Plans to put victims back at center of justice released

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  • new bill to cement victims’ voices and improve support
  • prosecutors required to meet victims before certain trials
  • offenders are being made to pay more for the cost of crimes, raising an additional £20m for support services

A bill released today by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab will pave the way for the first ever Victims Act, putting their needs and voices firmly at the heart of the justice system.

It will see the opinions of victims solicited at regular points in their case, with greater responsibility placed on bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police for the service they provide to them. Victims will also benefit from clearer remedies if they do not receive the assistance to which they are entitled.

For the first time, an obligation will be imposed on prosecutors to meet the victims in certain cases before the trial in order to hear their points of view. Victims will also have the right to attend full parole board hearings and submit questions during the process, such as questioning an offender’s suitability for release. The Parole Board will need to consider the views and concerns of victims before making a decision in a case.

Criminals will also be forced to pay more for crucial victim services such as rape crisis centers with a 20% increase in the victim surcharge which will net an additional £20m by 2025. This penalty is imposed on offenders when they are convicted of crimes. , to ensure that they take responsibility for their actions and are accountable to society by contributing to victim support services.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:

No victim should feel lost in a faceless system. We amplify victims’ voices, strengthen their rights at every stage, and make criminals pay more to help victims recover.

We do this because it is morally the right thing to do to strengthen victim care, but also because it is operationally essential to increase convictions – and keep our streets safe. .

The reforms come as the government continues to make improvements for victims, especially those of rape and sexual offences, for which convictions were up 27% last year compared to before the pandemic.

There are now 26 courts where rape victims can, after a successful application to the court, pre-record their cross-examination, sparing them the stress of testifying under the spotlight of a courtroom, with a national roll-out which should be completed by September.

The bill will outline how the Victims Code will be enshrined in law and introduce additional scrutiny over the support victims receive from the police, prosecution, prisons and probation service. Ministers will be able to direct criminal justice inspectorates to undertake regular joint inspections on victim issues and produce action plans for improvements.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the independent charity Victim Support, said:

It is vital that victims have stronger rights, better support and real influence in the justice system.

The Victims Bill announced today presents a real opportunity to improve the experience of victims and we look forward to continuing our work with the government to ensure that the final Bill leads to meaningful changes for the victims.

It will also introduce a new requirement for police and crime commissioners, local authorities and health organizations to work together when setting up services for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and other serious violence. so that services are more efficient.

Victims will also be able to make it easier to complain about the service they have received, removing the requirement for them to go through their local MP before speaking to the Parliament and Health Services Ombudsman.

The legislation will also establish a statutory definition of Independent Sexual Violence Counselors (ISVAs) and Independent Domestic Violence Counselors (IDVAs) to ensure these essential roles are more consistent. This will let victims know that they will receive high level support from them.

In March the Government announced that Victim Support Services would receive £440million in grants over the next 3 years, helping to fund over 1,000 independent sexual and domestic violence advisers and a hotline. 24/7 rape hotline.

Notes to Editors

  • If you have any questions please contact me on 07469 579 041 or call our 24 hour press office on 0203 334 3536.
  • The Victims Bill will undergo pre-legislative scrutiny by the Commons Justice Select Committee, with comments from the committee considered before the bill is formally introduced.
  • In March 2020, the government announced a 5% increase in the victim surcharge. This was part of a commitment made during the 2019 election to increase the surtax to 25%.
  • A new cross-jurisdictional victim funding strategy that will address barriers to sustainable funding and promote consistent provisioning, so victims get the right support at the right time.
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