London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman is demanding full legal rights for victims of crime
Published: Friday, 22nd March 2019
Following the publication of a hard-hitting review she commissioned into the Victims’ Code of Practice, which she believes is ‘not fit for purpose.’
The review is the most comprehensive study of victims’ experiences with the Victims’ Code of Practice ever conducted, informed by more than 2,100 victims of crime, as well as insights from 14 victims’ focus groups, including representatives from the Met Police, the Witness Care Unit, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
The existing Victims’ Code of Practice sets out the minimum level of service that victims can expect when going through the criminal justice system. However, the code is not legally enforceable and victims regularly do not get the treatment they should expect.
The review revealed that despite the police and service providers’ desire to do the best possible job for victims and witnesses, lack of resources and funding provided significant obstacles to following the code. Victims spoke of being aware of the challenges faced by the Met Police with fewer officers because of budget cuts, with some even saying they decided not to report a crime or pursue their case in order to spare resources. Professionals from across the voluntary and community support services also raised the issue of the lack of funding for the vital services they provide.
The Victims’ Commissioner is sharing her findings with the Government and urging Ministers urgently to fulfil their manifesto commitment for a Victims’ Law that will give people legally enforceable rights when they have been a victim of crime.
To improve the service offered to victims, the review made key recommendations about the need for a clear set of rights within the law that can be followed by both the public and professionals. This would mean that if victims’ rights are not met, there would be a straightforward process for them to raise these issues and give providers the opportunity to remedy it.
London Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman, said: “The consistent message I am hearing from victims is that they are not getting the level of support they need and that they are entitled to, at a time when they are most vulnerable. This was what the Victims’ Code of Practice was supposed to provide and that is why I commissioned the most thorough and in-depth review into its effectiveness.
“The review has found that compliance with the Code of Practice is the exception, not the rule. It is not fit for purpose. People who have been victims of crime need easy to access, trauma-informed support throughout their justice journey and recovery but the Code fails to guarantee this in practice.
“We need to introduce a Victims’ Law, to ensure victims have the confidence to report to the police, and that crimes are properly recognised and supported through the criminal justice system and beyond. Meanwhile the Government must step up investment into policing and victim support services to ensure that they can meet the demand.”
Councillor Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Workforce at Hounslow Council, said:
“We fully support the findings from the Victims Commissioner review, which paints a distressing picture of the current state of affairs where victims openly admit to not reporting a crime because they know how stretched our police and support services are.
“The justice system needs to deal with crime appropriately to protect our communities from the escalation of crime and ensure public safety.”