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Victim Impact Statements

Volume 635: debated on Tuesday 23 January 2018

It is critical that the voice of the victim is heard in the criminal justice system. The victims code is clear that victims are entitled to make a victim personal statement to explain in their own words, to a court or to the Parole Board, how the crime has affected them. We are spending £96 million this year to fund critical support services for victims of crime. Under the code, all victims are entitled to a needs assessment to determine what emotional and practical support they need.

I know from a family in my constituency that making a victim impact statement, and having to do so regularly, is a very stressful and nerve-racking experience. What steps is he taking to ensure that in those situations the victim, rather than the offender, is the priority?

My hon. Friend has raised this with me before. We are committed to making sure that practical and emotional support is in place for victims throughout the criminal justice process, such as by providing independent sexual violence and domestic violence advisers. If victims wish to attend a parole hearing to present their victim personal statement, a Secretary of State representative is allocated to provide support and guidance on the day.

Steven Mullins was 12 years old when he was abducted, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered on his way home from school. His killer was released last month. Although the family submitted a victim impact statement, they feel extremely let down both by the Parole Board and by the victim liaison service, which have lost their letters, ignored their letters and left so many of their questions unanswered. It appears that a worrying pattern is emerging. Will the Minister please meet me and Mr and Mrs Mullins to give them some of the answers they deserve?

First, I express my sympathy with Mr and Mrs Mullins, who have experienced the most horrendous situation. In the context of another case, I have already made it clear that we need to look again at how the victim support process works. We want to look at that specific case and, more generally, at how we can improve the situation of victims. In this particular case, of course I am willing to meet the hon. Lady and Mr and Mrs Mullins to see if their concerns can be properly addressed.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. In 2009, my constituent Mr Samuel was acquitted of common assault following an unsuccessful prosecution centred on a fabricated witness statement by the police. Since then, his efforts to seek redress through the courts have been frustrated by a cover-up that I believe reaches right to the top of the Crown Prosecution Service. Will my right hon. Friend please accept a meeting with me at his earliest convenience to discuss the real issues concerning this case?

I am happy to meet my right hon. Friend. I am not in a position to comment on that particular case, but I am of course willing to engage with him.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his post. Victims must be at the heart of our justice system, but we have seen failings in enabling victims to give their impact statements in the Worboys case. We have seen the police failing victims, and victims are asking why there were no further prosecutions. In fact, victims feel let down throughout the process. I ask the Secretary of State once again to support victims, and to help to restore their faith and that of the wider public in our justice system. Will he agree today to an independent end-to-end review of the whole handling of this case?

As I announced to the House on Friday, Dame Glenys Stacey has agreed to undertake a fact-finding review of what happened with regard to victims in the Worboys case. It is important that we get to the bottom of precisely what happened and whether processes were followed. I am aware of conflicting evidence on that point, so it is important that we pursue it. I quite understand why the hon. Gentleman suggests an end-to-end review, and indeed there are questions that need to be considered about what happened in 2008-09 and so on. As I have said before, at the moment I want to focus on the immediate questions in front of us in terms of support for victims and the Parole Board process.

The proposed release of John Worboys has absolutely horrified and terrified his many, many victims. Like me, they are appalled to learn today that he has been moved to London’s category A Belmarsh Prison. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that he will do everything in his power to ensure that Worboys is released with strict licence conditions that keep him out of Greater London?

My hon. Friend has been tireless on this matter in recent weeks. The precise conditions are operational matters that are decided at operational level, but let me reassure him that nearly a fortnight ago I wrote to the relevant authorities and stressed the need to ensure that the concerns of victims are at the heart of the process and that the most stringent conditions are applied.