Victims' rights are being treated as a 'box-ticking exercise'December 19, 2023
Victims’ rights are being treated as a ‘box-ticking exercise’ by the criminal justice system, watchdogs warn
- Report found police sometimes failed to carry out assessments of victims’ needs
The criminal justice system is treating victims’ rights as a ‘box-ticking exercise’, watchdogs have warned.
A report, published today, revealed that in some cases, police bickered amongst themselves about taking responsibility for an investigation, leading to delays.
Numerous failings mean police and other agencies are letting down victims of crime, found a joint inspection by three criminal justice inspectorates.
The report described how, in one force, crime reports received by the police control room were sent to a shared email inbox and then allocated to investigators.
‘But we were told once the cases were allocated supervisors often then argued about which team should take the case,’ it said.
There was also ‘poor communication’ between different parts of the criminal justice system
‘This had resulted in delays to some investigations.’
The Victims’ Code was first introduced in 2006 and the latest version sets out rights including a requirement on police and other agencies to keep victims informed about investigations and prosecutions.
The report said: ‘We found that instead of trying to meet the needs of victims, the three bodies focused on whether they complied with the 12 rights set out in the Victims’ Code.
‘This focus on complying with the letter of the Victims’ Code, rather than the victim’s individual needs, has resulted in an emphasis on process rather than quality.
‘We saw some evidence in cases we reviewed that this victim’s right had been met.
‘But this was often a ‘box-ticking’ exercise with no evidence of the quality of the engagement with the victim or whether it met the individual victim’s needs.’
One victim of a violent crime described how they only learned of a court hearing by reading Facebook rather than being directly notified by police, while another said: ‘This lack of support severely impacted me.’
In another case, a victim spent time writing an ’emotional’ statement about the personal impact of a crime, expecting it to be read in court during the offender’s sentencing – but was ‘furious’ to discover it was never passed to prosecutors by police, and had been left languishing ‘on somebody’s desk’.
One victim of a violent crime described how they only learned of a court hearing by reading Facebook rather than being directly notified by police (Stock Image)
Police sometimes failed to carry out assessments of victims’ needs – such as whether they were vulnerable – and some that were completed ‘lacked important details’, the report said.
There was also ‘poor communication’ between different parts of the criminal justice system, added the review by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation.
The Victims and Prisoners Bill, currently going through Parliament, will toughen the code by making it part of primary legislation for the first time.
But the report warned that the measures would only help alongside ‘practical changes’.
‘Care will need to be taken to implement the measures in the Bill in a way that does not reinforce the current emphasis on process without sufficient regard to quality,’ it said.
Police sometimes failed to carry out assessments of victims’ needs – such as whether they were vulnerable – and some that were completed ‘lacked important details’ (Stock Image)
Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: ‘The findings in this report are depressingly familiar – once again victims are too often not getting the service they are entitled to.
‘It is vital the whole of the criminal justice system works together to improve the service it offers to victims.
‘If the recommendations in our report are implemented I am confident they will help to make sure that quality support for victims of crime is placed at the heart of the criminal justice system, where it belongs.’
The report, published today, made six recommendations including a series of new ‘minimum standards’ which should be observed by police and other agencies.
Katie Kempen, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: ‘This report lays bare the reality that too many victims are being failed by the criminal justice system.
A victim who spent time writing an ’emotional’ statement about the personal impact of a crime, was ‘furious’ to discover it was never passed to prosecutors by police (Stock Image)
‘Time and again victims aren’t being referred to vital support services, given the chance to make a Victim Personal Statement, or updated about their case. This isn’t good enough.
‘Criminal justice agencies – including the police – must be held to account for the service they deliver to victims.
‘We urge the government to use the Victim and Prisoners Bill to strengthen victims’ rights and make sure that they are monitored and enforced.’
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said: ‘Complying with the Victims’ Code must go beyond simple box-ticking.
‘Police, prosecutors and probation are prioritising process over helping victims. It re-enforces my own view that all too often our criminal justice system hits the target but misses the point.’
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