National Stalking Awareness Week #NSAW16

This week was National Stalking Awareness week and what an incredible week it’s been.

Since my journey as a stalking victim started over 12 years ago, this has been an overwhelming week of support for stalking victims and I honestly cannot believe how far we have come, although the journey still has a long way to go. I remember in those days how alone I was and how no one understood or knew what being stalked was like. Thanks to the courage of so many victims, our voices have been heard, loud and clear on the countless radio and TV interviews we have done.

But as the week draws to a close and the next news item takes our place, what do we now have to do to ensure that my story, Lily Allen’s story, Tracey Morgan’s ,Ann Mould’s, Sam Taylor’s, Rana Faruqui’s, Clare Bernal’s and Jane Clough’s and the many others, are not quickly forgotten? What do we do to make sure that lessons are learnt and improvements are made to help improve the journey to justice, support and protection for ALL stalking victims?

I know that our campaigns for a Victims’ rights law supported by Digital Trust; tackling stalking through the family and civil courts; pushing for treatment programmes for perpetrators; treatment support for victims and robust training for all agencies on stalking, is an ongoing job and could make a difference. I know others are pushing for tougher sentences and a stalker register and collectively, we are trying our hardest to protect stalking victims.

Together we hope that the Police will recognise it when a victim makes it’s first complaint. The Police will signpost them to available, local support and work hard on the victim’s behalf to bring their perpetrators to justice. The CPS will apply the stalking legislation and involve the victim in the process and that the sentences given will reflect the need for rehabilation and treatment. We want a victim to get support and protection and feel that the justice system served them well.

So with that in mind, let’s aim that by next awareness week in 2017, when the Suzy Lamplugh Trust do their next FOI requests, we will see just how far we have come and that together, we all played a part in saving and supporting so many more victims.

To everyone this week, well done for your incredible work. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Rights of Domestic Violence Victims Recognised

The Rights of Women have been campaigning against the evidence requirements for accessing Legal Aid, and thanks to their hard work and campaigning, they have had a victory today recognising that these requirements are legally ‘flawed’.

Today’s Judgment is a promising sign for Victims of Domestic Violence. Changes in legal aid funding have been placing victims of domestic violence at increased risk and harm in family courts. Victims are being forced to remain in contact with their abusers or stalkers. Some are being cross-examined by them or forced into court situations or inappropriate contact orders, all of which have a devastating impact on their lives, emotionally, financially and physically.

The cuts in legal aid have been denying victims of Domestic Violence access to justice and allowing abusers to use the court process to continue their abuse of their victims. Victims, through lack of legal aid support, are not able to access the support, advice and justice that they need to protect themselves from their abusers. Often gathering evidence or getting medical reports done in order to access the gateway to legal aid is timely and costly and is a great stumbling block to many victims.
Today’s judgement will hopefully put pressure on the government to rethink their legal aid strategy and ensure it is now accessible to those that need it most.

We continue to campaign for victims rights and we will be working closely over the coming months with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Citizen Advice Bureau, Veritas Justice and other organisations, to ensure the legal loopholes that are allowing abusers to stalk and harass their victims are identified and closed down.

Crime victims Are Out Of Pocket but Ms May you told us that would not be the case!

‘CRIME victims are £35million out of pocket because crooks are refusing to pay compensation ‘ was yesterday’s headline, spearheaded by Andy Slaughter, MP

Unsurprisingly, it seems that the victims’ surcharges remain unpaid by offenders. Hardly breaking news to those that work with victims of crime. I say unsurprisingly, as having been a victim of stalking for over a decade, I know too well how slow and ineffective Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service are, in chasing money from the offender.

After 10 years, I am still owed the compensation awarded to me in 2005. This was the compensation that the Crown Prosecution Service insisted I needed and as result, the stalker avoided any other form of punishment. Whilst I have very little interest in receiving the money from the stalker (as this creates a tie and connection that is empowering for the stalker), it was still the only form of punishment that he received for the first time he stalked me. So to me, on a matter of principle, it is important that the money is paid otherwise my stalker received impunity for the crime that had a devastating effect on my life. I need that crime recognised and therefore, need that compensation paid as that was the justice I was afforded.

For the courts, there is very little incentive to chase this money and ten years down the line, I receive regular letters from them asking for my views on whether this compensation order can now be ‘discharged’ or ‘reduced’ so they can ‘close the case’. In other words, they cannot be bothered to have this case on their system anymore and so I should accept it being written off.

