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Crown Prosecution Service: Communication with Victims

Volume 695: debated on Thursday 20 May 2021

How we communicate with victims is absolutely critical to the delivery of justice. Having spoken to the Director of Public Prosecutions and others at the CPS, I know that they are fully committed to and understand the importance of clear and open communications to victims, giving explanations about their cases. That is why the CPS is carrying out a root and branch review to assess how best to deliver on its commitments to victims.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for her response. What steps is the CPS taking to ensure that, in cases where the victim is known to have autism and other mental health conditions, they receive priority communications so that their mental health is not put under yet more pressure?

My hon. Friend raises an important question. In 2019, the CPS published its revised guidance on prosecuting cases where the defendant may have a mental health condition or disorder. Furthermore, where the CPS is aware that a victim has autism or mental health issues, it will consider writing in addition, or instead, to a guardian or parent, to deal with that case. For cases of rape or serious sexual offence, the CPS ensures that either the police officer overseeing the case or the independent sexual violence adviser is present to help explain to the victim any decision taken by the CPS in relation to the case.

It is essential that victims receive justice for the crimes committed against them. How is my right hon. and learned Friend ensuring that victims in Clwyd South, and elsewhere in the UK, are aware of their right to challenge unduly lenient sentences?

I am pleased that my hon. Friend has highlighted the importance of the ULS scheme. The Attorney General’s office promotes that scheme on social media, and we are working with the Ministry of Justice to raise awareness of the scheme as part of the revised victims code that came into force last month. For example, the code now includes a requirement for the witness care unit to inform victims of the scheme promptly when sentencing takes place. That will help improve awareness of the scheme, including for my hon. Friend’s constituents in Clwyd South.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the draft victims Bill provides an important opportunity to place the victims code on a proper statutory basis? Will she consider whether the Justice Committee would be suitable to carry out prelegislative scrutiny? Does she agree it is important that the code includes communication pre-charge by the police, as well as by the CPS post-charge, as both are equally important?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the victims Bill. As he says, that Bill will have prelegislative scrutiny, and we welcome the Justice Committee’s views on that. He is right to highlight the importance of the work that goes on pre-charge, as well as post-charge, and we will be looking carefully at those matters.