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Victims of Crime

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

The Government are committed to providing more support than ever to victims of crime, and to giving them a louder voice in the criminal justice system. We have implemented a new victims code that tells people what to expect at every stage of the process. We aim to spend up to £100 million to support victims to cope and where possible recover from crime. This is roughly double what we currently spend, with offenders paying a much greater share. Last month we announced the first dedicated fund of £500,000 to support victims of male rape.

The Minister speaks of a code of practice. Will he confirm that if it is ignored by the police or the courts, the victim has no recourse whatsoever? The code is, in effect, toothless.

No, I would not say that at all because among our other innovations is a Victims Commissioner, whose basic role is to ensure that the code of practice is taken seriously by the police and by all other parts of the criminal justice system. Victims have much greater protection under this Government than they ever had under the previous Government.

Every year, about 3,000 burglars with 15 or more previous convictions are not sent to prison. How does releasing these people back on to the streets to continue their crime spree help victims of crime? Is it not time that legislation was introduced to ensure that persistent burglars must be sent to prison?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome the “Transforming Rehabilitation” proposals, which will mean that those receiving even sentences of under 12 months will for the first time receive help in prison, which will ensure that they are much less likely to reoffend when they come out.

Since May 2010, we have had 15 months with no Victims Commissioner at all, and two years with a part-time Victims Commissioner. What kind of signal does the Minister think that sends about this Government’s attitude to victims of crime?

One of the most ironic heckles I have ever heard is the shadow Justice Secretary shouting “Part-time”, when that is the method that he adopts to his job.

About 550 people lose their lives in homicides throughout the country each year. For the families left bereaved by these tragedies, the dreadful impact can last for many years afterwards. Victims of crime often need long-term or even life-long support. Will the Minister therefore explain why the Government’s new homicide service will not be providing services to families who have lost a loved one prior to April 2010?

As the hon. Gentleman says, the homicide service will deal with those who have been bereaved by homicide over the past few years, but more money has gone to local police and crime commissioners, and they can commission additional services, which may well include some of the groups that I know are worried about the services they are providing to more distant victims of homicide. I can assure him that I am equally concerned about that, but the PCCs will deal with them.