Is this shocking that an offender can wilfully refuse to pay for their crimes? No, I am not unique. When Voice4Victims undertook a victims’ rights survey in 2014, the figures showed that 42% of victims who conducted the survey ticked the ‘extremely poor’ category when dealing with the HMCTS, with 77% of victims still chasing for their court awarded compensation. So there really is no surprise that the figures released yesterday show that half of the £61.1 million in court imposed surcharges are still unpaid. It’s clear that offenders are savvy and know that our ineffective , overstretched system is incapable of getting money from them and that if they refuse for long enough, the debt, will be ‘written off’. This ‘writing off’ makes the victim feel worthless. That charge is recognition of the crime and the impact it has had on the victim. Writing it off, whitewashes the whole thing and leaves the victim feeling re-victimised and that justice has failed them.

In 2013, I had a meeting with Theresa May regarding support services for stalking victims , as there was nothing on offer in the way of therapy and peer support for stalking victims. As a point, there is still nothing! That’s for a different blog…..Anyway, she assured me of the following and below are Ms May’s words:

..’ there will be an increase in revenue of victim support services which will be raised through financial impositions on offenders to ensure they make reparation for the harm they have caused to the victim. The reform to victim surcharge is to ensure that those given the most serious sentences will make the greatest contribution to support services. These imposed orders will add an additional £50 million, from the current £10 million, from offenders directly to victims services.’

After yesterdays news, it doesn’t look like Theresa May has kept to her word and commitment to victims.
If these surcharges are not upheld and offenders flagrant refusal to pay these charges and the courts continue their ineffective approach in chasing this money, then victims are failed twice. Failed by the lack of funds in victims services to help them recover from the crime and failed by the courts for not recognising the impact of the crime and ensuring offenders are made to pay for it. It undermines the justice process completely.

As part of our victims’ rights law we campaign for, we want to ensure that victims will have a legal right to access compensation and support services and that every agency, will be held accountable if they do not provide the service victims of crime are entitled to.

If you believe that victims have a right to their compensation and access to support services, then please ask your local MP to support Keir Starmer’s Victims Bill. Together we can make things better for victims of crime.

Government in breach of the EU Directive on minimum standards for Victims?

Sex Abuse charity funding crisis hits our headlines and exposes that thousands of victims of sexual abuse are waiting for more than a year for counselling with many never receiving treatment. Sadly, that is an underestimation, as it doesn’t stop at sexual abuse victims. We hear from all victims of crime who struggle to access any form of treatment support and are left stranded by this government trying to recover from the aftermath of a crime unsupported and isolated. Many are not even automatically referred to victim support, a basic entitlement on the victims code.

When I met Theresa May in 2013, shortly after the implementation of the stalking legislation, she assured me that although there was no money to fund treatment services for stalking victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic abuse would be receiving the majority share. She didn’t feel that stalking victims needed government funded treatment support as other victims were more of a priority. Try telling that to the 700,000 stalking victims.

However, she assured me that the Ministry of Justice provides over £50 million to diverse victims groups and that 78 rape centres were receiving grant funding of £4 million. She also assured me that there would be an increase in revenue for Victim support services through the victims surcharge, as offenders would be ordered to pay and would be contributing £50 million to spend on victim services. Do we know if the victims surcharge is actually contributing to victim services?

However, what with the increase in the number of child sex abuse victims, demands are clearly not being met and victims are struggling to become survivors.

In November, this government will need to ensure that the EU Directive of minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime is implemented. So far, the government is covering much of these entitlements within a weak, toothless victims code. This code is continually breached by Criminal justice agencies as it’s not legally enforceable and allows victims entitlements and rights to be pushed aside to save pennies and cut corners.

As part of the EU Directive, victims must be able to access support and that includes longer term physical and psychological assistance.

What this government needs to realise, is that if victims needs were met, then we could reduce the cost of crime. If victims received support they could remain in or return to work sooner thus reducing the cost in state benefits. Adequate and timely support would reduce the strain that victims of crime can place on our health service if they don’t receive the right treatment to help them recover. Effective support would be needed for shorter periods as we witnessed the time taken for victims to cope and recover reduce.

