Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘victims’ code

The Victims Strategy – 2018

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In September 2018, the Government published its cross-government Victims Strategy. It sets out a criminal justice system wide response to improving the support offered to victims of crime and incorporates actions from all criminal justice agencies, including the police, CPS and courts.

It is divided into 5 key sections

  1. overarching commitments. These include:
  • Strengthening the Victims’ Code, and consulting on the detail of victim focused legislation, including strengthening the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner, and delivering a Victims’ Law.
  • Holding agencies to account for compliance with the Victims’ Code through improved reporting, monitoring and transparency.
  • Developing the detail on the role of the Independent Public Advocate for bereaved families who have lost loved ones in extraordinary and tragic events.
  • Abolishing the rule which denied compensation for some victims who lived with their attacker prior to 1979 and consulting on further changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
  1. improving support for all victims of crime, whether or not they report the crime. This includes commitments to:
  • Increase spending from £31 million in 2018 to £39 million in 2020/21 to improve services and pathways for survivors and victims of sexual violence and abuse who seek support to and from Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
  • Develop a new delivery model for victim support services, coordinating funding across government.
  • Expand and extend support available to families bereaved by homicide, including bringing in new funding for advocacy support for families bereaved by domestic homicide.
  • Spend £8 million on interventions to ensure support is available to children who witness domestic abuse.
  • Pilot the ‘Child House’ model in London, whereby multiple services are brought together in a child-friendly environment to minimise additional trauma.
  1. improving victim support after a crime has been reported. This includes commitments to:
  • Introduce improved police training, including new guidance on conducting interviews and collecting evidence, and a trial of body worn cameras to take Victim Personal Statements.
  • Increase the number of Registered Intermediaries, communication experts helping vulnerable victims and witnesses give their best evidence at police interview and at court, by 25%.
  • Increase opportunities for victims to engage in alternative solutions to court.
  • Improve overall victim communication, including when explaining decisions not to prosecute and on the right to review Crown Prosecution Service decisions.
  1. better support for victims during the court process. This includes commitments to:
  • Improve the court environment, with new victim-friendly waiting areas and a new court design guide focussing on accessibility for the most vulnerable.
  • Free up court time in the magistrates’ court by dealing with crimes with no identifiable victim (e.g. fare evasion) outside court hearings.
  • Continue to use video links to allow vulnerable victims to provide evidence away from the defendant and courtroom altogether.
  • Encourage take up of pre-trial therapy by launching new guidance and a toolkit for prosecutors and therapists.
  1. making sure victims understand a court’s decision, the implications for them, and for the offender. This includes commitments to:
  • Review and consider extending the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme so victims and the public can have sentences reconsidered by the Court of Appeal.
  • Reform the Victim Contact Scheme, making it easier to opt in, introducing more frequent communication, and greater use of digital contact methods.
  • Improve Victim Liaison Officer training, especially in supporting victims during parole hearings and in making a Victim Personal Statement.
  • Review and consider whether any improvements need to be made to entitlements for victims of mentally disordered offenders.

This is substantial agenda of what seem to me to be good ideas. Some of them can be implemented quickly. Others will take more time. What is therefore also needed is a committment to publish progress reports which show how these initiatives are developing throughout the country.

Source: Adapted from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/victims-strategy/victims-strategy-html-version where the full text of the strategy statement can be found.

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Parole Board – review of procedures

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The decision by the Parole Board to release the London Cab Driver John Warboys – who had been convicted of raping a number of his customers – has generated a great deal of publicity. Many of the challenges in that case arose from the fact that Warboys had been sentenced to an Indeterminate Sentence, which meant that he could continue to be detained after the period set by the judge as punishment for his crime, where it was anticipated that his release would be a danger to the public. (The law relating to such sentences was changed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.)

The Government has now announced that there is to be a review of the practices and procedures of the Parole Board. This is to include a review of how the work of the Board impacts on the victims of the crimes committed by those the Board is considering for release.

