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.

What happens to human rights when you’re the victim?

Why does the right to abuse trump the right to be safe & protected, and why must the victim change to avoid this abuse?

After the recent high profile twitter abuse against female campaigners, MP’s and journalists, I was shocked to see the same old advice being dispensed. These people were told simply ‘to stop using twitter and social media’ to avoid the abuse. Some even went as far as to say that the abuse on twitter was ‘right to freedom of speech’.

For ten years I’ve been subjected to the same ignorant advice regarding my stalker and told to ‘change your phone, move house, change your daughters nursery, change your routine, have people chaperone you to and from work’. Bottom line, I am forced to change my life continuously in order to counteract this stalking whereas this man can continue his criminal behaviour, but the agencies cannot seem to stop him. Therefore, responsibility falls on the victim to change their behaviour and routine and gone is the freedom to make a decision in life without considering the perpetrator first. So it seems easier to place restrictions on the law abiding victim than the actual perpetrator. Is that justice?

As a result of this ordeal, I’ve never used social media personally, never posted any information on our children, family holiday photos or kids achievements as many proud parents love to do. I know it doesn’t seem much of a loss but I enviously watch my friends post photos of their families and it upsets me that I have no freedom to choose if that is something I would like to do or not.

My children’s schools and activities were forced to take place in the one mile radius of my home as that was the stretch of the restraining order. To put them anywhere else would mean they were not protected by the restraining order. Is it right, that the victims are placed in the prison of a restraining order or confined by the demands of their abuser? I’ve been told ‘you shouldn’t have sent your daughter to a nursery just over a mile from your home as he did have a right to be in that area as it’s not on the restraining order exclusion zone’. Even though this man had no children so did he have a ‘right’ to look around the nursery that his victim’s child attends as a prospective parent? I’ve been advised again not to mention this breach publicly as thanks to the criminal justice agencies’ apathy he wasn’t actually convicted on this charge. Thanks to their apathy, they simply told me to move my daughter and place her in a nursery within the restraining order zone. Of course, it was totally my fault, how dare I want to choose a nursery for my daughter? I’m a victim; I don’t have a right to do what I want and it seems that we live in a culture that finds it easier to blame the victim’s harmless actions than the actual perpetrators harmful actions. As a consequence, I moved my daughter from her nursery and then had to keep her at home as no nursery would take her due to risk and I then wasn’t able to work as a result of this. But, no, best not mention this incident in case I offend my stalker’s rights and he’ll want to sue me again!

I’ve even been berated by some police officers for talking to media and professionals about my experience and for campaigning for the changes to the stalking laws. This was seen as ‘attracting his attention’ and I only had myself to blame when he sued me yet again for my campaign work for changing the law. The more I speak, the more I’m punished. But like the outspoken twitter victims this week, you do get to a point where you just have to say “ENOUGH! You’ve abused me for too long” and it’s time to fight back.

I’m also tired of hearing about the rights of the abuser. I’m frankly bored of hearing that my stalker had a right to sue me (one case that I contested at high court and won!) I’ve also had to endure that my stalker claims that he has a ‘human right to stalk me’. Well guess what? I have a human right to not be stalked! These women had a right not to receive a torrent of abusive ‘rape threat’ tweets and David Baddiel certainly doesn’t have a right to be subjected to anti-Semitic abuse.

My stalker and others’ perpetrators have a right to privacy on what they look like on release from prison and we, the victim, have no right in knowing if they have been rehabilitated or even treated. Rights and secrecy protect the abusers, and the victims should remain silent and fearful with no right to speak out as this is publicly frowned upon.

But the tides are changing; victims are putting their fear temporarily aside and speaking out to force change. Together we need to push for the state to accept that abusers of all forms – from trolls and stalkers to harassers and bullies – will not be tolerated in any form and they do not have the right to engender fear and anxiety.

Voice 4 Victims is about victims coming together, uniting and shouting out that they have a right to be protected by the state when a crime is committed. They have a right to information, protection, support, representation and to be communicated to in an appropriate manner. Too many victims are subjected to thoughtless comments and language from media, public and criminal justice agencies.

We need to keep addressing the issue of the lack of training and awareness for stalking, trolling, bullying, harassment and hate crimes that force their victims into years of solitude and isolation. The state is slow at recognising and understanding these crimes and too many victims are forced to just ‘live with it’ and change their life to avoid it.

I’m proud of every victim that has stood up recently in the face of fear and said ‘NO, I will not accept this’. Now the Criminal Justice system needs to follow suit and shield these victims from these abusers.

Victims Right to ask CPS for review

The CPS have introduced the Victims Right to Review and now allow victims the opportunity to challenge CPS decisions of not charging or dropping a prosecution. CPS will be reviewing this after three months and it will be interesting to see if they have enough resources to cope with this and if any decisions are reversed as a result of the review.

Victims right to review

Claire Waxman discussing CPS announcement of VRR on Radio:

Listen Now

Vulnerable victims to be treated fairly

This is a welcome introduction and we will be keeping an eye on this to ensure that it is rolled out nationally as it will only be tested in three locations first. We are also keen to ensure that all ‘vulnerable’ witnesses will be offered the chance to pre-record their evidence.

Victims to be spared from harrowing court cases

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.

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