Archives for Victims Choice - support

Voice Northamptonshire: QM Award

Victims of crime and those impacted by road traffic incidents  can be confident that  excellent support is available to them  as Voice Northamptonshire is awarded a national quality mark.

The Victims Choice Quality Mark has been awarded to Voice Northamptonshire by Supporting Justice CIC in recognition of the “high standards of care and support offered ” and the way in which staff made people feel “valued and listened to”.

Voice Northants is a service delivered on behalf of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner of Northamptonshire and provides independent support and information to anybody in Northamptonshire that has been a victim of crime – regardless of whether they have chosen to make a report to the police or not – and anyone affected by a serious road traffic incident.

David Kenyon the lead assessor said: “Voice Northants  provides an excellent service and a high standard of victim care. There is a strong and supportive culture among management and staff and clients are at the heart of all the organisation delivers. We found a high level of collaboration and a willingness to deliver a comprehensive and inclusive support service to those who needed it. Partner organisations work well with Voice and hold the organisation in high regard.

“Our assessment shows a service dedicated to continuous improvement and a determination to support victims of crime to cope and recover.”

The Victims Choice Quality Mark is an independent assessment of the quality of the service provided to victims and witnesses. It is designed to provide confidence to those who may need to access the service in the future and to help commissioners determine if their resources are being targeted and spent effectively.

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Introducing Amy Sage to the Supporting Justice team

Supporting Justice are delighted to welcome Amy Sage to the team as a new research associate. Amy is an early career researcher and criminal justice practitioner.

“We’re really excited to have Amy join us as an early career researcher, bringing a fresh, contemporary perspective to the team. Amy has already worked on a Quality Mark assessment for us and we’re looking forward to utilizing her research and analysis expertise in future work.” Becky White, Director

Read more about Amy’s research experience here.

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Introducing Lisa Waddell to the Supporting Justice team

Supporting Justice are delighted to welcome Lisa Waddell to the team as a new research associate. Lisa is an early career quantitative researcher with experience working with large data sets.

Read more about Lisa on her profile here.

“We’re really excited to have Lisa join the team and to make use of her quantitative data expertise across our consultancy and research work. This is a great opportunity for us to support early career researchers to gain experience outside academia as part of our commitment to building capacity within the victim and witness sector” Becky White, Director


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Introducing Sharon Haywood to the Supporting Justice team

We’re thrilled to announce a new addition to the SuJu team! International researcher and campaigner Sharon Haywood brings valuable skills and experience in violence against women, body image and gender to the SuJu team. Read more about Sharon’s impressive career, driving forward positive change for women and children here.

“We’re really excited to have Sharon join us and increase our capacity on issues around women and gender. Sharon is an experienced and passionate campaigner for women’s rights. She has successfully influenced legislative change in Argentina which will benefit millions of women. We’re looking forward to both working with her and learning from her.”

Becky White, Director, Supporting Justice CIC
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2022 at Supporting Justice: A Year in Review

This has been an exciting year for us as we emerged from reduced operations during the years of the pandemic protective measures and increased our activities into new areas and partnerships. We wanted to share with you some of the highlights of the past twelve months before we move forward into 2023, our 10th anniversary year.

Review of the Historical Institutional Abuse Scheme (Northern Ireland) Redress Scheme

Following a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly in response to victim and survivor concerns over the redress process, we were commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive to undertake a review of the redress process and make recommendations to improve the experience for victims and survivors.

We heard from victim and survivor groups about the difficulties navigating the process and the impact of engaging in a legalistic procedure in relation to their experience of abuse. We also consulted with a range of stakeholders, including the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board, the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, the Law Society and the Victim and Survivor Service.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and the absence of a government in Stormont, the redress scheme had processed an impressive number of applications. The desire by all parties to improve the experience of engaging with and applying to the Scheme was especially encouraging. We are grateful to all for their assistance.

Our recommendations focused on presenting a clearer and more cohesive process for applicants through improving collaboration between all parties. We were mindful of the time limited nature of the Scheme and the advanced age of some applicants. The Redress Scheme legislation limits the operation of the Scheme to a maximum of five years, with our review taking place roughly halfway through. A priority for us was to avoid any delay which would risk denying victims and survivors the opportunity for redress before the Scheme ends.

All parties are working to take forward those operational recommendations that can be progressed in the absence of Ministers.

Road Harm Victim Needs Assessment

Our first piece of research from our partnership with Staffordshire University explored the needs of those affected by road traffic collisions. The Needs Assessment was commissioned by the Office of the Warwickshire Police Crime Commissioner to inform the move from grant funded to commissioned service for their Independent Road Victim Advocate service.

Working with Staffordshire colleagues Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw and Dr Jo Turner, the research included analysis of Warwickshire Police road collision data from 2017-2021 and police force FOI requests on road victim provision from 40 police forces. We held focus groups with 34 stakeholders and received completed questionnaires from a further eight. Supporting Justice led on victim engagement, undertaking ten in-depth interviews with victims, bereaved families and those otherwise affected by road traffic collisions (RTC).  

We discovered very little research in relation to the impact of RTCs and the needs of those affected, especially considering the extent of the issue, with five people killed or seriously injured by RTCs every day in England and Wales. We also discovered an incredibly engaged road safety and victim care sector, working hard to put the issue on to the agenda for government and other policy makers.

The research found a postcode lottery of provision, exacerbated by the gaps between crime and civil provision. We recommended the introduction of national service standards for locally commissioned services, ensuring consistent provision whilst enabling innovation. The full report and executive summary can be found here.

New Associates

A major highlight of 2022 for us has been the opportunity to welcome new associates, and we look forward to announcing more in the coming weeks.

We were lucky to have Stephen Chapman, the former Welsh Government Modern Slavery Coordinator join our team at the end of 2022. Steve has an incredible track record within criminal justice and disaster response, and we’re looking forward to utilising his extensive skills in multi-agency and cross-government working.

As part of our Community Interest Company status, Supporting Justice have committed to working with early career researchers in order to support and add capacity to the victim and witness sector more generally. Amy Sage joined us in October 2022 to shadow a Quality Mark assessment and site visit, in preparation for a renewed focus on the Mark in 2023. Amy is currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Bristol, looking at the exclusions to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for victims with criminal convictions.

2023 – SuJu turns 10!

2023 is our 10th anniversary and we are looking forward to continuing our expansion, building on our track record of supporting justice and improving outcomes for victims and witnesses. We will share more details on how we are going to mark this milestone throughout the year

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Road Harms: Death and Serious Injury Webinar slides and recordings now available to watch

Thank you to all who attended the webinar to share our research into road death and serious injury. The interest and enthusiasm within the sector was fantastic to see, as always.

For those who could not attend we’ve made the recording and slides available.

Please click here to download the slides.

Please click here to watch the recording.

Please also feedback on how you might use this research by completing a short survey:

There is a great deal of work to be done to ensure that those affected by road death and serious injury are provided with appropriate support to cope and recover from the impact of road traffic collisions.

The commitment to driving forward change gives hope for real change.

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Introducing Stephen Chapman to the Supporting Justice team

We’re thrilled to announce a new addition to the SuJu team.

Supporting Justice are proud to welcome Stephen Chapman to the organization as a senior associate. Stephen brings a wealth of knowledge and experience across areas including modern slavery, policing and responses to terrorism.

“Having worked with Stephen in his role as the Welsh Government’s Modern Slavery Coordinator, I’m incredibly excited to have him onboard with us at SuJu. He brings extensive subject matter expertise which will benefit our research and consultancy provision. His collaborative approach and extensive knowledge make working with him both a pleasure and a learning experience for all involved. Stephen’s input will also support the development of our early career researchers as we continue to expand.”

Becky White, Director, Supporting Justice

Stephen Chapman

MBA, MA, DMS, PGCL (Merit), PGCE, BSc (Hons)

Stephen is the Program Manager and Lecturer for Emergency Preparedness and Civil Protection at the University Wales Trinity Saint David, Blue Light Academy. He regularly lectures and works with several academic institutions and in other subjects including Policing Terrorism and Strategic Leadership.

Previous career roles include the Welsh Government’s Anti-Slavery Coordinator.

Prior to this appointment he worked for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012,

Steven has held numerous senior roles in national and local government and isan experienced Consultant across the UK and overseas.

As Anti-Slavery Coordinator, Stephen led and coordinated the multi-agency response aimed to make Wales hostile to slavery and to provide the best possible support for survivors.

Stephen has:

  • Established the Wales Anti-Slavery Leadership Group,
  • Is a member of the Home Office Modern Slavery Strategic Implementation Group
  • UK Government Officials Modern Slavery Jurisdictional Group
  • All Wales Portal Group and Wales Reference Group for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Welsh Government responsibilities included leading on Serious Organised Crime issues, being part of the cadre for the Emergency Co-ordination Centre for Wales (ECCW).

For the Wales NATO Summit 2014 and UEFA Champions League Cup Final Cardiff 2017, Stephen was the Government Silver Command Liaison Officer.

For the 2020/21 Welsh Government response to COVID-19, D20 (EU Transition) and other concurrent events he was the ECCW Operations Director and Welsh Government Liaison Officer for the Strategic Co-ordination and Recovery Groups; and the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat. This important work was recognized by the First Minister of Wales and Welsh Government Permanent Secretary.

Stephen’s academic qualifications include:

  • Master’s degree in Business Administration,
  • Master’s Degree in Management,
  • Post Graduate Degree in Management Studies,
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Leadership with Merit,
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Science with Honors in Policing and Police Studies
  • ‘PRINCE2’ qualified Project Manager

He regularly lectures and works with several academic institutions including Cardiff Metropolitan University (Forensic Psychology), Cardiff Business School, University of South Wales, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He is a qualified Mentor and Coach.

In 2016, Stephen received the Welsh Government Award for Leadership. Whilst serving in the Police Service, he received several commendations including for leadership and bravery.

Stephen is proud to be an Ambassador for the White Ribbon Campaign, which promotes men taking a stand to end violence against women and girls. He is also an Ambassador for the UK Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline, and the National Museum Wales.

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Road Harms: Death and Serious Injury Victim Needs Assessment

Date: 7th December Time: 11am-12.30pm   Venue: Online

We would like to invite you to attend a webinar to discuss the research findings and recommendations from the “Warwickshire Road Victims Needs Assessment Report” produced by Staffordshire University and Supporting Justice CIC, working in partnership on behalf of the Police Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire.

Please see the Executive Summary here or read the full report here for more information.

Please register your attendance here

This webinar is intended to provide a multi-disciplinary forum in which to discuss the findings of the report, explore ways to overcome the barriers identified and how best to generate impact in this area. 

If you would like to see the agenda for the webinar that can be found here.

Please share this with your colleagues and relevant networks who may have an interest in this work.

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Victims of Fraud

The Victims’ Commissioner has recently published the first stage of her research into victims of fraud – Fraud victims. It is a useful analysis of the potential profile of fraud victims and the impact the crime might have on them and is a welcome addition to the debate on the need for fraud victims to be recognised, heard and supported. The second stage of the research will look at the support offered to fraud victims and we await its publication.

Recently the BBC highlighted the potential costs of scamming – Costs of scamming, estimated by Which? to be in the region of £9bn a year. That is the equivalent of £2,509 a year for each victim, but the impact can be higher for someone hit by online fraud.

People targeted by fraudsters have spoken of suffering from anxiety and ill-health after being scammed. Which? says the cost to well-being is higher than the typical financial hit of £600.” And the banking trade body, UK Finance, has described the level of fraud as a national security threat.

The economic costs of scams and frauds is, no surprise, matched by the emotional, psychological and societal impact of these crimes and, for too long, victims have not been properly supported or even acknowledged.

It does seem that the banks are now starting to recognise some of their responsibilities in relation to fraud victims, though some are much better than others at making sure victims are reimbursed when they are subjected to what is a most pernicious and intrusive crime. But this is not before time;  is long overdue that fraud victims are being heard and their concerns and needs addressed. 

We are used to telling victims of assault, domestic abuse, sexual assault, robbery etc that the only person to blame for the crime is the perpetrator: just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time; just because I didn’t do exactly as he or she wanted; just because I had a couple of drinks and chose to dress in the way I did does not mean that I am responsible for what happened to me, that I brought it on myself. It is well overdue that fraud victims should be told the same: no one is to blame but the fraudsters or scammers. So these two reports will certainly assist, we hope, in developing the much needed approach where fraud victims can have confidence to report the crime knowing that they will be heard, their concerns addressed and appropriate support offered. The government is in the process of introducing a new national fraud and cybercrime  reporting system to replace Action Fraud and this too is a welcome development.

It is also important that support organisations look at how they can improve their approach to fraud victims: better access, better communications (especially given that much fraud is online and victims may have diminished, if any, confidence of accessing services online). It is simply unaffordable, as well as unacceptable, that fraud victims and the impact of the crime on them, and on us, their fellow citizens, has for too long been under the radar. The demand for change is clear and we hope that these important reports help bring about a more robust, comprehensive and supportive approach to fraud victims, giving us all the confidence to know that if we too fall victim to this potentially devastating crime we will be helped through the experience.

For advice on how to avoid scams,  the website, Take Five, offers some useful information:

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Citizens Advice Witness Service Quality Mark Award

Citizens Advice Witness Service Quality Mark Award

We are delighted to be able to announce that Citizens Advice Witness 

Service has successfully gained a Supporting Justice Quality Mark Award.

The Witness Service was assessed against our five key standards and how they actually help deliver effective outcomes for witnesses (and victims): access; needs; value; support and safety. The assessment team visited criminal courts, magistrates and crown, across England and Wales and met with witnesses, key stakeholders, volunteers and staff following a review of a raft of pre assessment materials. The head of operations for the service said: “it was a really valuable opportunity for us to understand what we’re doing well and where we might be able to enhance our services further”.

It was an inspiring experience to meet so many who deliver a truly valuable and valued, indeed, vital service to those who go through the ordeal of going to court as a witness. Whether they be witnesses for the prosecution or the defence it was good  to hear how other criminal justice agencies, as well as support services beyond the criminal justice system, have come to see the Witness Service as crucial to the effective delivery of support and justice and much needed support.

We found that the service provides easy, effective and inclusive access for those who need support at court and those who are assessed as likely to benefit from pre court support, including children and young witnesses. The service has also made great efforts to engage with defence witnesses who are no less in need of support as they attend court. Needs assessments are good and more and more witnesses are having additional needs identified and then referred to other specialist support agencies.

The witnesses we spoke with expressed their gratitude for the support they had been given and that they felt engaged, well informed and, especially, valued and treated with empathy and respect throughout their engagement with the Witness Service. The all too often labyrinthine criminal justice process was well explained and this helped witnesses to give their best evidence.

Any service is only as good as the team which delivers it and we recognise that the Witness Service team demonstrates a strong culture of collaboration and mutual support. As we have highlighted before, it is so often culture and values that help determine the quality of service rather than a simple reliance on policy and procedures.

The Witness Service is the largest service we have so far assessed. However, the approach, the standards and the values that underpin our assessment process apply equally to large and small service delivery organisations. It is the delivery of effective outcomes that matter. The Quality Mark provides a benchmark for victim and witness services to aspire to: of delivering a service that can be considered excellent.

If you would like to learn more about our Quality Mark and how it might help your organisation please get in touch – we will be happy to hear from you.

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Victim Services Commissioning

A year later than scheduled due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we saw, in May, the (re) election of police and crime commissioners. About a third of those elected are new commissioners and, along with those re-elected, will bring with them a set of priorities and commitments that aim to make their communities safer, well protected and policed and offer vital and effective support to those affected by crime.

Sexual violence, domestic abuse, stalking, assault and robbery, burglary, anti social behaviour; all these can and do have devastating impacts on those subjected to them and these victims and survivors need to be confident that they can report crimes, knowing they will be heard and that, as well as finding a criminal justice system that pursues cases with vigour and sensitivity they will also have access to effective and outcomes focused support from agencies and organisations that are often funded by police and crime commissioners.

The key to delivering effective services to victims, and witnesses, is to make sure that the focus, throughout, is clearly on outcomes: not inputs, not outputs (measuring and counting numbers) but outcomes. The key question to ask is: has this service actually delivered what the victim really needed (or at least gone as far as possible in delivering their needs). And the outcomes desired need to be built into the relevant service right from the start, continuously monitored and, where and when appropriate, reviewed and assessed against agreed and established criteria.

We at Supporting Justice have, over many years, tried to shift the focus in victim services onto the need to deliver such outcomes. It is not enough to be able to demonstrate how much time, effort, money is spent on a service. It is not enough to be able to report on the number of interventions, the number and duration of support calls, personal meetings etc that a service has with a client. These things can be important, and certainly help determine the scale and volumes of support needed and help plan future resourcing. But they don’t give a robust insight into the effectiveness of a service; they don’t tell us if victims and witnesses are getting what they need.

The approach to the commissioning of services for victims of crime varies across England and Wales and this includes the actual timetabling of commissioning. Some PPCs (and, if appropriate, a directly elected mayor) commission on a three year basis, others longer. This year and next many PCCs will be looking to commission (or re-commission) their funded victim services. It would be a positive, and ultimately highly effective approach to make sure that, right from the start, the delivery of identifiable, measurable and person centred outcomes are at the core of what is being commissioned. The framework for commissioning, like all else, needs to have people, victims and survivors at its heart.

If the commissioning of services has the delivery of outcomes as its focus, if those outcomes can be identified, if the service can go on to be able to demonstrate the delivery and effectiveness of these outcomes than we will see a greater level of confidence among victims and survivors and among the public at large; we will see higher and better levels of cooperation and collaboration among service provides and with criminal justice agencies, all of whom will recognise just how effective their services can be and, indeed, are; and we will see a real difference in the lives of those to whom the services are delivered.

In our work with organisations during our Quality Mark assessments we have seen, first hand, the tangible and positive difference and effectiveness victim and outcomes focused services can have in the lives of those supported. If the approach can be built into the service from the very start, i.e. when it is being commissioned, we will go on to see such positive changes being replicated on a wider scale. This is not to say that so many services are not already delivering good support to victims and survivors; it means that from the start we can be sure that this is so, that we can monitor and measure against clear and agreed criteria and that we can identify the effectiveness of outcomes in the lives of service recipients by their ability to cope and recover after their all too often traumatic experiences.

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Rape review

The government’s end to end rape review published today (Rape review) acknowledges, right at the start, that there are too many cases where those reporting rape have not been given the professional, diligent, empathic support they deserve by those investigating and prosecuting the crime. It’s a positive step to read this and to see ministers acknowledge the problems and admit that they are ashamed at the steep decline in prosecutions and convictions for rape over the past five years. The professed aim is to right this wrong, understand why victims are being let down and deliver lasting improvements to the way rape is investigated and prosecuted, so that victims are supported and have confidence that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The Victims Commissioner, and others, have welcomed the review but, and it’s a big but, have reservations, serious reservations, about whether the government’s proposals will actually achieve their aims and objectives. The government aims to make sure that victims have “access to quality support, appropriate to their needs” and “access to the right therapeutic and clinical support”. All well and good. But these are basic rights and needs that have been identified as crucial for far longer than it took the review to identify their absence. Like many services in the criminal justice system (and beyond) they have been undervalued and under-resourced for far too long. Can we be confident that this will change as a result of the review?

One of the most distressing aspects of the approach to rape investigation has been the fact that so many victims have felt that they are, somehow, on trial themselves, that their veracity is constantly being questioned by those they should be able to rely on in their entirely legitimate search for justice. Victims can have their mobile phones taken from them for extended periods of time , find their “digital footprint” analysed in minute detail and very much left with the impression that they are somehow on trial for the crime that has been inflicted on them. The review has the ambition to change this – but an “ambition” is seen by many as not quite cutting it. Is this ambition, laudable though it may be on one level, yet another example of the “government speak” with which we have all become far too familiar since the days of Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that that review has met with underwhelming approbation. To identify that the police and CPS will “establish a culture of effective joint working” comes as something of a shock. Why? Because many of us who worked on the “No Witness, No Justice” programme many years ago actually thought this was what we were aiming to deliver then. And so the wheels continue to turn even if they aren’t actually moving anything along.

The action plan that is contained in the review has much by way of aspiration. But, as the Victims’ Commissioner has pointed out in her response, (Commissioners’ response) there is a clear imperative to make sure that these aspirations are matched by resources: the significant cut to funding in the criminal justice arena over many years will not easily be rectified and, if it isn’t, can we really expect different results from those which we now recognise as a crisis in the system.

Sensitive, robust and comprehensive investigation of all crime, especially the most serious, matched with a criminal justice system that helps and supports people to navigate their way through complex and often bewildering processes, matched with effective, outcomes-based support services are the very basics that we, as a professed civilized society need. If this review is to deliver these, something which has been the mantra of ministers (and others) for many years (“victims at the heart of the criminal justice system”) then this review will need more than apologies and fine words if it is to become the reality we all need it to be.

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Dangerous ground?

Are students failed by inadequate response to rape culture

In recent weeks there have  been increasingly compelling voices warning us of some of the problems in the world of education. These are not the “usual” problems: under achievement, lack of resources, access to information technology and learning opportunities. The problems now being talked and written about concern more fundamental issues: the rights to feel safe, valued, free from harm in the environment, where these should not only be taken for granted but top of the list of any institution dedicated to learning and development.

However, we can see that this is not so: lawyers and campaigners have recently suggested that universities have ignored repeated warnings to tackle rape culture on campus; students who disclosed sexual assault or harassment face a postcode lottery on whether, and the type of support they may or may not get; and the Everyone’s Invited campaign has illustrated that the problems don’t just lie with universities and other institutes of higher education but that some schools too are a concern. And we should reflect that no one can learn in an environment that can be perceived as fostering and failing to address harassment and assault.

These issues are starting to be taken more seriously. The Office for Students has recently published a Statement of Expectation for higher education providers to prevent and respond to incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct. This is a welcome development and, as far as the statement goes, a step forward if applied properly. Maybe the statement itself is not the best or most appropriate place to articulate and elaborate on one particular aspect of the comprehensive needs of students, but it does look rather light on recognising and promoting the need for effective personal support to those who are brave enough to step forward and report their experiences.

Effective practical help and emotional support is a crucial part of the process of people seeking and getting justice. We know from experience in working with victims of crime and witnesses that people are more likely to report a crime, more likely to continue through the criminal justice process, if the legal aspects of the case are underpinned by the delivery of effective, timely and person-centred support measures.

Knowing that such support measures are in place will help generate the confidence young people need to come forward, articulate their experiences knowing that they will be heard and taken seriously and so be assisted to start the process of recovering from what can all too often be deeply damaging and long term negative effects on many aspects of their lives.

The  support needed can and should be provided by a range of organisations; educational establishments do not have to do this in isolation. And, to achieve this, each individual story will need to be heard, each individual will have to have their needs properly assessed, and each educational body will need to develop effective referral arrangements so that as wide a range of needs as possible can be met.

We at Supporting Justice have clearly identified the key standards that need to be applied by any organisation that seeks to take the issue of effective support seriously and deliver good outcomes to those with whom they engage. To deliver that support they  need to provide:

  • Easy Access
  • Effective needs assessment
  • Practical and emotional support
  • A culture that clearly demonstrates an individual is valued
  • An approach that helps make people feel safe

As, we hope, the focus of media and news interest begins to shift away from the all consuming issue of Covid 19 we need to think about how we re-focus on the many other threats that face us and need to be addressed if we are to build the inclusive, supportive and ultimately more creative and sustainable society we all want to see.

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Quality Mark Award: Victim Lincs

Victim Lincs Quality Mark Award

We are delighted to announce that Victim Lincs (Victim Lincs) has been awarded a Quality Mark demonstrating they deliver an excellent service for victims of crime in Lincolnshire.Congratulations to all those who deliver this vital service.

This award is the result of an assessment based on the five key standards in our Supporting Justice Quality Mark:

We base our assessment on outcomes delivered to victims (and witnesses) and not simply on policies, procedures or some of the other more usual bases on which audits and assessments are carried out (e.g. finance/ governance/ HR). It is very much victim focused.

The service delivered by Victim Lincs delivers an excellent service and a high standard of victim care. There is a culture of collaboration between colleagues and this has proved crucial in maintaining high quality services during the current pandemic. This was the first assessment we have conducted (entirely) remotely and the team at Victim Lincs were impressive in their cooperation and commitment to the process. Victims we spoke to all found the service helpful and were enthusiastic in their praise for the service and the team who deliver it.

The team at Victim Lincs kindly offered us some observations following the assessment:
Whilst the process took time to arrange, remotely, the team all felt at ease and we received very good feedback from those who took part in interviews from outside Victim Lincs.
The process wasn’t as daunting as it may have been as the assessors were so approachable and explained things along the way. It was a thorough process from beginning to end. It is wonderful to see that our service has been recognised outside of our own organisation.

The award of a Quality Mark can certainly help a service not only to deliver continuous improvement but also to build public confidence and, especially, confidence among victims and witnesses, who are often vulnerable or marginalised. It helps highlight that there is help available to them and that their needs will be identified and, as much as possible, met.

If you are interested in learning more about our Quality Mark please contact or take a look on our Audit and Assessment page.

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Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorate Report: Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System

The report by the criminal justice joint inspectorate published today does not make for easy reading. It demonstrates, starkly, the mounting problems for our criminal justice system exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic; many of these problems pre date the pandemic but the last year has certainly raised new challenges and highlighted some of these pre existing challenges to the delivery of a fair, transparent and supportive justice service across the whole of England and Wales.

“We have grave concerns that this impact will prove deleterious to victims, witnesses and defendants alike.” So say the inspectors in the foreword to their report. These are not words used lightly. The growing backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with is clearly one of the biggest challenges to be faced by the justice system in many years. It will, as the report suggests, require a high level of coordination between agencies if it is to be addressed as well as an increase of resources to a sector that has, over many years, seen the availability of those resources diminish.

The impact of this growing backlog is being felt in the lives of many. An interview this morning on the Today programme with a victim of domestic abuse summed this up. The victim who reported to the police in 2019 is now looking at a potential court date in 2022, three years after the initial complaint. She has been offered little by way of updates and found out, well after the event, that bail conditions for the alleged perpetrator had been changed. Unacceptable? Yes. Unusual? Sadly not.

Many people have been highlighting such deficiencies for years. The mantra that “victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system” has been trotted out regularly for at least twenty years but, alas, more honoured in the breach than the observance. We have a Code of Practice for victims that has many worthy aspirations but has so often been woefully applied and let victims down: it’s a useful tool on paper but not well applied in practice.

In April we will see a new Code of Practice introduced : simpler, clearer, more succinct and user friendly. But its introduction is not the panacea that we are sometimes led to believe it will be. It runs the risk of continuing to be, like the code it will replace, a toothless tiger because we can still not be sure that it will be consistently applied and that compliance will be adequately monitored and enforced. That’s the reality and to say so is not simply a way of beating those tasked with compliance over the head but yet another call for change and action.

If a criminal justice service is to deliver what it is needed then, as well as all the right policies, procedures, structures it needs to have the right culture, a culture that puts people first, a culture that recognises and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable (both victims and defendants). Only within such a culture can any policies and procedures hope to achieve their aims and ambitions.

And the culture needs to be looking forwards to see how it can embrace new and innovative approaches that are designed, and implemented, to help people through this maze of a service we have, an approach that sees criminal justice agencies increasingly look to developing joint approaches (particularly in the digital sphere) and a clear recognition that the better we engage with people, the more they feel informed, the more transparent we are then the more they will have confidence, the more the system will be seen to work well and the more we we deliver better outcomes.

In the coming few months we all have a part to play in informing the debate about how our criminal justice system can be brought back from the brink, how it can not only address the current problems it faces but how it can improve and evolve into a service that delivers what is needed. It needs to become a cause of celebration for us all, not least those who work within it who are often underrated and get little recognition for their efforts. The challenge is real, it is here and it is up to us all to rise to it.

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Beyond Covid 19

As we approach the Christmas holidays we can all be forgiven for reflecting how much has changed since this time last year. It’s not just the absence of festive parties with our work colleagues and friends; it’s not just the absence (in many parts of the country) of masses of people scrambling to get presents for families and loved ones; it’s not just the sight of near empty buses and trains…..

We have all been impacted in the last year by the scourge of Covid 19. We hear, on a daily basis, of the huge toll being paid in serious illnesses and loss of life. We are acutely aware of the impact on staff, residents and their families in care homes. The numbers of people out of work and so facing a bleak Christmas grows on a daily basis. Our lives are looking very different than they were this time last year.

The impact on those needing support following their experience of crime, and those who offer that support has been no less significant. Indeed, in many cases it has been even more profound as many victims are also vulnerable, marginalised, dispossessed in ways that go beyond the impact of the crime itself. Our online survey, to which I respectfully draw your attention gives us a taste of how this pandemic has affected victims and witnesses and those who look to meet their needs. Covid survey

But as well as the negative impacts we can also note an underlying resilience and ability of many people to adapt, to try to make the best of what has been for all of us a deeply challenging experience. And we seem to have some really good news with the arrival of at least one, and several more imminent, effective vaccines for the virus. So, perhaps, we can, with a collective sigh of relief and with positivity in our minds, start to look how we make the most of what we have learned during this pandemic and how we can begin to re-imagine services to victims and witnesses in the future.

Supporting Justice and Moorhouse recently held a webinar to consider the impact of Covid on these services and consider some of the key learning points to help develop services in the future; a digest of this webinar can be found here: webinar digest . A return to “business as usual” does not have to mean a return to the status ante quo and we have, perhaps, a real opportunity to learn, build, and improve the services we can offer having captured so much useful intelligence as a result of the last year or so.

If you would like to hear more on our thoughts or think we can help then please get in touch with us here at Supporting Justice or with our colleagues at Moorhouse. Contact details are below.

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Male victims of domestic abuse

Male victims of domestic abuse


Charities dealing with men who suffer domestic abuse have, according to recently highlighted statistics BBC news, seen requests for help jump by up to 60% during the Covid 19 lockdown period. These follow on the back of the sharp rise in the numbers of women seeking similar help and support during the last six months.


There is little doubt that the Covid 19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of many: societal, economic, physical and mental health, and that the impact has been greatest on some of the most vulnerable in our communities, including victims. Many organisations that offer support have had to adapt by changing their approach to how they deliver this support: face to face meetings have been overwhelmingly abandoned in favour of more remote forms of support via telephone or the internet.


The changes have, undoubtedly, been positive in some respects but have negative impacts in others. Our own recent survey paints a nuanced picture SuJu survey; some people welcome the opportunity to be supported remotely whilst others feel the absence of a reassuring physical presence. 


The key thing to learn from all this is that support must, as far as possible, continue to be available to people when and how they most need it – and this requires flexibility, commitment and, crucially,  resources. The financial constraints that have hit all sectors of the economy have had a telling impact on the victim support sector over the course of this pandemic – and the sector was already suffering from the effects of ten years of austerity. As we approach, potentially, another period of limited contact with others it is crucial that the most vulnerable are not forgotten. As Frances Ryan reports in the Guardian (Frances Ryan) , as the fear of the spread of Covid across Britain grows, ministers have, so far, had very little to say about the millions of those most at risk. This will include many experiencing domestic abuse.


Domestic abuse has devastating effects on those subjected to it: it undermines feelings of safety, security (personal and financial), impacts on families and, of course, wider society. And whether it is a man, woman or those who may not identify as either being subjected to it can cause lasting and traumatic damage. We must do all we can to make sure that those who have responsibility for our wellbeing and safety take those responsibilities seriously. That means providing adequate resources for support services and, in relation to domestic abuse, provision of resources to deliver effective programmes of education and rehabilitation to make sure that those who perpetrate domestic abuse have the chance to be rehabilitated and that we are all more aware of domestic abuse can be prevented in the first place.


The provision of safe spaces and refuges are an integral part of dealing with the aftermath of domestic abuse as are wider support services. But just as important is the availability of wider educational and rehabilitation programmes to minimise the occurrences of abuse in the first place. That should be a clear message that we take from today’s new reports.

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Section 28 Rollout

Section 28 to be available in all courts by the end of the year

Giving evidence and being cross-examined in open court is a traumatic experience for any witness but more daunting for a child or a vulnerable witness

Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 provides for  special measures to help children and vulnerable witnesses give their  evidence other than the usual way we all see in TV dramas – openly in court if front of everyone else. These measures, including the use of screens, live link from a different room, the presence of an intermediary to help the witness understand better the proceedings are there to help the witness give their best evidence and,  and hopefully,  provide greater equality of access to the justice system

One of the special measures under Section 28 allows for pre-recorded cross examination of children and vulnerable witnesses to take place before trial, regardless of the offence. The intention is to  take away some of the anxiety surrounding the process of cross examination and so provide the court with better evidence. The recording is then played back during the trial itself, meaning those vulnerable witnesses aren’t required to attend the trial in person and do not have to wait many months or longer before giving their evidence. We all know that, over time, our memory and recollection of events may not always be a sharp as it was so this is, potentially, a hugely important tool in the justice process.

At the Ground Rules Hearing court, defence and prosecutors agree questions to ask the child or vulnerable witness, possibly with the help of an intermediary. (There are insufficient numbers of intermediaries and they are not always well used by the courts but that’s another story – lack of funding is undoubtedly a factor as is the variety of opinions of how and when they might best be used).

At the Section 28 hearing, all the legal parties meet with the judge and the witness and with witness support. The vulnerable witness then gives their evidence, is questioned and the proceedings are recorded for future use during the trial. The aim, as noted already, is to help the witness provide their best evidence. Of course, the evidence must be open to scrutiny by the court and  can be seen by everyone in the courtroom, including the defendant when the recording is played back at trial. But, crucially,  the witness does not have to be physically present in what we can all recognise as being an alien and often forbidding environment – the courtroom. Just think of the way courts are portrayed on television and in films : aggressive, confrontational, hugely formal….you get the idea.

After being piloted in three courts for children under 16 and vulnerable adults in 2013 in  January 2017 it was rolled out to all young people under 18. It was then rolled out to a further 6, then a further 9 courts in the following months reaching at least one court in every region. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) now plan to roll out Section 28 provisions to all Crown Courts by the end of the year beginning this week with 16 new courts in and around London.

Supporting Justice joins other victim and witness support services and the Victims Commissioner in welcoming this.

This development has potential not only to help witnesses give their best evidence, taking some of the stress off them during what is, often, a traumatic process (following on the trauma of the offence) but will also help courts address some of the problems generated by the Covid 19 crisis. The creative use of available (and properly functioning) technology offers the opportunity to deliver effective and speedier justice; it should help reduce the significant build-up of unheard cases during the pandemic; it offers the chance to hear more cases remotely, taking pressure off the courts which are limited in their capacity during this pandemic.

But let’s not forget that our justice system is creaking (some might say “cracked”) and that for justice to be effective, transparent and fair we need to build on initiatives like this and see a system where all the component parts work well together, have a shared aim and, crucially, are adequately (at the very least) resourced.

Anne Warren

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HMCPSI Annual Report – Blog

Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Inspectorate has just published its 2019-20 annual report. This report comes against a backdrop of diminished resource availability over a prolonged period and, of course, the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis. As the report highlights, where there is a “stretch” of resource there are serious implications for quality accompanied by limited evidence of “grip”.


The report covers a range of inspection topics: area performance, thematic inspections, joint inspections, corporate issues. There is one area worthy of particular mention, an area that doesn’t tend to generate a lot of interest or attention: the joint inspection undertaken with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Services into crimes against older people. This was the first ever inspection looking specifically at crimes against older victims and safeguarding arrangements that support this type of offence.


The joint inspection report itself  was published this time last year so you may wonder “why write about it now?”. Well, since then we have all had to come to terms with a new reality, the reality of the Covid 19 crisis (yes, there’s no getting away from it I’m afraid).


The inspection highlighted that often the police service had a “superficial understanding” of the nature and extent of crimes against older people and that this often resulted in a poorer service to older victims. It also identified the lack of a cohesive and focused joint strategy between the police and CPS to deal with older victims of crime.


The inspection made some recommendations: a simple definition of what constitutes an older victim; clear guidance around special measures;effective monitoring arrangements of cases involving older people. The positive response to the report from the CPS and police  was encouraging.


But given that we are now living in a much changed world, one where social isolation (or distancing, call it what you will) has become the norm for many it is vital that we do not lose sight of the need to think about our responses to all those who need help and support following crime. Our recent survey of victim service providers (Survey) offers some useful insights into how victim services have had to adapt in the current crisis: more remote ways of engaging with victims, greater use of technology etc. The responses we had, as well as highlighting many challenges, also present many opportunities as we start to think about how we can learn and try to make services ever more responsive and engaging.


If we are to see services to victims (and witnesses), statutory as well as third sector, become more accessible, more effective, more inclusive we need to make sure that no one is left behind. We need to make sure that older people, their particular needs and the ways in which they could and should be engaged and supported are a key component of our considerations. 


Many older people are, of course, “tech savvy” and have access to good support networks – family, friends, local community groups. But we know that there are many who do not and who are increasingly vulnerable and, sadly, seen as “easy prey” by those intent on committing crime. It’s incumbent on all of us working in the criminal justice arena to make sure we keep the needs of the most vulnerable in our society at the very core of our thinking and planning for the future.


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Victim Support Europe- Covid 19 webinar

Victim Support Europe: Webinar on the impact of Covid 19 on victim services


It was a real pleasure to take part in a webinar hosted by VS Europe at the end of last week and to talk a little about our recent survey of victim service providers in England and Wales. Many of the concerns and views raised by our own respondents seem to be replicated across Europe: having to change significantly the way people engage with services; new working methods for staff and volunteers; greater and more creative use of technology and remote engagement with victims and colleagues in other agencies; additional concerns among victims about personal safety. These, and other issues were clearly identified in our online survey (Covid 19 Survey Summary) and it was good to hear that colleagues have been working hard, and creatively, to make sure vital services are maintained during the crisis.


There is a real sense among colleagues that we need to understand and learn more about the impact of this crisis and what it might mean for the future planning, resourcing and delivery of victim services. The assumption that we might simply go back to the status quo ante is one that all of us need to question: Just because things  worked, or appeared to work before, does not mean that they will again or, indeed, that even if they do they can’t be done better. As well as challenge we also have opportunity to learn and develop.


Victim Support Europe will be offering a summary of the session from last week and it will form an important part of how we learn more to help shape our plans in the future. We at Supporting Justice are also keen to help the sector learn the key lessons needed and, as well as identifying the challenges presented, also make the most of the opportunities generated. To that end we are looking for sponsorship to carry out more detailed and rigorous research into the impact of Covid 19 and how we can have confidence that our future service delivery for victims and witnesses continues to improve.


We have prepared a short paper  that outlines the approach we would like to take and will happily share this with you if you would like to know more or, potentially, be able to offer help to fund the research. If you are interested to learn more please get in touch with David Kenyon (


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Rape and CPS prosecutions

CPS approach to rape prosecutions ‘a disaster for justice for a crime which is already a terrible fit for our adversarial system’


This week, The Guardian published the latest in a series of articles tracking both an alleged change of approach by the CPS to its prosecution of rape cases and ongoing legal action by the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) accusing the CPS of dropping cases to boost conviction rates.

While reported rapes have increased steadily over the past decade, reaching more than 58,000 in the year to March 2019, charges, prosecutions and convictions in cases brought by the CPS have fallen over the same period. 

A year ago, EVAW published government figures showing a 173% increase in rape allegations over the previous four years, which also saw a 44% reduction in the number of prosecutions reaching court.

EVAW has compiled a dossier of evidence for a government review of how rape is treated in the criminal justice system, which it has shared with The Guardian.  These include statements by rape victims whose cases never made it to court and information from a CPS whistleblower claiming staff were given training in how to meet conviction targets by removing hundreds of ‘weak cases’ from the system. 

Rape cases dropped by the CPS include a woman being held at knife point during the attack, a case where a film of the attack was found on the alleged attacker’s phone and one where the alleged attacker admitted the offence in text messages.

In early 2020 the EVAW legal action appeared to have stalled when the high court refused permission for the case to go to a full hearing. However, the court of appeal has offered new hope by agreeing to hear an appeal against the decision.

The Coalition alleges the CPS adopted a substantive policy in 2016 which included a target of 60% of rapes brought resulting in a conviction. EVAW claims a merit-based approach of pursuing all cases where there is credible evidence has reverted to a more risk-averse approach, permitting second-guessing of jury prejudices and producing reluctance to press ahead with more difficult cases. The organization describes this as ‘a disaster for justice for a crime which is already a terrible fit for our adversarial system’.

Earlier this year, The Guardian revealed that the CPS conducted  an internal review which exposed its failings in rape cases, but failed to share this information with the Inspectorate review into falling rape prosecution rates, which then produced less critical findings than the CPS’s own review.


In September 2019 the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, told rape victims not to be deterred from contacting police while, at the same time, said he would be “worried” about the fall in numbers of those being investigated and convicted if he were a victim of sexual violence. Encouraging words, but like all words, they have value only when translated into action and the shaping of attitudes needed to make things better. 

The criminal justice system has been severely affected by over ten years of cuts in resources. It is time for a fundamental review of how we approach issues relating to justice, how we improve access to a system that aims to keep all of us safe, and how those impacted and hurt by crime can be confident that their voices are being heard and their needs met. This applies not least to victims of rape, many of whom have been voiceless over the years and who now must be heard if we are to have a justice service worthy of the name.

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How can we Improve Outcomes for Victims in the Covid19 Crisis

How are we responding to the changed times and still meeting victims’ needs?

At a time when many people are feeling more isolated than ever, especially if they aren’t part of the Zoom or Houseparty surge in virtual meetings, we know that this isolation will impact on lives. This is especially true when it comes to victims of  crime. As highlighted in a previous blog internet scammers are already doing their worst, domestic abuse is on the increase and there are reports of increases in both distraction burglary and commercial burglary – which can often be seen as a “victimless crime”. 

Evidence shows us that family and social support play a huge part in helping people cope and recover after crime. With increased social isolation during lockdown and with all the additional worries people may be experiencing it seems highly likely that victims of crime will be even more reliant than before on the help offered by victim support services. These services are essential at any time; how much more so now?

So, as we said,  it’s crucial we don’t forget the need to look out for people who may not fit readily into one of the current “priority” groups, the elderly and infirm. Especially, when we can see the sad reality that there will be people trying to take advantage of this current crisis, we need to think about how best to support and reassure those who may well fall victim to criminal activity – it hasn’t gone away and nor has the need for support. We especially need to think of those who may have existing issues which adversely affect their lives: hearing or sight problems, learning disabilities, social and economic exclusion.

From our online survey which we began this week we know that many organisations that offer support to victims have had to radically adapt their services to fit this new world in which we have to operate. No longer are face to face meetings possible for example, something that many victims have relied on for support in the past. And the responses of organisations in trying to find creative and effective ways of working is encouraging and a real manifestation of how committed they are to doing their best and making sure victims get what they need.

We at Supporting Justice have been committed to helping partners deliver the best possible outcomes for those whom they support. That’s why we developed our Quality Mark assessment based on five key standards. But that too needs to be adapted to reflect changed circumstances. That is why we have written to all police and crime commissioners offering to help with an adapted, remotely delivered assessment, a diagnostic tool, that can be used to look at how service providers have had to change what they do and are still able to deliver the outcomes they want to  and that victims need.

If you read this and are involved in either commissioning services to victims or delivering them do please get in touch and let us know if you think we can help.

We would also ask you to complete our online survey to help us continue to build up an accurate picture of how you, and victims are doing and how we might learn from this current crisis.


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Covid 19: Let’s not forget crime victims

When the first reports of the Coronavirus started to come out of China a couple of months ago, no one could predict the enormity of the changes that would take place in our lives as individuals and as a society (a global society). Those changes are now starting to be real and tangible: trips outside limited; pubs, restaurants, cinemas closed; escalating numbers of people having to be confined to home; and, of course, most significantly, more and more people becoming infected and, sadly, dying.

But in so many ways our lives and our society, our community, continues. Our vital and essential workers must continue to do what they do; our streets still need to be cleaned; our shops still need to be stocked; our streets still need to be places where, even though access is much reduced, we can  feel safe and protected. There are many examples of how life is continuing and, to a degree, some things might actually be improving – speaking to old friends, keeping an eye on vulnerable neighbours, helping join the new army of NHS volunteers to assist those less able to look after themselves. All this and more shows how such a crisis can bring out the best in people.

Flip the coin, however, and we see manifestations of selfishness and greed, a wanton disregard for the needs and safety of others – those scenes in the media from supermarkets were ugly and frightening. Internet scammers are already doing their worst.  So it’s crucial we don’t forget the need to look out for people who may not fit readily into one of the current “priority” groups, the elderly and infirm. Especially, when we can see the sad reality that there will be people trying to take advantage of this current crisis, we need to think about how best to support and reassure those who may well fall victim to criminal activity – it hasn’t gone away and nor has the need for support.

How can we make sure that those in need of support will continue to get it? We know that many organisations will continue to offer such support in the best ways that they can throughout all this. But we all need to think more about what can be done to ensure such support in rapidly changing circumstances : supporters, staff and volunteers will not be able to offer face to face support; there will be an increase of domestic abuse incidents, undoubtedly, as people are confined to their homes with all the additional pressures of worrying about rents, mortgages, paying for food; the police may find themselves increasingly (over ) stretched and so not able to respond as they would wish; people will feel increasingly isolated and alone if not abandoned.

We need to think creatively about our approach to maintaining good and effective support for victims during this period and our organisations need to promote the clear message that, whilst it might not be business as usual, we are still very much here to offer support, advice and, if nothing more, a listening ear to help people through this and through other difficulties that do not, sadly, go away in a time of crisis.

As a global society we have been encouraged, over many years now, to work in smarter and more agile ways: teleconferencing, hangouts, video and live links in court etc. Never has this been more important than now. Victims of crime must not be forgotten; we must reach out, be proactive in making sure our message and offer of support is delivered loud and clear, use all the means at our disposal to reassure people that they are still important and that, even if an imperfect way, we will still be here to try and meet their needs.

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TV cameras will soon be broadcasting from Crown Courts

Following a new piece of legislation which will allow sentencing remarks of High Court and Senior Circuit judges to be aired.

The Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 will allow cameras to broadcast from the Crown Court, although filming will be restricted to judges’ sentencing remarks only and no other court user – including victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff – may be filmed.

Though proceedings may already be broadcast from the Court of Appeal under certain conditions, extending this to the Crown Court means the public will be able to hear judges explain the reasons behind their sentences for the most serious offences.

This change to legislation, while partly the result of campaigning efforts by the BBC, ITN and Sky News, is part of the government’s wider court reform and digitalisation programme, which aims to use technology to demystify and improve people’s access to the justice system.

