Today, I am launching the Government’s Consultation on revising the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Code), which sets out our proposals for improving the Code.
This consultation is the first step in strengthening the Code, one of the overarching improvements to victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system which we committed to in the cross-government Victims Strategy, published in September last year.
The vision we set out in the Victims Strategy is one of a justice system that supports even more victims to speak up by giving them the certainty that they will be understood, that they will be protected, and that they will be supported throughout their journey, regardless of their circumstances or background.
As part of delivering on that vision one of our key commitments was to amend the Code to address its complexity, accessibility and language and consult on a revised version. We also committed to update entitlements in the Code so they are better reflective of victims’ needs. This thematic consultation sets out our proposals for amending the Code and will inform our second consultation on a revised draft Code.
Some of the proposals included in the consultation are:
- Greater clarity around victims’ rights, such as a right to be given information about the investigation and criminal proceedings and the right to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS);
- A statement within the Code that victims who do not report the crime or withdraw from the criminal justice process are entitled to the same support as those who do report the crime;
- Creation of a short, user-friendly overview of the Code to summarise the key points that all victims need to know (and a separate one for children/young people);
- Creation of a guide for practitioners working in the criminal justice sector on how to apply the Code;
- Revising the current categories for victims entitled to an enhanced service to make it simpler, with a greater focus on identifying and meeting the needs of the victim.
However, amending the Code is only part of the picture. To strengthen the Code we also committed to:
- Introduce improved reporting, monitoring and transparency to strengthen compliance with the Code.
- Bring forward proposals for a consultation on the detail of the Victims’ Law, including strengthening compliance with the Code and the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner.
We are already working with Police and Crime Commissioners and Local Criminal Justice Partnerships to improve compliance with the Code through improved reporting, monitoring and transparency on whether victims are receiving entitlements. This goes hand in hand with amending the Code. On 1 April we issued the first iteration of a framework for compliance with the Code.
Once we have revised the Code we will then consult on the detail of victim focussed legislation. As part of that we want to strengthen the enforcement of the Code to make sure victims receive the services they are entitled to, and criminal justice agencies are held to account if they don’t. We also want to explore increasing the Victims’ Commissioner’s powers to better hold government to account. However, to do that we first need to revise the Code to make sure that the entitlements victims receive are the right ones in the first place.
In developing the consultation, we have engaged extensively with victims and victims’ groups and considered the views and recommendations made by key stakeholders including the Victims’ Commissioner and the London Victims’ Commissioner. This has ensured the consultation is informed by those who have had direct experience of being a victim, as well as those with frontline expertise.
The consultation is available in full at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposed-changes-to-the-victims-code
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords