The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales is calling for a law which specifically gives more rights to those affected by crime.
Dame Vera Baird QC said that there needed to be a “change of culture” amid concern of a drop in confidence levels in obtaining justice.
The commissioner said that the change was “long overdue” to “look after” victims of crime.
Thirty four recommendations for the Government to enshrine in law form a policy paper reviewing the judicial process.
One such recommendation is the statutory right for sexual assault victims to be given free legal representation in some circumstances.
Another is a requirement to keep victims better updated on the progress of investigations, as well as a call for court-ordered compensation to be paid to the victim and later recouped from the defendant by the court, rather than “drip-fed” on a weekly basis.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Dame Vera said: “The point is to bring about a long-overdue change of culture whereby the criminal justice system starts to look after victims properly.
“At the moment we have a situation where a lot of victims say the process in the courts makes them feel worse than the crime did, and they’re dropping out quite quickly… due to how they’ve been treated.
“It is very bad if somebody is so poorly treated that they don’t feel that the state is supporting them when they have been wronged in this way. It’s terribly bad for them but it’s also terribly bad for us as a civilised society if we don’t give victims the support they need.”
Just 18 per cent of people felt that victims received enough support through the court process according to a Victims’ Commissioner survey undertaken in 2020.
Another piece of research carried out by Dame Vera also suggested that just 14 per cent of respondents agreed with the notion that survivors of rape and sexual offences can get justice by reporting the incident to the police.
There is a new version of the Victims’ Code due to come into effect in April, a set of rights that victims currently have.
The Conservative party promised it would enshrine the code into law in their manifesto, but it is yet to be introduced in Parliament.
Dame Vera said she hopes her report will be of interest to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who she says is “extremely interested in victims’ rights”.
She added: “The Ministry of Justice has promised a victims’ law… it emerges (in manifestoes) and disappears.
“It would make a massive difference to victims if it was done.
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
“Victims are participants from start to finish, but they are currently treated more like bystanders.
“We must recognise justice cannot be delivered without victims and our justice system needs to reflect this.
“I’m calling for a redefinition of the victim that moves beyond treating them as simply an onlooker or maybe a witness, but as a recognised participant, with statutory rights to be informed, supported and to be able to make informed choices.
“This does not in any way undermine the rights of the defendant and does not make them a party to proceedings, or a decision-maker, but it does confirm victims as active contributors in their own right to the criminal justice process.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk