Can we really embrace a new Victims' Law?

September 2014, has seen a lot of publicity about the new Victims' Law which will allow victims of crime to directly confront the offenders in court.

In England and Wales the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the policy regarding victim and witness care. This month, September 2014, has seen a lot of publicity about the new Victims' Law which will allow victims of crime to directly confront the offenders in court. The government has also said that, amongst other things, the law will make it necessary for publicly funded lawyers to undergo specialist training before taking on serious sex offence cases.

It is understandable that these announcements are met with caution by many. We read that the Labour Party have Keir Starmer QC and former Director of Public Prosecutions, advising them on a new Victims' Law. A law which they say will give victims of crime new entitlements to minimum standards of service as well as the ability to hold those services to account when standards are not met. They refer to the Governments Code of Conduct as toothless and unenforceable.

The commitments in the Government's policy paper have targets of March 2015 and April 2016 and a deadline of 2018 to further develop the Victims’ Information Service to allow the victim to track the progress of their case online, all the way through the criminal justice system. This will of course have to wait until the next Parliament to ensure that the rights of victims are enshrined in law.

 

We understand that from October 2014 Police and Crime Commissioners, will be taking on a bigger role in commissioning tailored local services to support victims. This is already being taken on board by various police authorities but with differing amounts of enthusiasm it would appear. This local commissioning could result in patchy support being provided for victims and witnesses and be more costly to administer.

 

Victim Support themselves say that nine out of ten victims are satisfied with Victim Support's services and suggest investing more money where it already works. They also suggest the Witness Service should be recognised and strengthened.

 

Are we seeing a 'back of an envelope' job with the present Conservative government and the Labour party aware of the EU Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime [Directive 2012/29/EU ] which was adopted on 25 October 2012 and entered into force on 15 November 2012 and meaning that EU Member States have to implement the provisions into their national laws by 16 November 2015.

 

What of the effect on training for barristers with regard to the specialist training that will be required before taking on serious sex offence cases?

 

 

 


European e-Justice Portal - Rights of victims of crime in criminal proceedings
Victim Support

Chris Grayling unveils victims' rights reforms

Victims - Justice - European Commission

Our commitment to victims

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime - October 2013

Victims' factsheets - European Commission - Europa

 



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