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Victims Law

Volume 658: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2019

Mr Speaker, I will endeavour to croak my way through my response.

We published the first ever pan-Government victims strategy in September 2018 containing 88 commitments, of which we have already implemented 24, to better support victims of crime. Among those is a commitment to consult this year on the revised victims code and details of victim-focused legislation, reaffirming our manifesto commitment to such a law.

I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending condolences and expressing shock at the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Sadly, it highlights the issue of the effect on victims of terror incidents, whether in this country or abroad. When will the Government come forward with a law to ensure that victims are properly supported, because all too many reports from victims in previous incidents suggest that that has not been the case?

I join my hon. Friend in his expression of condolence and sympathy to all those who were affected by the horrific events in Sri Lanka over the weekend. It is vital that we get any new legislation right—hence our commitment to consult. We will first revise and strengthen the victims code and then identify any legislative gaps arising from that. We will consult on a victims law this year and bring forward legislation subsequently when parliamentary time allows.

I am grateful to the Minister and the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) for what they said. Many Members will have noted what is on the Annunciator, but for those who have not I simply give notice of the intention for us to hold one minute’s silence in respectful memory of those who tragically and horrifically lost their lives in Sri Lanka, and that will take place after the urgent questions and immediately before the first of the ministerial statements.

Does the Minister agree that the tragic victims are those people who cannot speak because they have been killed by an accident or a violent crime? Will he meet me to discuss the case of a bereaved family whose little girl was killed 15 months ago as a driver crashed into a bus queue? The driver not only killed the little girl, an only child, but seriously injured another woman. They have not been prosecuted. Can we have a chat about that?

I would not want to comment on specific cases on the Floor of the House, and although decisions on prosecution are not a matter for Ministers, I would, as always, be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.

If prolific repeat offenders spent longer in jail there would be fewer victims of crime in all of our communities. Does the Minister agree?

I believe that the key to seeing fewer victims of crime is effective rehabilitation of offenders and breaking the cycle of offending. That is exactly what I and the Secretary of State are focused on.

My constituent Kristian Thompson would have been 27 years old today had his life not been taken when he was 19 years old after he was the victim of a one-punch attack. His mam, Maxine, set up the charity One Punch UK. This week is One Punch Awareness Week when many people who have lost loved ones are pleading with the Government to follow Australia and Canada and create a one-punch law imposing a minimum sentence for perpetrators. Why are the Government continuing to resist doing so?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady and I send my sympathies to Kristian’s family and friends on the terrible events that she has just described. I am very happy to look at what she is proposing, and if she would like to write to me, I will respond as fully as I can.

A vital feature of justice for victims is financial redress, so why have this Government presided over a near 60% fall in the number of victims of violent crime receiving payments from the criminal injuries compensation scheme?

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for her question. Our ongoing review of the criminal injuries compensation scheme has one simple aim: to make sure that it better supports victims and reflects their needs in the 21st century. Indeed, last year we awarded compensation of more than £154 million, and recently, we have announced that we are abolishing the “same-roof” rule so that many more victims can make claims. In respect of the specific issue to which she refers, which I believe was covered in The Guardian newspaper recently, I would sound a slight note of caution about the figures for 2010-11 being a benchmark as I understand there is a possibility that they were inflated that year due to a £30 million pay-out specifically for compensation for asbestos-related conditions. None the less, I welcome her engagement with the review that we will be undertaking this summer.