Supporting Justice presented last week at the Public Policy Exchange Symposium – Putting Victims of Crime First: The Next Steps to Transform Victims’ Experience of the Criminal Justice System. The focus of the day was on putting victims of crime first and looking at the next steps necessary to transform victims’ experience; notably, there was an emphasis on the need to ensure compliance with the Victims’ Code and bring in enforced legislation in the form of a victims’ law. Supporting Justice presented alongside Mark Castle, CEO of Victim Support, Judith Thompson, Commissioner for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland, and Lena Parmar, Implementation Advisor from the Office of the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.
We spoke primarily on Victim Personal Statements (VPS) and the need for greater consistency in how it’s used and when it’s offered. Currently, findings have found that most victims don’t recall being offered the opportunity to make a VPS. In the last 12 months, 30% of magistrates said they have never seen a VPS, and 62% said they saw a VPS in less than half of cases. Many victims want to be able to express how the crime has affected them, with one victims stating that they wanted to write a VPS “[s]o that I matter. I am not a statistic, I am a real person”. With this is mind, alongside a magnitude of other issues, it seems wise to analyse the need for a new victims’ law and whether this alone would be a necessary step to progress victims’ rights and the support they can access.