Successive governments have attempted to improve the position of the victims of crime in the criminal justice system. But there is clear evidence that there is still room for further improvement.
In January 2015, the Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, published a report which showed the gap between what was supposed to happen to victims, and what actually happened. The principal recommendation of her report was the adoption of a set of principles, drawn up by her, to which all actors in the criminal justice system should adhere.
The Commissioner stated that all victims should have:
- Clear information from agencies and service providers on how they will support them in raising a concern or making a complaint about the service they have received
- Information on how informal concerns can be submitted and dealt with, in additional to processes for the submitting of formal complaints
- Details on how agencies and service providers will keep victims informed of the progress of their complaint at all stages
- The option to state their preferred method of communication with an agency or service provider when raising a concern or making a complaint
- Clear information to understand what to do if not happy with the response that has been received, including details about the role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the right to complain to them
- Information on how they might be able to be involved in developing, reviewing and improving an agency’s or service provider’s complaints process.
In addition, she stated that agencies and service providers should ensure they offer to all victims:
- A clear statement about the support they will provide to victims who wish to raise a concern or make a complaint about the service that has been provided
- Processes to deal with concerns swiftly and informally where appropriate, in addition to processes to deal with more formal complaints
- A commitment that they will deliver mandatory training and development plans for all staff who deal with victims’ complaints
- A commitment to ensure that all staff who interact with victims, have in place a performance objective reflecting how they will be held accountable for treating victims with empathy, dignity and respect
- Properly defined processes and recording practices which enable victims complaints to be handled proactively and appropriately
- A published statement on whether they will apply the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s Principles of Good Complaint Handling in their complaints processes
In addition, agencies should publish information illustrating how complaints from victims have led to improvements in services.
The Government announced in February 2015 that it accepted these proposals and would work to bring them into practical effect.
The Commissioner’s report is at http://victimscommissioner.org.uk/baroness-newlove-victims-still-let-down-by-justice-agencies/
The Government’s response is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/response-to-the-victims-commissioners-review-of-complaints-and-resolution-for-victims-of-crime
In January 2015, the Government has announced that an online service TrackMyCrime, which has been developed by Avon and Somerset police, will start to be rolled out nationally. This is designed to keep victims updated on the progress of their case, allow them to submit details about stolen or damaged property, and find information on support and advice. Crucially, officers and victims can securely exchange messages with one another at any time and police can regularly update victims on the progress of the case. This offers more flexibility for victims and will be more efficient for police officers working shifts.
And in yet a further development, the Government has announced further support for victims and witnesses in court, through a doubling of the number of Registered Intermediaries – people able to support victims and witnesses as they give evidence in court.