Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has today (9 December 2021) responded to a series of reforms to the criminal justice system announced by the Government today.
The announcement from Justice Secretary Dominic Raab sets out plans to consult on the first ever Victims’ Law, new scorecards published to increase transparency and hold criminal justice agencies to account and plans for community impact statements which would provide an opportunity to give a collective response to amplify victims’ voices.
A scheme sparing rape victims the stress of testifying in court will also be rolled out nationwide.
Emily Spurrell said, “For far too long our criminal justice system has been desperately underfunded and has failed to meet the needs of victims and survivors. All too often they feel ignored and overlooked. Instead of walking away from a courtroom feeling empowered, they are left retraumatised and deeply let down.
“The launch of this consultation by the Government today is a vital step in the creation of a long-overdue Victims’ Law.
“We must use this watershed moment to change the system for the better, ensuring it is designed to support and care for victims, truly listen to their voices and put their needs and experiences at the heart of the process.
“The outcome rates for survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence, in particular, are appallingly low. We must use this opportunity to radically improve their experiences. The decision to accelerate the roll out of section 28, enabling victims of sexual and modern slavery offences to pre-record their evidence and be spared the trauma of giving evidence in court, is a really positive first step in that process. Crucially though, adequate funding must be provided to criminal justice agencies to implement these important changes.
“I also welcome plans to increase the Victims’ Surcharge, ensuring criminals contribute far more towards vital services supporting those who have been subjected to harm. Many of these essential services have been chronically underfunded for far too long and are crying out for greater investment.
“I note with interest that the consultation suggests increasing the role of Police and Crime Commissioners in relation to helping victims who do not get the support to which they are entitled. This is a responsibility I would whole-heartedly embrace and I eagerly await more information about how this would look in reality.
“An important part of my role already is to monitor the entire criminal justice system across Merseyside. The publication of these quarterly performance scorecards will help me and my partners within Merseyside’s Criminal Justice Board to make national comparisons, identify good practice and make sure every agency is playing its part in improving the response for victims across our region.
“While today’s announcement is very welcome, there is much more to do if we are to drastically improve the support offered to victims. I sincerely hope this is just the start of the process in changing our system for the better.
“We need everyone’s help to make this new Victims’ Bill as effective as possible and I would encourage everyone to have their say during this eight-week consultation.”