7. What his strategy is for supporting victims of crime. (908090)
The Government are committed to putting victims and witnesses first in the criminal justice system and to ensuring that they have high quality, effective and timely support to help them cope and, as far as possible, recover from the effects of crime. We published our document on commitments to victims in September 2014 and introduced a package of reforms that will provide even more support to victims, including establishing a new nationwide victims’ information service, strengthening the protection of vulnerable victims and witnesses at court, increasing transparency and accountability so that agencies are held to account for the services that they provide, and planning a victims law, setting out entitlements for victims in primary legislation. It is also worth saying that, under this Government, funding for services to support victims of crime has more than doubled to some £92 million in the coming financial year.
Murdered police officer Nicola Hughes was one of my constituents. Her father, Bryn, has worked relentlessly to campaign and raise funding for victims of crime, especially children, to help those who have lost a family member to violent crime and to keep Nicola’s memory alive. Bryn’s own experience of the criminal justice system was not a good one. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will be supporting the proposals for a victims law in Labour’s victims taskforce report, which will transform the experience of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system?
Let me first pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s constituent. We were all horrified and shocked by the terrible events that led to his loss. I extend my condolences, my gratitude to him, and indeed my gratitude to all the families of murder victims who have turned a terrible experience into positive work to help support the victims of crime, and to try to prevent these terrible events happening in future. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. It is clearly not our intention to allow the Labour party an opportunity to introduce a victims law, but it will be the intention of a Conservative Government to do just that and to continue the work we have been doing in this Parliament to extend the support provided to victims.
At the Justice Secretary’s first Question Time, he spoke of the importance of ensuring that victims get timely information. As this is the last Justice Question Time of this Parliament, will he update the House on what progress has been made in using technology to ensure that victims are put first when it comes to information about their cases?
We are making good progress towards the introduction of the victims information service, which will signpost victims to services available locally. We intend to mesh that with the current system for tracking crimes, so that we have a single point where victims can find out the situation with the case they are going through. It is really important that we do the right thing for victims, and we have done as much as any previous Government to step forward and provide that support.
The Secretary of State must acknowledge that many victims of crime feel that the criminals have more rights and protection than they do. For many that is not only a perception, but a reality. Therefore, we urgently need not only a strategy to support victims through the very difficult circumstances of their trauma, but to prove through the sentencing process that crime does not pay.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased that under this Government sentence lengths have increased. It is absolutely right and proper that those who commit crimes should serve a proper period of recompense for what they have done. Of course, it is also important that we rehabilitate them to ensure that they do not do it again.
The whole House will have been disturbed by the story of Geraldine and Peter McGinty, parents who lost their son and have been repeatedly let down by the criminal justice system. After they heard from a judge last year that their victims’ personal statement would make no difference, the Justice Secretary met them and promised that they would be kept informed about the progress of their case. This month they were among the last to learn that their son’s killers are being released into an open prison. Does the Justice Secretary agree that the fact that victims can be forgotten like that, even after he personally intervened in the case, shows just why we need our plan for a victims law?
First of all, I have now met Mr and Mrs McGinty twice, including with the chief executive of the Parole Board, who apologised to them for the lack of information provided to them, and rightly so. This is about good practice and people behaving in the right way, and I am afraid that this kind of issue will not be solved by changes to the law; it will be solved by changing the culture in the system.