We have worked for the past three years on drafting the first ever victims rights legislation and believe strongly that this Victims Rights Law is desperately needed to address the terrible re-victimisation many victims face when trying to access justice.
Our law will ensure that victims have the right to access justice, support, treatment and compensation and will ensure that a victim is treated fairly and with respect. To find out more about our bill, please visit the press section on our website

Please support our campaign. Together we can help create a more inclusive, fairer and effective justice system for everyone.

‘Creaking two-tier justice system is failing victims’ says Michael Gove

Today Gove has recognised that the courts are failing victims of crime. He claims that this failing is making victims ‘suffer twice’. Sadly, it’s not just courts that fail victims of crime. It’s every aspect of the Criminal Justice system that is failing victims of crime. From the moment the crime is committed, victims will face issues such as trying to access justice, being heard, being kept up to date with basic information on their case and the terrible delays and multiple adjournments to getting to court. Then they are faced with the courtroom and being subjected to discrimination and disrespectful as well as demeaning treatment and to top it all, they are often exposed to the perpetrator and the perpetrators’ family sitting near to them and causing more upset and distress. We’ve had one victim being told not to be overly emotional in court where her son’s murderer was facing trial, otherwise she would face removal from court.

You cannot believe how awful the court room really is, until you step into one as a victim. Then, if you’re lucky, there may be a sentencing, which you may have to wait months, sometimes years for. In that time, it is impossible for the victim to recover from the crime as their lives are on hold waiting for justice. If justice is finally served, then the victim must relive the crime and trauma post trial when dealing with victim liaison units and probation and being advised (or not advised) of appeals and release dates. The trauma of the entire justice process is so distressing from start to finish that you question why you reported the crime in the first instance. So Mr Gove, it’s NOT a case of ‘suffering twice’. We wish it was. It’s a case of suffering constantly throughout the entire broken process of justice.

Once this Government recognises this, then we can start to make the necessary changes to improve the system for everyone that engages with it. We wish it was as simple as digitally reforming the courts as Gove suggests, to make them more effective. Unfortunately, we will need much more to fix the terrible ordeal victims face.

In our campaign, we believe that a strong solution to many of these problems, comes with the legislation of Victims Rights in the form of a Victims Bill. In the bill we have been working on, we have covered the ordeal of the court process and every aspect of the criminal justice system. Our campaign priorities and proposals have been identified through our extensive work with victims.

The courts have made little progress in providing discreet waiting areas for victims or improving disability access. The discriminatory behaviour that victims are subjected to and the terrible delays in court , ensure victims remain traumatised and unable to make recovery. Prolonging victims trauma only adds to the cost of crime as many are unable to work as a result and become unwell. If Victims have legally enforceable rights there would be a decrease in revictimisation/retraumatisaion which would result in reduction to the total cost of crime. Victims could remain in or return to work sooner thus reducing the cost in state benefits. Fewer work days or hours would be lost with victims attempting to resolve issues arising as a direct result of the crime. Adequate and timely support would reduce the strain that victims of crime can place on our health service. Effective support would be needed for shorter periods as we would witness the time taken for victims to cope reduce.

Our Victims Bill of Rights covers key areas such as:
1. Advice – to give victims a right to have their case reviewed
2. Treatment – to ensure all victims are not subjected to unnecessary delay and are treated with dignity and respect
3. Representation – to ensure victims have a right to a case companion to support them during the justice process
4. Vexatious Claims- to give the Judiciary the power to disallow vexatious claims from perpetrators which are clearly an abuse of process
5. Disclosure – to ensure that personal data of any victim is not disclosed in open court with abuser present
6. Compensation & Costs – ensure that victims of crime have easy access to compensation and the right to restitution of property

The Victims Bill will establish a framework setting out the rights of victims of crime and it will establish a regulatory body to ensure that the rights of victims are enforced.

If this government is truly committed to victims of crime and delivering a ‘one nation justice system’, then now is the time to:
1. Introduce Victims Rights Law
2. Provide necessary funding
3. Provide mandatory training of all agencies

Then we can make the much needed culture shift from stereotyping, neglect and exclusion to a fairer, more inclusive and effective justice system for everyone.

Time for a Victims Bill

Victims Commissioner Report – victims are still being badly let down.

