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Victim and Witness Strategy

Volume 547: debated on Monday 2 July 2012

The Government will, today, publish their response to the consultation “Getting it right for Victims and Witnesses” which began on 30 January and ended on 22 April 2012.

When I published the consultation document I observed that victims too often feel themselves to be an afterthought for the criminal justice system. Despite improvements over the last two decades, the system has continued to fall short—whether in relation to helping victims recover in the aftermath of a crime, supporting them through the stresses of investigation and trial, or providing the right services, funded as far as possible by offenders rather than the taxpayer.

That is why I set out a package of proposals to remedy these weaknesses, and deliver a more intelligent and coherent service for victims. My plans included increasing spending on victims’ services, with extra money coming from offenders themselves; reforming the criminal injuries compensation scheme so that it is focused on seriously injured victims of serious crime, and strengthening victims, rights so that victims feel less like accessories to the system, kept in the dark about their case, or expected to sit next to families of perpetrators in court.

The consultation elicited over 350 written responses, which we have carefully considered. They have helped us refine our proposals. We are taking forward a package of reforms that will, I believe, meet the whole range of ambitions I set out in the consultation document.

The response I am publishing today includes summaries of the comments received on our proposals and it sets out the policies we will now take forward. The reforms are wide ranging.

First, I intend to proceed with plans to make improvements to the support available for victims, raising up to an additional £50 million from the perpetrators of crime through the victim surcharge and other financial impositions. The way in which support for victims is purchased will also be subject to reform. We will move to a mixed model of national and local commissioning. The budget for the bulk of services will be devolved at local level to police and crime commissioners who will decide which services are needed in their communities. For some specialist support services, including rape support centres and support to those bereaved by homicide, my Department will continue to commission services nationally. Police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections will be taking place this November. The decision on when funding for victims services will transfer to PCCs will be made in due course but we would not envisage this happening any later than April 2015.

Secondly, our system of criminal injuries compensation will be reformed so it is properly focused on victims of the most serious crimes. The revised scheme will, for the first time, be placed on a sustainable footing. There will be an end to payments for minor injuries, and to those with serious criminal convictions.

There will be a revised victims’ code, setting out more clearly what victims can expect from the criminal justice system and ensuring that victims are treated always with dignity and respect. We will consult on a new draft code next year.

These reforms will also, among other things, aim to increase the use of restorative justice and of the victim personal statement. Both can help victims to cope and recover, both have a valuable role to play in the criminal justice process.

We will also put in place the first statutory compensation scheme for British victims of terrorist atrocities abroad. It will see Britons who are targeted in future terrorist attacks overseas compensated in the same way as domestic victims of terrorism.

In the light of the major reforms that the Government are announcing today to improve services for victims and introduce greater local accountability, the Government will consider how best to ensure that victims’ interests are well represented and review the role of the victims’ commissioner while the new framework for victims is established.

I will lay the following secondary legislation before Parliament today:

The draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012. This replaces the 2008 scheme. It provides compensation to victims of violent crime in Great Britain, including bereaved relatives.

The draft Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme 2012. This is a new scheme to compensate British, EU and EEA nationals resident in the UK who may be injured or have a relative killed in a future act of overseas terrorism designated as such by the Foreign Secretary for the purposes of the scheme.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Surcharge) Order 2012. This will increase the victim surcharge payable by an adult on a fine and extend the surcharge to conditional discharges, community sentences and custodial sentences including suspended sentences. Similar provision will be made in respect of juveniles.

Copies of the draft schemes and their associated documents will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Copies are available in the vote office and the printed paper office. The response to the consultation can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk.