Today, I am launching this Government’s consultation on a draft revised Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Code) and the response to last year’s consultation on proposed changes to the Code.
The consultation builds on that undertaken last summer and is another major step towards meeting the commitment made in the cross-Government Victims’ Strategy to strengthen the Victims’ Code. It also fulfils our statutory obligations under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to publish and consult on a draft version before amending the Code.
We are grateful to victims, stakeholders and the public at large who took time to respond to the initial consultation. We have carefully considered their responses which wholeheartedly endorsed our proposed approach to change. Their views have helped us to create the draft revised version of the Code and have played a significant part in helping us identify the key changes that we believe need to be made to ensure that victims’ rights are set out in a clearer, more coherent and meaningful way for victims.
It is vital that those who are caught up in the criminal justice system understand their rights and the minimum levels of service and information they should receive from criminal justice agencies.
We therefore propose to make a number of changes to the Code, but I want to be clear that the minimum levels of service and information that victims are currently entitled to under the existing Code will be maintained. Rather, the changes are designed to strengthen existing rights and deliver an improved service for victims, helping them to cope better when they may be experiencing trauma in the aftermath of a crime.
Building on the proposals made in the first consultation, key proposals include:
- Amending the Code’s structure and reducing its complexity, bringing together the current five chapters into one concise Code. We have merged the large number of existing entitlements and set these out as 12 clear overarching rights;
- While we have retained the existing eligibility categories for access to enhanced support and information, we have made clearer in the draft revised Code that service providers have the discretion to offer enhanced rights to victims who fall outside the scope of the existing categories;
- For the first time, victims of unrestricted mentally disordered patients in the Victim Contact Scheme will be allocated National Probation Service Victim Liaison Officers bringing greater parity in services for these victims, comparable to those received by victims of restricted patients;
- Again, for the first time, the draft revised Code specifically sets out the entitlements of victims of Foreign National Offenders; and
- We have also included practical information about how victims can access services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) and sign-posted them to where they can get help and advice if they are approached by the media.
Alongside our work to refine the Code, we are already looking into how to build victim awareness of the Code and their rights, including creating a short, user friendly overview and an online summary for victims. We are also working with Police and Crime Commissioners and Local Criminal Justice Partnerships to monitor and improve compliance with the Code.
After we have published the revised Code, we will turn to consulting on the detail of a Victims’ Law that will guarantee victims their rights and look to further strengthen enforcement of the Code.
The consultation is available at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/victim-policy/consultation-on-improving-the-victims-code
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords