VICTIMS of repeated anti-social behaviour will be handed the same rights as those affected by crime in under new laws being proposed to parliament.
People abused by regular late night loud music, graffiti, and harassment will get the same rights as a victim of burglary or assault in a ‘victims charter’ being suggested by Labour.
They will also enshrine victims rights, meaning coppers have to inform punters as well as criminals to what they can expect from the criminal justice procedure.
The plans, which were also in the Tory party manifesto, are being put forward by Labour’s Peter Kyle, who said: “Our bill puts victims at the heart of the criminal justice process, providing them with legally-enforceable rights.”
Under the bill victims would have a legal right to make a personal statement to be read out at court as well as special measures during any procedures.
Police forces and other bodies who fail to meet the tough new rules could face sanctions.
The Victims’ Commissioner welcomed the proposals.
Dame Vera Baird QC said: “A Victims’ Law has been long awaited and is now long overdue. “All leading parties promised legislation on victims in their 2015 manifestos.
“So, I’m pleased there remains consensus across the political spectrum to deliver change for victims and it’s good to see the Opposition highlighting this in Parliament today.
“If we are to regain the trust of victims, we urgently need a change of culture in how the justice system treats them.
“We have seen a sharp decline in victim confidence in the justice system for some years now.
“Some victims say that they found their treatment by the criminal justice system worse than the crime and more and more victims are withdrawing their support for prosecutions as a result.
“A Victims’ Law must put the rights of victims in law and criminal justice agencies must be held to account for complying with those rights.
“We need to help victims to cope, recover and play their role in the justice system and to ensure that those who are guilty are convicted and prevented from victimising others.”
“Some victims say that they found their treatment by the criminal justice system worse than the crime and more and more victims are withdrawing their support for prosecutions as a result.”
Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC
Rebecca Bryant, chief executive at the anti-social behaviour charity Resolve also backed the proposals.
She said: “Anti-social behaviour is not low-level crime. It has a devastating impact on the lives of victims and communities and is also the precursor to people committing more serious offences – such as knife crime and gang violence.
“At present we’re faced with a situation where you could face months or years of intimidation or harassment, but, if it is classed as anti-social behaviour, you are entitled to no support. It is a situation that we must look at.
“Victims of anti-social behaviour deserve to have the same support available to them as people who are victims of crime.”
Claire Waxman, London’s Independent Victims Commissioner, added: “For too long victims have been left on the periphery of our criminal justice system – they are simply not getting the level of support they need and that they are entitled to, at a time when they are most vulnerable.
“We need to see their rights fully enshrined in law, so that all victims, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, background or immigration status, will have legally enforceable rights to timely and effective justice and support.”
Mr Kyle MP, Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice said the government’s current plans were letting down victims.
He added: “Victims’ faith in the criminal justice system is at rock-bottom, which is little wonder after so many broken Tory promises.
“Several Queen’s speeches and three Conservative election manifestos promised a victims’ bill, but still it’s nowhere to be seen.
“Victims are last in line under this government. With Labour they will always come first.
“We will modernise the criminal justice system to ensure that ignoring victims will finally have consequences.
“The bill also finally provides recognition that those suffering persistent antisocial behaviour are victims. These proposals would empower people from the moment they become victims and make sure they are never forgotten.
“The era of warm words and hollow promises must end. The time for action is now.”
The government said it had recently revised the Victims’ Code, which will come into force on 1 April this year.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our new Victims’ Code boosts the rights of victims at every stage of the justice process and we will strengthen these further by consulting on legislation later this year.
“We are also investing millions in vital support services while recruiting 20,000 more police officers to build back confidence in the justice system.”
— to www.thesun.co.uk