November 2013 articles archive:

New entitlement for victims of crime.

Putting victims first.

In December 2013 the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales will be changing. Currently Victim Support says it has 1.1 million victims referred to it each year and they say that the new Code will mean that 700,000 of these will find it harder to get help because of the changes being introduced.

Automatic entitlement to help from agencies offering support will be restricted but “enhanced” assistance will be available for "victims of the most serious crimes, vulnerable or intimidated victims and the most persistently targeted victims." This would include, amongst others, victims of domestic violence, rape or other types of sexual offences and human trafficking and would also be available to a close relative who has been bereaved by criminal conduct. This “enhanced” assistance is currently only provided to more restricted categories of victims.

Assistant chief executive of Victim Support, Adam Pemberton, said: "We have serious concerns that the government's proposals to limit automatic referral to only some categories of victims, will make it much more difficult for some victims to get the help they need after suffering at the hands of criminals." and called on the government to "restore the principle of automatic referral which has served millions of people so very well". The government's reaction to this was that in many cases victims did not want to know about the support available to them and for this reason they felt it was important to “focus resources on those who really need it."

The new code is aimed at putting the victim first, ensuring they receive “appropriate support to help them, as far as possible, to cope and recover and be protected from re-victimisation.” A number of organisations known as service providers will be involved in providing this support.

This new code also introduces a new entitlement to victims meaning that, for the first time, they will be able to read their Victim Personal Statement (VPS) in court, in person. They will be able to address the offender directly and explain the impact the crime has had on them. Previously the judge would have been aware of the VPS and would have been able to consider the impact when sentencing and parts of the VPS may have been read out on behalf of the victim. Currently only a small proportion of victims are aware of their entitlement to make a VPS but under the new code the police must inform all victims of their entitlement to do so at the time of making their witness statement. At this time the victim will also be informed that they can choose to read the statement themselves if the offender is found guilty or have it read aloud on their behalf.

Much more information must be made available to victims including, amongst other things, what to expect from the criminal justice system, progress with any police investigation, whether or not the suspect is going to be prosecuted and how to ask for a review of CPS decisions, how to apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and how to make a complaint if you have not been given all the correct information you are entitled to.

For the first time all businesses or enterprises (such as charities) that are victims of crime will be able to receive services under the new code and will be able to make an impact statement and ask for parts of it to be real aloud in court before sentencing.

A consultation paper resulted in 197 responses from organisations such as the police, the judiciary , youth offending teams and voluntary groups. So is this a step in the right direction for victims of crime? Concerns have been voiced by several of the organisations consulted about the fact that victims of crime which fall outside the categories of “serious crime, persistently - targeted victims and vulnerable victims” will not be have access to all the services they need, but the general opinion seems to be that the changes are positive and that the recognition of businesses as victims of crime is a good thing.

Witness Support, a national charity giving free and confidential help to victims of crime, had mixed feelings. They welcomed the way the code is written in plain, easy to understand language making it clear what the victim is entitled to and that it gives victims the right to read out their victim personal statements in court and also gives victims the right to information regarding the restorative justice schemes that are available. They are still looking for improvements to the code including making restorative justice more widely available and making it more straightforward to make a complaint.

 

Improving the code of practice for victims of crime - Consultations ..

Crime victims should have better support, says new top prosecutor

Victims of crime get chance to speak in court under new code

The code of practice for victims of crime (from Dec 2013)

As Victims' Code is changed, would you want to face a criminal who

Victims to tell courts impact of crime - Press releases – GOV.UK

Victims of crime can now confront offenders through new code ..



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