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Complaint Systems (Victims of Crime)

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

7. What steps he is taking to ensure the effectiveness of complaints systems for victims of crime and others within the criminal justice system. (9419)

Policies are in place in individual criminal justice agencies to respond to complaints from victims and others. Improving the ability of victims to hold services to account and gain redress when things go wrong will be considered as part of a full review of victim and witness policy and services.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. If somebody has a complaint that their situation is being dealt with badly by the system, it is often difficult to know whether that is the fault of the police—in which case there is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is an effective system—or the Crown Prosecution Service, which does not have an adequate complaints system, and that means that people fall through the gaps. Will the Government take that into account as part of the review?

We will. I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s long-standing interest in such issues and some of the proposals that he has made in relation to them. We aim to improve the accountability of service providers and redress for complainants through the criminal justice system. It is important that we should address the fact that there can be confusion on the part of victims about whom they should complain to.

Last week an Enfield magistrate complained to me about the waste of court time. That magistrate spends one day a week dealing with prosecutions for dropping cigarette butts. If such cases are to be prosecuted, surely it would be in the best interests of the taxpayer and justice for them to be heard in a town hall, rather than in a courthouse.

It is important for us to look at the opportunities for the administration of justice that lie outside buildings. There has been the development of what became known as the “summary justice agenda”, which is actually administrative justice, with things such as penalty notices for disorder. However, I would be happy to talk to my hon. Friend about whether the case that he has raised has been dealt with in an appropriate manner.

The Minister of State will recall that at Justice questions on 15 June, he said in answer to me:

“We are aware of the important work that the National Victims’ Service is planning to do.”—[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 733.]

Given that, I am surprised that there is no reference whatever to the National Victims’ Service in the just-published draft structural plan for his Ministry. I wonder whether he could explain the omission of any reference to that service.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should read anything into that omission. I said then—and I say now—that we are reviewing in full the arrangements to ensure that victims are treated properly by the criminal justice system. Perhaps he will have already seen the strong speech that is to be made by the victims commissioner on such issues this evening. We take those issues immensely seriously, as we do to ensuring that justice is done for victims.