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.

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