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Delivering Justice for Victims

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 9 December 2021

Today, we are publishing a consultation on a new victims’ law to raise the voice of victims in our criminal justice system, expand their role in it and strengthen the accountability of all the agencies charged with supporting victims across the system.

We have a moral duty to protect the victims of crime, improve the level of service that they can expect from the criminal justice system and raise the quality of support that they receive. It is the right thing to do, but it is also essential on a practical level to ensure that in operational terms we have the most effective justice system possible. After all, we can secure convictions and bring down rates of crime only if victims have the confidence to report crimes to the police and engage with prosecutors to make sure that their testimony is heard in court. For both those reasons and at every level, we must do better.

As things stand, too many victims feel that the criminal justice system does not deliver justice for them. Too many feel let down by the system, which compounds the pain and suffering from the original crime. In fact, it is worrying that as many as three in five victims do not even report a crime that they have suffered. A survey by the Victims’ Commissioner shows that, based on their experience of the criminal justice system, a third of victims would not report a crime again. The evidence demonstrates that a third of victims who do go to police will later disengage from the process.

In those cases, justice is not delivered for victims, and the public are left exposed to criminals left to carry on offending. That must change. The Government are determined to improve the service and support that victims receive from the point at which a crime is reported right through to their experience in the courtroom.

We have already taken a range of actions to support victims. We have strengthened the victims code, which sets out the minimum standards that victims can expect. We have invested £300 million this year in victim support services, of which the Ministry of Justice has provided more than £150 million; we announced in the Budget that that will increase to £185 million per year by the end of this Parliament, ensuring that more victims can access what can be life-saving help. We have passed the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to protect victims and strengthen measures against perpetrators. We have published the end-to-end rape review report, setting out a plan of action to drive improvements for victims across the criminal justice system. We have begun to improve the trial experience for victims by rolling out pre-recorded cross-examination—known as section 28—for vulnerable victims, so that those who want to can give evidence earlier and outside the courtroom, making the process less harrowing so that victims can present their best evidence and helping to secure more convictions.

But we must go much further. I want to guarantee that victims are at the very heart of the criminal justice system. Rather than feeling peripheral to the process, victims should feel supported so that they can properly engage at every step. Our plan for delivering a world-class service to victims has five crucial elements that we will deliver through the victims Bill.

First, we want to amplify the voice of victims and ensure that they are properly engaged at every stage of the criminal justice system. We want to ensure agencies communicate with victims better. For example, we are consulting on the requirement for the prosecutor in certain types of case to communicate directly with victims before they decide whether to charge a suspect. We believe that such direct exposure to the victim is essential to giving them the confidence to go to trial and to see their cases through, and will help to reduce what are known as the victim attrition rates. As well as amplifying the voice of individual victims, these measures will strengthen the voice of whole communities. We intend to put explicit provision for community impact statements in the victims’ law and the victims code, mainstreaming their use in appropriate cases to ensure that the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts understand the wider scale and extent to which crime can blight whole neighbourhoods.

Secondly, we will increase transparency in respect of the performance of our criminal justice agencies. Today we are publishing the first national criminal justice and adult rape scorecards. They will bring together data to give a cross-system view of performance, including aspects that matter to victims such as how long it takes for cases to be investigated and charges to be made, how long cases wait in the courts before they go to trial, the number of guilty pleas, and what happens to cases when they reach court. One thing that is immediately clear from the data is that we must do better. Some cases are taking too long to get through the system. Covid-19 may be a factor in that, and we are working to bring down backlogs, but rape cases in particular are taking far too much time to get to court. That is not good enough and we are determined to put it right.

A further set of localised scorecards, giving the more granular local detail, will be published early next year. The scorecards will monitor victim engagement so we can see where in the system victims are being failed and take steps to fix that, and the local scorecards will show us where in the country the system is delivering for victims and where it is not. That data and that transparency will equip victims, and our criminal justice agencies more generally, to better monitor performance, and to better understand the problems in the system and address them more effectively, while spreading the very best practice more widely.

Thirdly, we want to ensure that there are clearer and sharper lines of accountability when victims do not receive the right level of service. We will enshrine the victims’ code in law to send a clear signal about what victims can and should reasonably expect from the criminal justice system. It follows that we must also hold the respective criminal justice agencies to account when it comes to delivering for victims. We will strengthen the oversight mechanisms and their focus on victims across the board, from complaints procedures to reinforced inspection regimes nationally and police and crime commissioners locally. That will give victims more effective redress when something goes wrong and it will improve accountability.