We welcome the latest report from the government which is a positive move in understanding how effective the revised victims’ code has been. It is evident from this report that the victims’ code is still being routinely ignored by many of the criminal justice agencies and is having little impact on victims who are failed and re-victimised by the Criminal Justice agencies. As Helen Newlove highlights, the complaints process is lengthy and complex and many victims are deterred from engaging in this procedure because of its complexity.

This report has identified the on-going issues that need addressing in order to help improve services to victims but as they come in the form of guidelines, it is missing the opportunity to truly strengthen victims’ rights. Despite these firmly identified gaps, there is no single legally enforceable route for the protection of victims.

Voice4Victims alongside other keys campaigners, Digital-Trust & MAMAAUK, remain clear that the strengthening of victims’ rights can only come via robust legislation. “We have had a victims’ code for many years and victims in this latest report, and those that completed our victims’ rights survey in 2014, agree that the code is not working effectively enough to protect their rights” says campaign lead, Claire Waxman, Voice4Victims.

The campaign team believes that Victims’ Rights should be placed in to statutory legislation and have drafted a bill based on the victims survey, current victims code, EU Directive and meetings with a number of victims organisations and services. The bill outlines over 25 specific rights for victims under the following key areas:

1. Advice
2. Treatment
3. Representation
4. Parental rights
5. Vexatious Claims
6. Disclosure
7. Compensation & Costs

The bill also defines an easy route for victims to complain and gain redress through a statutory body.

Elfyn Llwyd MP has tabled 20 questions in the house about the government support for victims. He will also attempt to introduce this as a Private Members Bill in February.

Claire Waxman states ‘‘We believe that the bill will help to enforce mandatory training of all agencies and the culture shift needed in order to place victims at the centre of the Criminal Justice process. ‘

Victims Rights Survey Supports Need For Victims Law

Why the Victims Code is not Enough & Why We Need Victims Law

Victims’ rights are covered by entitlements in the Victims Code which was designed to make the ‘system more responsive and easier to navigate’. The code is not legally enforceable and places discretionary accountability onto the agencies. Victim Feedback strongly suggests that agencies often fail to apply the code. Agencies who should be guided by the code are aware that a ‘failure to provide the service does not make a service provider liable to any legal proceedings.’ ’The complaints and right to appeal process within the code is lengthy and complex. There is clear evidence that victims are put off of engaging in the complaints procedures because of its complexity. This misses all and any opportunity to identify ongoing issues and improve services. The original Victims Code was clearly a well intentioned document but there was widespread agreement, including from the current government that it was not delivering all it had hoped. The New Code is extremely similar to the original which makes it difficult to see where improvement to services to victims might come. There appears to be widespread failure to meet adhere to the guidance the code offers, with lack of information and support to victims continuing to be of great concern. This leads to further distress and re-victimisation of the victim and causes a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system by victims and the general public.
Despite firmly identified gaps there is no single legally enforceable route for the protection of victims. This route can only be created via legislation of victims rights.

Why we need a Victims Rights Legislation?
If victims had legally enforceable rights there would be a decrease in the re victimisation/re traumatisation which would result in reduction to the total cost of crime. Victims could remain in or return to work sooner reducing the cost in state benefits for example. Fewer work days or hours would be lost with victims attempting to resolve issues arising as a direct result of the crime. Adequate and timely support would reduce the strain that victims of crime can place on our health service. Effective support would be needed for shorter periods as we witnessed the time taken for victims to cope reduce. The above claim is evidenced as part of the EU Directive as highlighted below:

• “Strengthening the rights of victims has a positive impact on individual victims and on society as a whole. Meeting victims’ needs before, during and after criminal proceedings can considerably reduce the overall cost of crime. This includes tangible costs in the economic and health sector as well as in the criminal justice system, and intangible costs, such as the victim’s pain, suffering and reduction of quality of life. Victims who are respected, supported and protected will recover sooner , both physically and emotionally, enabling them to get back to their normal lives more quickly. This will limit loss of earnings, absenteeism from work as well as the need for further health care. Well treated victims are also likely to become more actively involved in the proceedings, which increases the likelihood of successful prosecution and sentencing, which in turn reduces repeat offending and impunity.” [The Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime was adopted on 25 October 2012 (2012/29/EU Directive)

Victims Rights survey
The Victims’ Rights survey was set up in order to offer victims of crime an opportunity to talk about their journey through the Criminal Justice System as a victim and enable them to highlight where they felt improvements could be made.
The survey was completed by 115 people over an eight week period and these people had been victims of all types of crime. The results clearly showed that victims were very dissatisfied with the way the agencies communicated with them & the treatment they received. All agencies performed badly in these key areas but the survey highlighted that HMCT, CPS, Parole Board, CICA and Probation performed the worst, with results over 60% in the ‘extremely poor ‘and ‘poor’ categories.
The survey illustrated where the Criminal Justice System fails victims and strongly indicated that a bill of rights would rectify this situation. We have extrapolated from victims experiences the following rights that should constitute a bill of rights.

We believe that a Victims Law should be a compilation of the rights listed below, those set out in the EU Directive & the Victims Code.

Victims Rights
(1) Issue policy guidelines to ensure that crimes reported by victims are properly investigated by the Police
(2) Ensure that victims have the right if requested to accurate and timely information.
(3) Right to notice of all court proceedings, including all decisions and discussions involving all Criminal Justice agencies relating to the victims perpetrator including any prison sentence, changes to perpetrators circumstances or whilst on parole.
(4) access to interpretation and translation services
(5) Direct contact details of all criminal justice agencies and individuals involved in the proceedings.
(6)Ensure that a victims view of a crime where they are the victim is heard in any relevant Criminal or Civil proceedings
(7) Ensure that victims of crime have the right to apply for compensation
(8) To ensure that victims have the right to restitution of property and reimbursement of personal belongings seized for evidence
(9) To ensure that the victim has access to state compensation and the right to refuse to consent to any compensation order in respect of relevant perpetrator.
(10) To give the judiciary the power to suspend the parental responsibility of a parent or main carer who has been convicted of a serious violent offence against relevant victim until such time as that person can prove to the court that they are a fit parent.
(l1) To give the judiciary in family & civil proceedings the power to disallow vexatious claims which can be shown to be abuse of process and in addition for the victim not to incur personal costs defending vexatious claims in court.
(12) To ensure that all victims have the right to ask for a review of Police or CPS decision in the event of the case being dropped by the Police or discontinued by the prosecution.
(13) To ensure that all relevant victims have the right to review an acquittal if new evidence comes to light or can be shown that relevant evidence was not presented to the court.
(14) To ensure that funds are made accessible to meet the costs incurred by victims or members of their family when crime against them are committed overseas.
(15). To ensure all victims have the right to a case companion, who is properly trained to communicate on victims behalf to all agencies and ensure victim is updated and aware of case progress and impact of any legal or court decisions relating to their case.
(16). To ensure that all victims involved in proceedings are not subjected to unnecessarily delay by any other party.
(17). To ensure that the personal data of any victim should be not disclosed by any court or public authority, if that disclosure would put the victim at risk of harm by the alleged perpetrator or any other person.
(18). To ensure that victims are treated with dignity & respect & not subjected to any discriminatory behaviour throughout the criminal justice process.
(19). To ensure victims have a right to reimbursement of all expenses incurred in attending court or any related legal process that they are party to.
(20). To ensure that victims have a right to access transcripts of any related legal proceedings at no personal cost.
(21). To ensure victims have a right to access legal aid throughout legal process.
(22). To ensure that the victim has access prior to proceedings to any electronic footage or evidence which may cause alarm or distress to the victim.
(23). To ensure that the safety and protection of the victims is paramount including a presumption that they remain domiciled at the family home and conversely that the offender should be considered for relocation or electronic tagging or both in order to minimise further stress and fear to the victim.
(24). To ensure the victim has a right to be a represented party at Mental Health Tribunals and to be allowed to submit personal victim statements.
(25). To ensure that victims and people supporting the victim have access to discreet waiting areas during all court proceedings.
(26). To ensure that all crimes committed against the victim by the perpetrator are disclosed at trial.
(27). To ensure that all victims have the right to access appropriate treatment or support services for as long as necessary.

© Voice4Victims Victims Rights Survey results. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Voice4Victims with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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.

Voice4Victims Survey

We are urging all victims of crime to have their voice heard and complete a victims rights online survey about their experience as a victim in the Criminal Justice System. This survey will give us evidence to prove that a victims code is not robust enough to protect the rights of victims and that a Victims Rights Law, supported by training of all agencies that engage with victims, is well overdue. We feel that a Victims Rights Law will re-address the imbalance of rights and create a justice system fair to all.

