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Victim Treatment

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 15 March 2007

21. What assessment he has made of the impact of the prosecutors’ pledge on the treatment of victims and their families by the Crown Prosecution Service; and if he will make a statement. (127492)

The prosecutors’ pledge introduced in October 2006 makes a series of commitments about how prosecutors communicate with victims, with the aim of improving performance. At this stage, it is too early to assess the full impact of the pledge. The CPS has implemented management controls to seek to ensure compliance and the witness and victim experience will also provide some feedback on key elements of the pledge.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. He will know that the question was prompted by the experience of a friend of mine whose nephew was assaulted in a street in Slough. The case took more than a year to come to court and the prosecution eventually failed, in part because of a lack of confirmatory identification evidence. That showed me how devastating it is for the families of the victims of violent crime not to know what is going on. Can my hon. and learned Friend assure me that the prosecutors’ pledge will include better information for victims and their families while a case is being pursued and that lessons, such as that about identity parades, are learned and promulgated as a result?

I have had a similar case in my constituency recently. In a manslaughter case the family were not properly informed. There is a need to ensure that the CPS and other agencies deal with victims and families more effectively than they have done. The prosecutors’ pledge has only recently been introduced and it is about changing attitudes and behaviour and improving the way in which the criminal justice system operates by putting victims and witnesses at its heart.

My hon. Friend has let me know of the circumstances of the case that she mentioned. There are lessons to be learned on the identification issues, but the initial charging advice was provided by a Crown prosecutor who advised the police that, given the issues in the case, there was no requirement for a video identification procedure. However, subsequently that advice had to be looked at again. Lessons must be learned when the system has failed victims or their families, and it is necessary that the prosecutors’ pledge be delivered on. It is about changing and improving the whole way in which our criminal justice system operates.