Members will recall the Government’s rape review action plan, which was published in June. Today I can announce that we are publishing a report detailing progress against its aims, so that we can hold criminal justice agencies to account for how much they have improved outcomes in tackling this horrendous crime.

Fourthly, we want to help victims to rebuild their lives through accessible and professional services, and ensure that criminals pay more to support those services. We propose to increase the victim surcharge, which helps to fund victim services; that will mean criminals paying more to right their own wrongs, and in the process help victims to recover from what they have suffered.

Our consultation will also meet the commitment made to the House, during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, to consult on the provision of support services for victims of domestic abuse. We want to improve the commissioning and co-ordination of services, particularly for victims of traumatic crimes—domestic abuse, sexual violence and other serious violence—so that they can be given the right support at the right time to help them recover. As part of that, we plan to strengthen the support available from independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers, which we know makes victims almost 50% more likely to remain engaged with the criminal justice process.

Finally, we want to ensure there are better tools to protect victims and prosecute culprits. We are already making significant progress, and I can announce today that we are planning a national roll-out to expand provision of section 28 pre-recorded cross-examination for sexual and modern slavery victims to all Crown courts, with the specific priority of ensuring that victims of rape across the country pre-record their evidence and avoid the ordeal of facing the full glare of the courtroom.

Let me explain how this will work. The CPS will decide, in consultation with the victim, whether to apply under section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The judiciary will retain oversight and discretion to ensure that the interests of justice are properly served. This has the potential to increase the number of successful prosecutions and earlier guilty pleas. The justice scorecards will help us to evaluate progress in this regard, and will highlight any challenges in practice. We will be guided by ongoing evaluation of data from courts already trialling the section 28 arrangements. I am committed to working carefully with the judiciary and criminal justice agencies on this expansion, as are my ministerial colleagues.

This Government will deliver credible change for victims. We will give them a more powerful voice at every stage of the criminal justice system. We will increase transparency and redress in respect of the support that they receive in practice. We will ensure that every criminal justice agency is properly held to account for its role in the wider system. We will better protect victims, especially victims of rape and sexual violence, to give them greater confidence about giving the testimony that can help to secure a conviction. We will make the perpetrators of crime pay more to help victims recover. That is our plan to give victims the justice they deserve, and to build back a better, stronger, fairer country. I commend this statement to the House.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving me early sight of his statement, which is welcomed by Labour Members. Goodness knows it has been a long time coming, having been promised time and again over several years. I only hope that the proposed consultation exercise is dealt with rapidly, that people are listened to and that we see proposed legislation with no further delay. I also hope that the Minister will tell us what he understands to be the timescale for that to happen. I can inform him that we will work constructively with the Government to ensure that the new victims’ law is fit for purpose, and is a law of which we can all be proud. He could even save himself some time by simply adopting Labour’s victims Bill, which actually does the job.

The Minister’s words were not just an illustration of how much the new law is needed, but a damning indictment of the Government’s inaction over the past decade. The number of victims who have dropped out of the system has doubled in the last five years, and a record of number of cases have collapsed over the last year. I know that the Minister has not been in his post for long, but he must be embarrassed to stand before us today and tell us that confidence in the justice system is so poor. Three in every five victims do not even report a crime, a third of victims would not report a crime again, and a third of victims who do go to the police drop out of the process before any case can come to court.

If we are to help victims, we must get the court system correct. In October 2021, the National Audit Office released a damning report on the Government’s handling of the court backlog. It found that the Crown court backlog had already increased by 23% in the year leading up to the pandemic, and had increased a further 48% since its onset. Not to put too fine a point on it, the NAO said that both the Ministry of Justice and its courts agency were not working together properly to solve problems which had their roots in pre-pandemic cuts.

The Government have their work cut out to deal effectively with rape cases alone. One in 67 rape complainants actually see a case come to court, and it can take four years for that process to be completed. The latest data from the Crown Prosecution Service shows that the number of rape convictions fell by 6.7% in the last quarter, and we have seen the conviction rate fall considerably, from 72.9% in quarter 1 of 2020-21 to 66.2% in quarter 1 of 2021-22, a reduction of 6.7%. The number of days from receipt to charge has been increasing quarter on quarter: according to the latest figures, it increased from 125 days to 170 days in the same period. Under this Prime Minister, rape victims are being abandoned by the justice system. At the current rate, it would take the Government 18 years to return to the pre-2016 levels of prosecution, which they promised to reach by the end of this Parliament.

We welcome the fact that section 28 is being rolled out, but it is all well and good for the Lord Chancellor to commit himself to overseeing that national roll-out; what I want to know is why it has taken so long. He could have got it moving much more quickly and saved more victims from the stresses of court if his Government had supported Labour’s amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill back in the summer. Can the Minister tell us what the timeframe is for this roll-out?

As for scorecards, perhaps the Minister can tell us what score he thinks we should give the Government with numbers like these. There are 3,357 victims of violent and sexual crime who have already been waiting over a year for their day in court, and a further 654 victims of these horrific crimes have been waiting over two years. Will he also assure us that he will have the extra resources to ensure that all his proposals can be implemented?

Five previous Justice Secretaries have promised a victims Bill, and all five have failed to deliver. Victims will have very little confidence that the current Justice Secretary will succeed where his predecessors have failed. It is damning that victims now tell us that their experience of the justice system was worse than the crime itself. Just 19% of victims believe that judges take account of the impact of crimes on them, and just 18% believe that they are given enough support. Fighting to overturn CPS decisions not to prosecute, lengthy court delays and people waiting years for their day in court—all this sends a very bad signal about how victims are treated by the justice system. We can see why women and girls, in particular, give up.

Since 2010, the CPS has faced a 25% budget cut and a 30% reduction in staff. Police forces in England and Wales lost 21,732 officers between March 2010 and March 2018—that is 15% of their total number. More than half of all magistrates courts in England and Wales have closed since 2010. It is an abysmal record.

Victims do not want a consultation; they want action. Labour has a ready-made Bill to end violence against women and girls, to clear the backlog through an increase in Nightingale courts and to fast-track rape and sexual violence cases. Our victims Bill would also improve rights, strengthen protections and accountability, improve communications and ensure that victims were no longer treated as an afterthought. This Government have come out with a statement today. They must now match their warm words with deeds and ensure that they fulfil their promise to put victims at the very heart of our criminal justice system.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was sorry to see his announcement last week that he would be stepping down from the House at the next general election. Having been a Government Whip, I have spent many hours with him on Bill Committees, and I have always appreciated the way in which he has gone about his business here in the House. I also appreciated the constructive tone that ran through at least the start of his response to my statement.

One thing that I am particularly concerned about in the approach that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to adopt here is that he keeps talking about a Bill that he and his colleagues have prepared. I do not think that being prescriptive about all this is the right approach. This is a fundamental reform and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver meaningful reforms and get this right, and I think the right approach is to have meaningful consultations with the sector, with victims, and with those with knowledge and experience in these matters, in order to deliver a policy that is fit for purpose and delivers on the aims that I would like to think all of us in this House agree on. At the end of the day, we are talking about the victims of crime. Some of them have been through horrendous, unthinkable trauma, and we owe it to them to come together constructively and responsibly and to debate these matters in a measured way to ensure that we get the response right for them. That is my job, and it is the responsibility of Members of this House and certainly of the ministerial team at the Ministry of Justice to get this right.

We have a strong record on crime, and of course the ultimate objective is to ensure that there are no victims in the first place. That is why we are committed, for example, to rolling out 20,000 extra police officers. We want to prevent crime from happening, and we want more police officers out on the beat catching criminals and deterring crime. That is exactly what we are doing. I repeat that our plan for victims will deliver a world-class service to them by amplifying the victims’ voice, by increasing transparency in the system—Members across the House will recognise the real importance and value of that—by strengthening accountability, by improving support for victims, including through criminals paying more towards the support we put in place, and by generally providing better tools to protect victims and prosecute criminals.

The approach that we take to these matters as a Department and as a Government is one of non-defensive transparency around the policy. Some of what we are announcing today is a starting point. This is an iterative process, for example, with the scorecards. I would welcome input from Members across the House about the scorecards and what more we can do to improve transparency so that we can drive genuine improvement.

The hon. Gentleman specifically raised the issue of the courts backlog. We have taken comprehensive action to address the backlog. As part of the spending review, we are investing £477 million in the criminal justice system over the next three years to help to reduce the backlog and to deliver the swift access to justice that victims deserve. We have taken decisive action, but the shadow team seems to have a pretty short memory. Prior to the pandemic, in February 2020, the courts backlog was 19% lower than it was in the last year of the Labour Government. Meanwhile, we have kept the wheels of justice moving in unprecedented circumstances, so the Opposition really do not have a leg to stand on in this regard. The courts Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), is here in the Chamber and is overseeing this important work.

