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Victims of Crime

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2013

For many years now, victims have felt completely overlooked and unsupported by the criminal justice system. As victims Minister, I am determined to put that right. That is why we are implementing a range of reforms that will put victims at the very heart of the criminal justice system, which is where they belong.

Two weeks ago, The Sunday Times revealed that investigations of sexual abuse in Rochdale are faltering because police are failing to win the trust of victims. Does the Minister believe that a higher conviction rate would be achieved against the predators if Greater Manchester police had more officers with better skills for supporting vulnerable victims?

I cannot comment on individual cases, especially those that are at a sensitive point in the investigation, but I can assure the House and the hon. Gentleman that the Government are committed to bringing forward changes that will help to support victims of sexual abuse at every stage of the criminal investigation.

Reports by the organisation Support After Murder and Manslaughter Abroad consistently highlight the fact that more support is required for bereaved families—those who have lost loved ones through murder and manslaughter abroad. What steps is my hon. Friend the Minister taking to address those shortcomings?

We do a considerable amount of work, and we provide funding for families of homicide victims. I attended a conference run by a gentleman called Frank Mullane to discuss what he does for families who go through that appalling difficulty. I am happy to talk further with my hon. Friend about what measures are being taken and what else we are doing on those issues.

I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, that this Government have failed to implement the main recommendation made by the last victims’ commissioner, Louise Casey, before she left her post 18 months ago, which was to implement a victims’ law. The Government have also slashed the compensation available to victims of crime. During the last Justice questions, we heard that the Justice Secretary believes that it is the fault of the victims of rape that so many men receive cautions for rape. Does the Minister believe that it is possible to have a criminal justice system that is on the side of victims while her party is in government? If so, when will it happen?

The Government are absolutely committed to looking after victims and witnesses of crime. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we currently spend £66 million on victim services. Not content with that, we want to raise even more money for victims—up to £50 million—through the victims’ surcharge. We are also raising money through the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996, giving victims a louder voice through the appointment of Baroness Newlove as victims’ commissioner and clarifying victims’ entitlements through reform of the victims’ code, on which we will consult in due course.

On the victim surcharge, what is being done to ensure that all the fines are being collected so that they can be used to support victims?

The victims surcharge is potentially a large amount of money that will be raised for victims and witnesses. As Minister with responsibility for courts as well as for victims, I assure my hon. Friend that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service will continue to prioritise collection of financial penalties, including the surcharge.