for a victim’s bill to ensure better protection and rights for victims within the criminal justice system.

According to Claire

“I can list numerous times the victim code or guidelines have been breached in just my case alone. CPS and Probation Services have admitted to their mistakes in my case but can offer me no redress and the quality of service I still receive from them is sub-standard and at times, appalling. I’ve been told that it’s just my bad luck that my case fell into the wrong prosecutor’s hands or my case slipped through the net at probation! This is not bad luck, this is sadly the way the CJS treats the victim and these mistakes are not unique, they are happening across the board, time and time again to victims of all crimes in this country. The Government and the Criminal Justice system have a duty to the victim which they are breaching”.

On 30th January, 2012 The Government signed up to the European Directive for Victims and Witness’s. The Directive offers victims of crime basic fundamental rights within the criminal justice process. The European Directive was launched at the European Parliament on 26th November 2012.

Many believe this directive has come a little too late for victims like Claire, who has not only had to endure the traumatic experience of being the victim of a long and horrendous 10 year stalking campaign at the hands of her stalker, but the complete lack of respect and disregard for her safety by Criminal Justice Agencies, has been appalling.

Unless this Directive is used as a framework to develop a strong and effective law protecting the rights for victims, they will live with the fear that the directive may not be fully implemented and they will continue to be treated as second class citizens while their offenders are protected by strict human rights laws.

Claire reported

“Having been stalked for a decade, I’ve not only been a victim of a stalker but a victim of the criminal justice system. I have been consistently let down by many of the agencies throughout and during my case. I am appalled at the poor level of treatment I have received especially considering I am not the one guilty one”.

“The system’s failings have caused me, on some days, more stress, anguish and depression than the original crime and I’ve been left isolated with no support. I completely relate to the disgraceful treatment of Frances Andrade and it makes my blood boil that the system has been allowed to bully and abuse victims in this way for so long and treat them like a piece of evidence instead of seeing them as real people with emotions”.

“I believe that the time has come to strengthen the rights of Victims in this country and we should be taking the European Directive as a platform to develop further to ensure that victims’ rights are firmly placed within statutory law , no different to what is happening in Scotland. It is absurd we cannot unify this response to victims across the UK.

Scotland who started developing their victim’s bill in 2011, in preparation for the new Directive is showing they are taking their duty to the victim seriously and so should we.

It’s time this country stood up and recognised the abuse victims are experiencing from the criminal justice system and do something about it. Victims should have a right to be involved and represented within the criminal justice process. They should be treated with respect and dignity, have the right to access justice, the right to have their voice heard and the right to receive information, support and protection. These should be the basic principles on which we develop a robust victim’s bill”.

“I believe that the Government plans to implement the European Directive through the revision of their victims’ codes and agency guidelines. We all know these practices hold very little weight and have no teeth as they are not legally enforceable”.

Scotland has taken the landmark step to place victims’ rights at the centre of the justice process. Are we any less valuable in England & Wales? It is important all agencies support members of the public and victims of crime to come forward and speak out in support of what we are trying to achieve.

In March 2009 Ann Moulds, Anti-stalking campaigner and victims’ rights campaigner was successful in leading the way to have stalking recognised as a criminal offence. This opened the doors to allow England & Wales to follow suit. Ann has continued to fight and speak out for victims’ rights within her own country and on the European Stage. On 26th November 2012 she presented at the European Parliament in support of the launch of the European Directive. Working closely with Victims Support Scotland and other agencies, Ann is supporting the development of Scotland’s new Victims & Witnesses Bill.

Quote form Ann Moulds of Action Scotland Against Stalking’

“ I am so sad to hear about Claire’ s experience within the Criminal Justice System, but her experience is not unique.

The criminal Justice system has been specifically structured to meet the needs of the offender. It has created a pathway for them and none for the victim. It is very hard for a victim to challenge a system they are not constitutionally a part of, never mind a stakeholder in the crime committed against them. In most cases it is the victim who initiates the justice process yet they are the ones who are quickly forgotten, being forcibly reminded that in this system, the victim becomes irrelevant and the lasting harm caused by the crime is regarded by the system as utterly beside the point.

The launch of the European Directive proposes a transitory move from victims as peripheral to victims participating as part of the criminal justice process, but it doesn’t go far enough. To ensure victims’ rights are respected and upheld they need to be further protected by being placed within statutory UK law. The manner in which this country has treated victims of crime should be viewed as one of our national shames and the introduction of a victim’s bill is the least we can do for victims of crime in our country”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said:

“Claire is absolutely right that victims often get too little help, information and support – and that’s why her campaign is so important.

“As we saw recently with the tragic case of Frances Andrade, even where there is national guidance on support for victims by the police, CPS or courts, it isn’t always followed. And that means victims of crime are let down by the system that is supposed to protect them.

“That is why Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan has called for a new victim’s law. We are keen to work with Claire now on what should be done to make the criminal justice system work for victims.”

Many other charities and organisations such as Protection Against Stalking, Action Scotland Against Stalking, Enough Abuse, MAAMA UK and many others would all welcome a bill for victims.

It is vital that victims of crime are awarded rights in order to ensure their protection and to maintain public trust in the effectiveness and equality of the criminal justice system.