The terms of the reference are as follows:

This review will consider the case for changes in law, policy and procedure in relation to Parole Board decision-making. It will include an examination of the transparency of the process and reasons for parole decisions, and how victims are appropriately engaged in that process. It will take account of the interests of justice, public confidence in the system and the impact on victims. The review will draw on the views and experience of victims, practitioners and international best practice.
The review will focus on the following areas:
1. The law, policy, guidance and practice relating to challenges to Parole Board decision making, specifically whether there should be a mechanism to allow parole decisions to be reconsidered.
2. The transparency of Parole Board decision making, including:
whether the outcomes of Parole Board decisions should be published or otherwise
disclosed;
whether the reasons for those decisions should be published, and if so to what extent; and
whether there are any other changes that should be made in order to contribute to greater transparency.
3. Victim involvement in Parole Board hearings:
to review the relevant entitlements outlined in the Victims’ Code to determine whether improvements should be made to how victims are currently involved in and contribute to Parole Board hearings;
what improvements should be made to how their involvement is facilitated.
4. Arrangements for communicating with victims:
to review whether the current entitlements for victims who qualify under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 for the Victim Contact Scheme are adequate, including in relation to Victim Personal Statements and licence conditions;
to review whether improvements can be made to the way that the scheme operates in practice, in particular the process by which victims are notified of their entitlements and of decisions; whilst respecting the victim’s preference for how they are contacted;
to consider the question of ongoing contact with victims who are eligible for the Victim Contact Scheme but have previously opted out; and
whether there need to be new entitlements or procedures for victims not covered by the statutory scheme.
Interestingly in its own Press Release, the Parole Board observes: “Justice needs to be seen to be done and the Canadian model for victim contact could provide a good starting point.”
As far as I  am aware, decisions have not yet been taken as to who should lead this review, nor the time line for the completion of the review. I will endeavour to keep you posted on such developments.
The terms of reference are at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/674955/pb-review-terms-of-reference.pdf
The Parole Board Press statement is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/parole-board-welcomes-independent-review-of-victim-contact-and-extended-terms-of-reference-for-review-of-parole-processes

 

 

Written by lwtmp

January 24, 2018 at 12:46 pm

New Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

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In October 2015, a new Code of Practice for Victims was published, replacing one originally published in 2013. It sets out in some detail what victims of crime should expect from the criminal justice system. There are separate sections for adult and young victims. It also sets out the responsibilities the Code places on the key actors in the criminal justice system.

It is relevant to all stage in the criminal justice process: investigation and pre-trial; the trial itself; and post-trial.

The code summarises the entitlements as follows:

You are entitled to:
• A written acknowledgement that you have reported a crime, including the basic details of the offence;
• An enhanced service if you are a victim of serious crime, a persistently targeted victim or a vulnerable or intimidated victim;
• A needs assessment to help work out what support you need;
• Information on what to expect from the criminal justice system;
• Be referred to organisations supporting
victims of crime;
• Be informed about the police investigation, such as if a suspect is arrested and charged and any bail conditions imposed;
• Make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) to explain how the crime affected you;
• Read your VPS aloud or have it read aloud on your behalf, subject to the views of the court, if a defendant is found guilty;
• Be informed if the suspect is to be prosecuted or not or given an out of court disposal;
• Seek a review of the police or CPS’s decision not to prosecute in accordance with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and CPS Victims’ Right to Review schemes;
Be informed of the time, date and location and outcome of any court hearings;
• Be informed if you need to give evidence in court, what to expect and discuss what help and support you might need with the Witness Care Unit;
• Arrange a court familiarisation visit and enter the court through a different entrance from the suspect and sit in a separate waiting area where possible;
• Meet the CPS advocate and ask him or her questions about the court process where circumstances permit;
• Be informed of any appeal against the offender’s conviction or sentence;
• To opt into the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS) if the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more for a specified violent or sexual offence;
• If you opt in to the VCS to:
– make a VPS for consideration by the Parole Board if the offender is considered for release or transfer and apply to the Parole Board to read it out at the hearing;
– make representations about the conditions attached to the offender’s licence on release and be informed about any licence conditions relating to you;
• Apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme;
• Receive information about Restorative Justice and how you can take part;
• Make a complaint if you do not receive the information and services you are entitled to, and to receive a full response from the relevant service provider.

To see the whole Code, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crimeThis also gives links to a leaflet about the code and a text of a note that is given to victims.

Written by lwtmp

December 1, 2015 at 11:35 am

Posted in Chapter 5

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Reflecting on how measures set out in the Queen’s Speech 2015 may impact on the English Legal System

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The Queen’s Speech sets out each year the bare bones of the proposed legislative programme for the forthcoming 12 months.

I’ve been looking through the detailed briefing to see whether there are issues which will affect the English Legal System (ELS) that may not be apparent from the speech itself.

Here are my personal comments:

Enterprise Bill.

