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Victims of Crime

Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2014

We published “Our Commitment to Victims” in September, which sets out a broad package of reforms, including a victims law that we will bring forward. Money is not everything, but we have increased the budget to £100 million for victims and victim support.

The whole House knows how much the Justice Secretary detests being held to account for his actions by judicial review, but because of this Government’s actions, 40% of women subjected to domestic violence are denied access to justice as a result of changes to legal aid. Does the Minister agree that a sign of a healthy democracy is groups such as Rights of Women challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s actions? Does he also agree that for so many women suffering domestic abuse to go without access to justice is a national disgrace?

Looking after victims and witnesses is one of the most important things that any Government can do, and I would have thought that there was cross-party agreement on the sort of work we all need to do to ensure that they are looked after. The hon. Gentleman’s question was very detailed, so I will write to him, because that is how we should answer questions when they are that long.

Many victims of crime still find the judicial process confusing and intimidating, so what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to make sure that vulnerable victims of crime find the court process less harrowing?

It is important that victims and witnesses have the confidence to go to court and give evidence in a way that they feel comfortable doing. We must amend the way that the court process works, and we must use video much more, particularly with young and vulnerable children. That is the sort of thing we are going to do as we go forward, and I would have thought that that had cross-party support.

Does the Minister agree that before a prisoner is downgraded to being suitable for an open prison, the victim of the crime should be consulted on whether that is appropriate? Can my hon. Friend guarantee that in all cases that will start to happen?

It is important that victims are informed at each stage of the pathway, from when they report the crime to when the offender is released from prison. They should not have a veto, but they should be consulted.