Despite the Opposition’s criticism, the funding that we are putting in place is far in excess of anything that was ever put in place by the previous Labour Government. Our £185 million package is over four times as much as was spent in the last year of the previous Labour Government. Our record shows that we are on the side of the victims, while Labour failed to support them in the way that we are doing now.

On the issue of rape prosecutions, I would just draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the fact that the data on the scorecards relates to quarter 2. That provides important context, and we are obviously now six months on from that. Our plans will significantly improve the way in which the criminal justice system responds to rape. Before the end of the year, we will publish the first ever adult rape scorecard; introduce a single source of 24/7 support for victims of rape and sexual violence; roll out a new investigatory model—Operation Soteria—that focuses on the suspects’ behaviour rather than that of the victims; and expand pre-recorded cross-examination through section 28 for victims of rape and sexual violence. The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the implementation of that last policy, and it is of course crucial that we get it right and that it is delivered appropriately and sensitively. That is why we are working with our criminal justice partners and the judiciary to deliver that roll-out as quickly as possible and in an appropriate manner.

The point that I made at the start applies to how we debate these matters. We are talking about victims of crime, and I want us to have a constructive debate over the course of the next eight weeks as we consult on these measures. There is a comprehensive engagement plan in place to do that, and I would really welcome Members from across the House contributing their ideas, helping to shape this, and encouraging their constituents and the organisations that they work with in their constituencies to make their views and experiences known so that we can get this right and deliver the meaningful change that victims deserve.

I very much welcome this statement, and the tone with which the Minister has approached this matter. We need a serious and measured debate about how we best serve the victims of crime, and I particularly welcome the proposal to put the victims code on to a statutory basis. As he notes, this is something that the Justice Committee has called for, and the Committee stands ready to assist with any prelegislative scrutiny in that regard.

The Minister is right to flag up the issue of delays and their impact on victims, and one of the key causes of delay is victim attrition, particularly in relation to rape and serious sexual offences. The most important means of tackling that is sustained financial investment in the system, which, as he rightly observes, has been lacking for decades. It was lacking under previous Governments when I was in practice at the Bar, so no one party can claim a monopoly of concern on that. The current settlement is the best for decades, but will he ensure that it is applied to investment in maintaining the courts in good physical condition, maintaining the supply of good-quality judges—both full time and recorders—and, importantly, funding the legal profession properly so that we have good-quality barristers and solicitors available to prosecute and defend these important and sensitive cases. Good-quality lawyers on both sides speed up cases and give a better outcome for the victims.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his sage advice. It is fair to say that on these matters I am keen to have a constructive working relationship so that we can get this right, and I genuinely believe that the Justice Committee has an awful lot to contribute to the consultation process as we shape this policy. He is absolutely right about victim attrition. That has undoubtedly been a barrier to securing the greater numbers of prosecutions that we would all like to see delivered. Of course, section 28 will play a really important part in delivering on that, informed by the work on the trials of that technology that we have seen previously.

Independent sexual violence advisor provision is also important, and engagement with ISVAs has a significant role in helping victims to sustain their participation in the criminal justice system and in bringing perpetrators to justice. My hon. Friend also makes an important point about courts, and my hon. Friend the courts Minister has heard what he said. The £477 million injection that we are making in that regard is also important.

Jackie Wileman was on her daily walk when she was killed by four men who were joyriding a stolen heavy goods vehicle around Barnsley. Those four men had a hundred convictions between them, one had previously killed by dangerous driving and one was in the probation system. The judge gave them the maximum sentence of 14 years but said he would have liked to have given more.

Jackie’s brother Johnny has bravely campaigned on the issue of sentencing for dangerous driving, on which I welcome action, but Johnny and his family feel completely let down by every part of the system. Will the Minister outline how things would be different for Johnny under these proposals?

The hon. Lady is a strong advocate for her constituents, and she raises a very difficult and tragic case in her community. I am sure the whole House’s thoughts are with the family and friends of her constituent. It is important to say that we are taking action on this issue through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which I am sure she will welcome, to take sentences from 14 years to life.

I warmly commend my hon. Friend for his statement and the consultation document. As he will know from when he was my departmental Whip, a lot of the language in this document is familiar to me. I am pleased about that, because it is with a proper seriousness of purpose and a sense of acknowledgment of inadequacy that we have to approach this issue.

I put on record my thanks to Emily Hunt, the independent adviser on victims. I appointed her and worked well with her, and I can see her hand in this excellent document.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that, when this consultation finishes—and in the spirit of what he said about cross-party working, which is hugely important—we will have prelegislative scrutiny to get this once-in-a-generation Bill absolutely right for the future?

