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.

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