“As early as 2015, Government first committed to bring forward a Victims Law, “putting the key entitlements of the Victims Code in primary legislation”. This was intended to be a piece of legislation that would strengthen and enshrine victims’ rights and provide a much-needed cultural shift in our justice system. Unfortunately, more than eight years on, Government have failed to deliver, and we must further strengthen victims’ rights in this Bill.
Yesterday’s Report Stage and Third Reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the House of Commons was disappointing. Whilst Government have listened to calls to clarify victims’ rights to pre-trial therapy, allow them to access support even when an offence has not been reported, and make local agencies carry out joint strategic needs assessments, they have not gone far enough.
I am grateful they have listened to my call of many years to introduce Jade’s Law, to ensure that parents who kill a partner or ex-partner with whom they have children automatically have parental responsibility suspended upon sentencing, however they failed to use this opportunity to also ensure greater protections for more victims and children, leaving too many to fight to keep their children safe.
I am grateful to those Members of Parliament who fought tirelessly to place victims at the heart of the Bill and put forward amendments on a variety of areas in which we have long called for change, including:
- extending the definition of a victim to include those impacted by anti-social behaviour, and criminal activity abroad;
- placing stalking on the face of the Bill to recognise the severity of the crime, ensuring advocates can support victims as soon as possible;
- introducing an information sharing ‘firewall’ between police and immigration enforcement, providing a safe and secure reporting route for victims with insecure immigration status,
- protecting victims from intrusive and unnecessary requests for their counselling notes;
- and providing independent legal representation for victims of rape and sexual offences at key moment during their justice journey.
A group of survivors and I have been campaigning for ‘Open Justice For All’, to ensure that victims are able to access free court transcripts. Instead of listening to our calls and delivering a fundamental principle which should be at the heart of our justice system, Government have announced plans to run a one-year trial for rape victims to request sentencing remarks free of charge – a time-wasting plan that excludes too many victims from accessing justice.
Government have once again failed victims and proved they are unable to deliver on their long-overdue commitment to strengthen victims’ rights, and unable to reform our broken criminal justice system. I will continue to advocate for legally enforceable rights for all victims, and look forward to working closely with Peers as the Bill enters the House of Lords, with the vision of ensuring this Bill will truly provide the meaningful change victims in this country deserve.”
– Claire Waxman OBE, London’s Victims’ Commissioner