I am fond of my right hon. and learned Friend, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He made a significant contribution during his time as Lord Chancellor, and it undoubtedly shifted the dial considerably on many areas of policy in relation to the criminal justice system. He was consistently passionate about victims and wanting to see genuine improvement for them. It is fair to say that his hand is most definitely on this work, and I would never want to disregard the very good work that has been done previously. I am grateful to him for everything he has done in this regard, and I look forward to his participation in the consultation. I share in his remarks about Emily Hunt, and it is our intention to have prelegislative scrutiny to allow Members on both sides of the House to scrutinise and help shape the plans.

As the Minister knows, the Home Affairs Committee has also taken a great deal of interest in these matters. I welcome his statement on the intention of Ministers to make these changes to the criminal justice system to benefit victims. I am especially pleased that he mentioned the scorecards that will help spread best practice to areas that are not doing as well as they could and are basically letting down victims. Why does there not seem to be a specific strategy to tackle gender-based violence? That does not seem to be in this package as clearly or as up front as it should be. When will we get something on that?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the constructive tone of his question. The tackling violence against women and girls strategy, which was published in July, is fundamental to the work in this area. Separate from this session, I am sure Ministers would be happy to talk to him so that he can further understand our work in this inevitably important area.

I very much welcome the Minister’s statement, which emphasised the need for victims to be at the heart of the criminal justice system. I know from my experience as a magistrate that it can sometimes be difficult for victims to fully understand the sentences passed in the courtroom. Does he agree it is important for magistrates and judges to be very clear about how long will actually be spent in prison, or about how a community order will both punish and rehabilitate offenders?

My hon. Friend takes a real interest in these matters, and he has also been a tireless campaigner in this space. I am grateful to him for his contribution.

Transparency is always important, which is precisely why we are introducing the justice scorecards so that people can see more about the work that is happening and the state of play as it stands at any given time. For the reasons I set out, we want to drive improvement not just on a national level but in the local context. I hear my hon. Friend’s point, and I will gladly take it back. We should keep under constant review what more we can do to be transparent so that victims know exactly where they stand.

I visited Woolwich Crown court on Monday to meet the judges, and I saw the excellent work they are doing to keep the system running through these very difficult times. One point they made that echoes the points raised by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) is that they need more recorders and more qualified barristers—there is a problem in identifying the number of barristers needed to keep the system going. They also need covid funding to continue beyond the end of March, especially as we face this new variant. Jurors have no choice other than to be in court, and the court has had to create a safe environment. Some of the funding will disappear and some of the facilities will therefore have to be got rid of. Can we look at covid funding to ensure we keep the court system going and to ensure juries are looked after in court?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for talking about his experience of visiting his local court. It is important to point out that we are increasing the number of recorders, and of course we work in close collaboration with the judiciary on these matters. Ministers, as would be expected, have a strong working relationship with the judiciary to understand the needs that exist. Again, we are investing £477 million in court recovery.

I thank the Minister, my parliamentary neighbour, for his statement, and I congratulate him on his work on the new victims Bill. Residents in Kettering want to see fewer victims of crime and more criminals in jail paying for their crimes. As well as the national effort to help victims, what work is he doing with the Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner to get more localised support for victims in Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough?

I am grateful to my constituency neighbour, who is ever innovative in his questions. It is fair to say that many leaflets have gone out over the years with both of us on them to campaign for more police officers out on the beat catching criminals and deterring crime, which is exactly what we are delivering and what people in Corby and east Northamptonshire want.

We have an excellent police, fire and crime commissioner in Northamptonshire, Stephen Mold. I would urge Stephen to take part in this consultation and to get across the experiences and issues of victims in Northamptonshire so they can be reflected in this work and so we can get the policy right for residents in Northamptonshire and across the country.

As a former police officer trained in the handling of sexual offences, I know very well that victims must be at the heart of the criminal justice process. Allowing victims to prerecord evidence is a key part of that, and it already happens in Scotland. The Home Affairs Committee discussed the section 28 pilot last week, and concerns were raised in evidence that barristers and recorders have been unable to take on cases because the system is not sitting well alongside the standard court process. I am grateful for the outline of how the Government intend to implement section 28 further, but will the Minister advise me on what impact this feedback is likely to have on the roll-out?

