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Victims of Crime

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2014

The Government are committed to providing timely and effective support to help victims of crime to cope and recover. We have implemented a new victims code that tells people what to expect at every stage of the criminal justice process. More money than ever before—up to £100 million—will be made available to provide victims with the support they need, with the majority of services commissioned locally by police and crime commissioners. We are also piloting pre-trial cross-examination to help vulnerable victims and witnesses give their best possible evidence, without subjecting them to the full atmosphere of the courtroom. The first cross-examinations were recorded last week.

I thank the Minister for his response. He has just reiterated what he said in March, which was that the Government plans for victim support and for supporting families of pre-2010 homicide victims will be dealt with by PCCs. However, I am a little confused because in a recent letter to me, the Minister seems to suggest that that will no longer be the case. Will the Minister please clarify his new position and explain what has changed his mind?

Most services will be commissioned by PCCs, but I am absolutely determined that the families of pre-2010 homicide victims should not be disadvantaged in any way, which is why I have made the decision that, if necessary, there will be back-up from a national fund so that no victims will lose out.

Victims of crime, the families of Ross and Clare Simons who were tragically killed by a disqualified dangerous driver with a raft of previous convictions, would like to thank the Secretary of State for his support for their campaign, Justice for Ross and Clare—as well as Members of this House who took part in a Backbench Business debate on dangerous driving in January—as shown by his significantly increasing sentences for those who kill or maim while driving dangerously while disqualified. What will be the legislative timetable for putting those sentences into law?

I am grateful for the support offered by my hon. Friend for the announcement made today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The short answer to his question is the start of next year.

We all want a criminal justice system with victims at its heart, but will the Minister confirm that although police reports of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual offences are all rising, the number of cases going to court is falling, that rape cases last year were up but rape convictions were down, and that some victims, including a 24-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted in Hull last March, are having to endure the agony of waiting more than a year for justice? What action will the Minister take to ensure that victims feel that the system is working for them rather than against them?

The Government have taken a significant number of actions. The hon. Gentleman asked about domestic violence. The Home Secretary has commissioned Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to conduct a comprehensive review, and as result of that review, she has written to every police force to seek their support for the Home Office’s strategy to address HMIC’s findings. He talks about rape victims, and he will know that the 2014 to 2016 rape support fund has provided funding to 80 rape support centres across England and Wales, and that this year the Ministry of Justice is providing funding for two extra rape support centres on top of the 13 set up since 2010.

In relation to supporting victims of crime and their families, I am delighted that the Secretary of State has now increased the sentence for those who cause death on the road while disqualified from two years to 10 years, which formed part of my Driving Whilst Disqualified (Repeat Offenders) Bill. Linked to that, the Secretary of State said that he would review sentencing for other road traffic matters. When is that likely to start, when will it be complete and will victims be able to have a say?

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend, who has campaigned long and effectively on this matter. The actions he wishes to see are in the process of being taken now.