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Victims of Crime (Code of Practice)

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 17 December 2013

We are working with all service providers who have duties under the victims code to ensure that their operational systems, guidance and training are updated to deliver their new responsibilities to victims of crime. We will continue to work with our criminal justice partners to ensure there is appropriate oversight of the new code at a local and national level.

I am immensely grateful for that.

“There is more to be done to ensure agencies are made accountable under the code…this needs to be backed up by statutory powers.”

Those are not my words but the words of the Victims’ Commissioner herself. At every turn, the Government have paid lip service to victims and then acted against them. They have made the Victims’ Commissioner job part-time and then savaged the criminal injuries scheme. Will the Minister now give the victims code some real teeth, and not just warm words?

I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is massively out of touch with the sector that deals with victims if he expresses those views. When we launched the victims code, it was welcomed by a wide range of our partners in the voluntary sectors, including Victim Support and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The victims code is a significant step forward from the old impenetrable code that the previous Government put forward, and it has been welcomed by those who know most about the sector.

The one thing victims want most is to know that the perpetrators of the crime are brought to justice. Can the Minister assure us that we are doing enough to ensure that associates of the offender, or people who saw something, have the ability to report what they saw without fear of recrimination? If necessary, they can do it confidentially to start with.

That would be good police practice. One thing we are doing with the code is ensuring that the guidance that goes out to the police from the College of Policing will be improved to fit with the victims code. In other parts of the criminal justice system, both with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts themselves, the code will make a difference in all instances and will enable victims to feel more confident.

The Secretary of State is planning to cut funding for Victim Support in London at a greater rate than anywhere else in the country. Will the Minister listen to his friend the Mayor of London and ensure that victims in London get the support they deserve?

I am happy to assure the hon. Lady and everyone else in London that the amount of money going to Victim Support in London is going up, not down, as it is in every other region of the country. More money will go to victims’ services under this Government than under the previous arrangements.

The right hon. Gentleman is usually a thoughtful and intelligent Minister and he will be aware that we already have a variety of codes of practice and charters for victims scattered across different Government agencies. Like him, I meet victims of crime all the time and they complain that the codes are toothless and offer no means of redress if their entitlements are breached. How will the new code differ and how will he measure success?

It will differ in a number of ways. First, the new code is written so that victims will be able to understand it—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the previous code was not written in that way, as it was written by and for professionals. Secondly, there are specific rights in the code that were not in the previous code, such as the very important right for a victim to be able to make their personal statement in court after the sentence. Many victims have said that that is a significant step forward in enabling them to feel that they are being taken more seriously than they have been before.