The headline aim of the new Bill is to reduce red tape and improve the ways in which regulators work. But there are also two specific ELS related issues that may be noted:

  • Establishing a Small Business Conciliation Service that will handle business-to-business disputes without the need for court action, tackling  in particular, late payment issues;
  • Introducing business rates appeals reform, including modifying the Valuation Tribunal powers to consider ratepayer appeals.

Immigration Bill

Among proposed measures to be set out here, there are proposals to change the way in which immigration appeals work. In particular, the Government plans to:

Extend the principle of “deport first, appeal later” from just criminal cases, to all immigration cases. In 2014 the
last government cut the number of appeal rights but other than foreign criminals, migrants retain an in-country
right of appeal against the refusal of a human rights claim. We will now extend the “deport first, appeal later” principle to all cases, except where it will cause serious harm.
Devolution
In addition to the well publicised plans to devolve further legislative power to the Scottish Assembly Government, there are also proposals for a new Wales Bill and a Northern Ireland bill that will also contain detailed devolution measures.
English Votes for English Laws
This contentious measure, designed to ensure that only English MPs vote on legislative measures that will only apply in England is to be introduced, not by legislation, but by changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
Investigatory Powers Bill
Among other issues this will deal with the question of who should authorise various forms of electronic surveillance – the Home Secretary or senior Judges (as recently recommended by the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism legislation)
Policing and Criminal Justice Bill
Among other things, this will change the law on Bail, The proposals are
To create a presumption that suspects will be released without bail unless it is necessary.
The Bill would initially limit pre-charge bail to 28 days, with an extension of up to three months, authorised by a senior police officer.
In exceptional circumstances, the police will have to apply to the courts for an extension beyond three months, to be approved by a magistrate.
This will introduce judicial oversight of the pre-charge bail process for the first time, increasing accountability and scrutiny in a way that is manageable for the courts.
British Bill of Rights
Proposals on this are delayed.
Victims of Crime Bill
This will put existing protections for Victims on a statutory footing and give greater protection to victims and witnesses
Votes for Life Bill
This will give UK citizens who live abroad a life time right to vote, rather than, as at present losing that right after 15 years.
Draft Public Sector Ombudsman Bill
Proposals to merge the current Parliamentary Commissioner, local government ombudsmen and the Health Service Ombudsman will be considered in a draft Bill.
Of course at this stage, most of the details are not available and they may well change during their various Parliamentary processes. But it is worth noting these issues so that you can keep an eye on them.
For more detail go to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2015-background-briefing-notes

Victims in the criminal justice system: getting the balance right

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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.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-tracking-service-launched-for-victims-of-crime

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.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/courtroom-communications-experts-to-double

Written by lwtmp

March 3, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Pre-recorded evidence trial

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An issue which has received a lot of public attention in recent months is the way in which some witnesses in criminal trials are required to give their evidence. In a pilot experiment in three courts, including Kingston Crown Court, the most vulnerable victims and witnesses are able to give their evidence and be cross-examined away from the intense atmosphere of a live courtroom, in an attempt to spare them from what could be aggressive questioning in front of jury, judge and their alleged attacker.

People who may find it difficult to give their best possible evidence in a courtroom environment and all child victims will be considered for pre-trial cross-examination. This allows them to give their evidence and be cross-examined by both prosecution and defence barristers ahead of the trial, in front of a judge. The video recording is then shown to the jury as part of the trial. Previously victims could have been subject to lengthy, stressful questioning by multiple barristers in view of jurors and the public gallery.

This initiative follows the recent review of the Victims’ Charter.

If the pilot works, the new procedure will be rolled out across the country. This will be particularly relevant to cases involving the abuse of children and victims of rape and other assaults.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/first-victims-spared-harrowing-court-room-under-pre-recorded-evidence-pilot

Written by lwtmp

June 2, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Chapter 5

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Victims’ right to review prosecution decisions

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From June 2013, there has been a procedure in place allowing victims to ask the CPS to review any decision not to take a case forward, either by not charging a person or by continuing procedures. In most cases, this involved a process of reviewing the initial decision by a more senior officer within the CPS.

An enhanced procedure is available for certain classes of victim:

  • Victims of the most serious crime
  • Persistently targeted victims
  • Vulnerable or intimidated victims

Their rights are now set out in a revised version of the Victims’ Code that was published in December 2013.

A detailed summary of the procedure is at http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/victims_right_to_review/, which also has a link to the full Victims’ Code.

Written by lwtmp

March 3, 2014 at 11:57 am