The Victims Code
Last month marked an important watershed for victims of crime. The Government published its new Victims Code, setting out a clear set of services and entitlements that every victim of crime can expect to receive from local agencies – agencies like the police, courts, crown prosecution service, probation service and the PCC.
I think the code is good news for victims in Essex. It means that for the first time victims can know what services and support they should receive, and most importantly, how to access them. They can also know how to complain to if they don’t receive the help they need and what action will be taken as a result. This puts victims back at the centre of the justice process where they belong.
For example, the code means that all victims can receive support after a crime, with the police having a responsibility to refer them to local services, so they can get help with practical issues as well as emotional support for them and their family if they need it. Extra, enhanced support will be available for all victims of the most serious crimes and to their families. All victims will now get the chance to make what’s called a ‘Victim Impact Statement’, which allows them to tell the court how the crime has affected them and the impact it’s had on their lives. If they want to, the victim can read this out in court or have someone read it out for them. This can give victims a real voice in the court room – something victims have been asking for for a long time. Local businesses will also be able to make impact statements, setting out the impact of the crime on their business and local community. These are just some examples of what the code can offer victims. You can find full details of the Victims Code on the Ministry of Justice website here.
In the Police and Crime Plan for Essex, I confirmed that supporting victims was one of my top priorities. I’ve spent the last 12 months meeting with victims themselves and with local victims support services. I’ve set up a Victim’s Forum so I can regularly listen to their issues and concerns. These meetings have shown me some of the amazing work that’s being done in our communities to support victims of crime, but it has also left me in no doubt that there is still much more to be done to give victims real confidence in policing and in the wider justice system.
In the last few weeks I have joined Basildon Women’s Aid for their AGM, met the Southend based Rape Crisis SOS group to discuss the challenges they face and hosted the latest meeting of my Victim’s Forum. I also routinely talk with individual victims of crime at the many public meetings that I have been holding around the county.
Many victims tell me about their frustrations of feeling that they haven’t got a voice in the system. They give examples of not being kept informed of their case as it goes through court; of not knowing if and when the perpetrator who committed the crime against them will be released from prison; of how they can access support such as housing and counselling for themselves and their children. As I move into my second year as PCC, I want to make sure that victims receive an excellent service from the police and other criminal justice agencies, and that the Victims Code is delivered to a high standard right across Essex. The Chief Constable is also championing this area, and has made victim confidence and satisfaction one of his key measures of success.
I would like to hear back from you on how you think I can help improve police and justice services for victims. Do send me through your thoughts – you can email me here – or visit the on-line consultation that I am running linked to my first year in post. I am genuinely keen to receive your ideas and use them to make services work better for victims in Essex.