I thank the hon. Lady for welcoming the section 28 reforms, and she is right that the reforms are pivotal to helping victims to come forward and to give their best evidence so we can secure prosecutions. She will appreciate that we are consistently discussing these matters with the judiciary, who, obviously, have a significant role in implementing this policy. We will make more detail on that known as the roll-out progresses, but I can assure her that these angles are being looked at closely and those discussions are ongoing.

I very much welcome this statement. On Tuesday, my hon. Friend said that the consultation was imminent, and he has been true to his word. Does he share my concern, however, that the definition of “victim” within the victims’ code is pretty restrictive, unlike the situation in other jurisdictions, which I touched upon on Tuesday? Will he ensure that as we go through this consultation process the voices of those who have not traditionally been regarded as victims are heard and that as the code moves into statute we do much better by them, so that their situation, and the trauma and tragedy that they go through, through no fault of their own, is mitigated?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. We had a good debate on Tuesday evening, at the end of business, on these matters, and I look forward to meeting him to discuss this in greater detail. One key issue that I raised in responding on Tuesday night is that there are always needs that we need to look at. It is important that these matters are considered on a cross-government basis and that the support in place for individuals in the many different circumstances they find themselves in, particularly the mental health support, is kept under constant review. I encourage him to take part in the consultation and makes his views known.

I welcome the Minister’s statement today and I hope that we are able to deliver more justice for victims, because being a victim is for life. It is important to bring personal circumstances to the House, in order for people to understand the situation. In my case, the person who was responsible for the death of my daughter in a hit-and-run accident was sentenced to prison, and so got a custodial sentence, but of course they are eligible for home detention curfew. So this is not just about what happens before and after; it is about what happens throughout the whole process. We got a phone call from the probation service about this home detention curfew process, but it was transactional. I am not criticising the people involved or the system per se, but it was a transactional process. We got no guarantee that we would be listened to, as we were in relation to a victim statement—we got no guarantees that we would be taken into account at all. So it is important that that point is incorporated in this: that victims do have the formal right to be heard even after the actual court process itself.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing his personal experiences to the House this afternoon. That must have been incredibly difficult to talk about, and I can only imagine the impact that that whole experience has had on him and his family—it is truly heartbreaking. I wonder whether he might be willing to meet me to discuss this in greater detail. The point I would make is that I always expect the criminal justice agencies to be engaging with people in an incredibly sympathetic and understanding manner. I would appreciate the opportunity to understand a little more about his experience, so that we can try to make sure that that never happens again and that any issues are dealt with properly. I look forward to meeting him to discuss it.

As my hon. Friend will be well aware, child sexual exploitation is, sadly, an undeniable problem in my constituency. So I am very pleased that the Government are launching this consultation, on a Bill that puts supporting victims of these horrific, horrendous crimes at its heart. Will he explain what further support the Government plan to provide to victims of these horrific crimes, particularly via the independent sexual violence advisers and other services that help those who have experienced child sexual exploitation?

I thank my hon. Friend, who is a vociferous champion on these matters on behalf of his constituents. He raises an important issue through his question. Of course, ISVAs are very important in this work, which is why we are committed to increasing considerably the number of ISVAs that are available to support victims. It is also crucial to point out that, as well as the baseline national provision that we help to support, there are of course opportunities for police and crime commissioners to supplement that work, based on local circumstances and local need. I am sure that he will be making his views known as part of this consultation work, as he has a really valuable contribution to make.

I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s statement, particularly the commitment to providing additional means by which victims can present their evidence in the courtroom. Does he agree, however, that we need to cast the net a little wider, in order to ensure there are additional means for certain victims to report crimes in the first place? I recall from my time many years ago in local government the success of third-party reporting centres, which were there to ensure that crimes that may otherwise, for a whole number of reasons, go unreported do get into the system.

I thank my hon. Friend for that question on this important issue. The Government are clear—and I know that all Members of this House echo this message in their communities—that it is so important that people come forward and report crimes where they exist, in order that we can have a very accurate picture about the state of play in individual communities and ensure that the right resources are directed at those challenges. I have mentioned this previously, but we want more police officers out on the beat catching criminals and deterring crime. That accessibility to the criminal justice system—that confidence that is given as part of visibly seeing police officers out on the beat—is fundamental to confidence and to delivering on reducing crime. He raises a number of important points through his question, and I will gladly ensure that the Minister for Crime and Policing is made aware of what he raises, but the message that must go out is that people need to come forward to report crime where they find it and experience it. If my hon. Friend has suggestions to make, through the consultation, on how we can do better on reporting, I would be appreciative if he would make them known.