Please share this online survey.

Victims Rights Survey

Why we need a Victims Law

The Stalking Law Campaign & Victims Rights Campaign – Why the campaigns?

Through my journey as a stalking victim, I experienced first-hand a torrent of abuse and re-victimisation at the hands of our Criminal Justice System. Throughout the past decade, I was exposed to a system, that I naively trusted and put my faith in, that placed the rights of my stalker way above my rights to be protected and free from this man. I was rarely kept up to date with any information on my case and the CPS were beyond appalling at every court hearing, bail application and trial, allowing defence to play every trick in the book whilst I was left stranded with no access to support or guidance. I was a bystander and yet the crime was having a direct impact on my life but I was given no control and no voice to explain just how bad the impact was. Victim Support was not able to help me as they had no understanding of stalking and there was no service to offer me any support or treatment. It was the isolation and rejection from the Criminal Justice System that often compounded the effects of the crime and made it far more debilitating for me.

Over the past decade, there were catastrophic mistakes made by every agency involved from Police through to Probation, that placed me at risk and breached my human rights. At one point, I decided to take legal proceedings against the CPS for breach of my human rights for placing my stalkers rights before mine. Even after winning this high court case, my rights continued to be breached. It soon became apparent to me that there was not only a gap in legislation regarding stalking and a lack of understanding of this crime, but also a complete disregard to victims’ rights.

My first crusade, was to ensure that something was done about the stalking legislation and in 2010, I started Claire’s campaign, using my case to highlight all the gaps in legislation, we started an e-petition via Now Magazine & Facebook and asked for public support for a stalking legislation and for mandatory training. With this campaign, came overwhelming support from thousands signing the petition and other victims offering their stories to show how much legislation was needed. It was comforting to know that I was not alone and that sadly, others were experiencing the same awful ordeal with no support or help.

Shortly after the campaign started, Protection Against Stalking , a charity set up by Tricia Bernal and Carol Faruqui , publicly supported my campaign and after years, I finally received the support I had been desperate for. They were able to involve other key victims, Ann Moulds, Tracey Morgan, Sam Taylor and John & Penny Clough to join forces to support the campaign and share their painful ordeals. Each case highlighted how desperately we needed the law to change. With the hard work of these victims and others and under the guidance of Harry Fletcher and Laura Richards and the unwavering support of Elfyn Llywd, the stalking legislation became a reality. In just two years we had achieved so much. It was a momentous step but today, four years on, I am fully aware that the job is not over. We continue to work collectively as we recognise there is still much to be done for stalking victims in this country to ensure better understanding, support, protection, mandatory risk assessments and treatment for both perpetrators and their victims.

Even with this new legislation in place, it soon became apparent that my treatment as a victim was not just a result of the failings of the CJS to recognise stalking but also down to the lack of rights I had during the whole process. I began to question if victims of other crimes experienced the same sort of treatment as me.

I’ve spent the past year fact finding and gathering evidence and working with many different victims organisations and charities just to understand how widespread the issue of the lack of victims’ rights really is. Each story still shocked as I’ve heard how disgracefully victims can be treated in this country and what further pain and abuse they are exposed to once they’ve entered a system that is designed to protect those accused of crime. The system has been built on an inequality of rights, and now is the time to address that imbalance so that the system becomes fair and equal for all who partake in it and the victims’ role and rights must be included in this.

The past year has shown that the Victims Code does not work. As we highlighted last year, the code is toothless and offers no protection of rights for victims. We must have a Victims Law, and place rights firmly in statutory law. There is no quick fix here, it is not a case of picking up the existing Victims Code and placing that in law, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication to collate all the evidence and ensure all areas are covered so that we get it right for all victims of crime, not just those that shout the loudest.

Voice4Victims have created a coalition of organisations who place victims at the heart of everything they do to ensure that the victim’s voice and victims’ rights are considered. We are working closely now with the Victims Service Alliance and its members and have had overwhelming support from MAMAAUK and SAMM Abroad , who have worked on victims’ rights longer than most.

If you are a victim, then please do get in touch and share your experience so we can ensure that the CJS will listen. If you are an organisation that supports victims, and wish to support this campaign, then please do get in touch as a Victims Law will affect all victims of crime, so please make your voice heard.