John Ryley, Head of Sky News, said: “The filming of judges sentencing remarks in the Crown Court is a great day for transparency in our courts. This is a further step in helping the public to understand the constraints under which judges work and the complexities of many of the biggest criminal cases.”

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Violence against women increasing as conviction of perpetrators plummet

A powerful editorial in last Sunday’s Observer newspaper linked the facts that domestic violence killings have hit a five-year high and reported rape cases increased by 9% in the last year.

The domestic violence bill was delayed again as one of the casualties of the prorogation of parliament,

Rape, it seems, is becoming effectively decriminalised, with the vast majority of perpetrators free to continue offending. While reported rapes are on a frightening upward trajectory, all the key statistics for counter measures are tumbling in the other direction: in the past year rape charges fell by 38%, prosecutions by 33% and convictions by 27%.

“Today, a woman reporting rape has just a 3% chance of seeing her alleged rapist convicted”, according to the Observer.

The DPP blames both the police, for trying to second guess DPP prosecution decisions and making fewer referrals, and the welter of evidence available via new technology, particularly smartphones, which needs to be trawled through to gather evidence and build a case.

The apportioning of blame on the police looks more than a little unfair when you consider that CPS prosecution rates for rape have fallen almost twice as fast as police referrals to the CPS. The Observer concludes that the figures indicate ‘a damaging change in approach to prosecuting rape by the CPS’.

Rapists, it seems, continue to benefit from both the myths and stereotypes that have always clouded and challenged rape case evidence and the desire of the CPS to improve its conviction rates, with prosecutors encouraged to ‘take more weak cases out of the system’.  Since prosecutors also advise police on which cases should be referred to the CPS, they consequently have considerable influence over the falling police referral rates blamed by the DPP.

Government austerity measures which have seen a fall of 20,000 in police numbers since 2010 will also have limited police capacity to track down and arrest suspects, as well as investigate and consider the weight of evidence required to bring a successful prosecution.

The case studies in the Observer article demonstrate clearly the shocking experiences victims go though. One victim was told it was a ‘positive’ case. A year later it was dropped, in part because she did not look particularly scared or nervous when seen in CCTV images from earlier that night. The CPS needs to accept greater responsibility for the ineffectiveness of the system for bringing rapists to justice, both to provide justice for the victims and to deter future perpetrators; taking weak cases out of the system is not the answer.

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Victims Rights

After the Storm

After the storm there is calm; so the adage goes. There can be no doubt that Whitehall and government was hit by a storm yesterday. The new Prime Minister has made the most radical, decisive and, some might argue, brutal and ruthless re-shuffle of top positions in the government since… well, it’s hard to find a precedent if one is honest. Shock and awe might well be a headline; just as likely are two variations, depending on your perspective: shock and awesome or shock and awful.

What is clear is that this is a new look government and, as the days go by, we should start to see what the priorities are (apart from the obvious one that has topped all since 2016) and crucially how they will be addressed. Social care, education and a significant increase in the numbers of front line police officers have all been promoted by the new PM on the doorstep of Downing Street. There is another to add to the list and one that matters in terms of justice and building public confidence in our criminal justice system – the needs and rights of victims of crime.

One of the more interesting and, perhaps positive appointments has been that of Robert Buckland to the post of Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. A barrister by profession the new Secretary has held previous roles in government as Solicitor General and latterly, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. He takes office just after the new Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, has begun her role. So perhaps we might hope to see a new, reinvigorated approach to victim care. 

Speaking at the Modernising Criminal Justice conference last month the Justice Secretary (the then Minister of State) opined that the criminal justice system should be much more effective at rehabilitating offenders so they don’t go on to commit more crime and create more victims and that “We all want to see justice delivered for victims of crime and a system that properly supports and protects those victims and vulnerable people too.”

The words offer promise. But, as we know, we have had many such words and noble intentions over the years. They need to be translated into action. Public confidence in the criminal justice system has taken something of a battering of  late: fewer prosecutions, a rise in violent crime, an approach to evidence gathering that has left some victims feeling re-victimised by the system. There are lots of problems that are crying out for solutions.

We know that we will never have a crime free society; there will sadly, always be new victims. But what we can do is make sure that when people do fall victim to crime they are offered the support they need and that their rights are comprehensively and effectively delivered. And we can only be sure of this when criminal justice agencies and support services are held properly to account, when their performance is measured against the outcomes victims need and to which they have entitlement.

We at Supporting Justice believe that it’s only by a rigorous, outcomes focused assessment that we can drive improvements and deliver a more effective, holistic service to victims of crime. We look forward to seeing progress in this area, and, as always, stand ready to assist the new Secretary of State in his endeavours. For more information on our approach to effective monitoring of services you may want to look at this short presentation Quality Mark and the relevant section on our website Audit and assessment

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Victims Rights to Privacy and Justice

The central point of any accusation and prosecution for the offence of rape is that of consent: did the complainant (victim) give consent to sexual activity or not? On that hinges the case and any possible conviction.

Once again the issue of consent has surfaced in the context of rape and other sexual offences. This time it relates to the issue of asking (some may suggest forcing) complainants (victims) to give consent for the police to trawl through (carefully assimilate) the data contained on the complainants mobile phone and other digital devices. Failure to give this consent may result in the termination of any proceedings. The rationale behind asking for this consent is that important information that relates to the case and upon which crucial decisions (including innocence or guilt) may be determined, could  be on the phone and so make it necessary for the police (and CPS) to have access to said phone data in order to proceed with the case. Victims of domestic abuse and violence may also find themselves in a similar position.

That, I must say, all sounds fairly reasonable. We all want as many relevant facts to be available so that a just and fair decision can be arrived at in any criminal proceedings. If there is information available that will help determine whether someone is guilty or innocent of a serious offence then it is surely reasonable to ask that this may be made available to those responsible for making such decisions;  ultimately a jury in a court trial.

Well, yes, so far so good. But is this suggestion of asking a victim (complainant) to hand over their phone, possibly for many months ( the guidance suggests that the police “may be able” to offer an alternative phone to the victim), fair and proportionate? In defending the new consent form being rolled out in police forces, Assistant Commissioner Ephgrave of the Metropolitan Police has, reassuringly, suggested that this is not the finished article but a useful step along the way. Yet the premise ( and so the foundation) of the form seems to be to help address the recent and highly damaging problems around disclosure in sexual offence trials which have attracted a lot of attention.

It is certainly the case that disclosure issues can and have made a complete hash of cases and that no one, complainant, defendant, the criminal justice system or us, the public, isn’t impacted by them particularly when it comes to confidence in the system. But the new consent form does not look like the right way to help address this. The problems in the past have been about disclosure – this is not the same as not knowing about or ignorance of available information. The material was there, the police and CPS had it; they just didn’t pass it on. I’m not sure how trawling through a mobile phone addresses this, though accept that it will certainly help gather lots more information.

And that’s another issue. If the police are able to keep the phone for an extended period and give it a thorough examination what happens to the information they glean. The guidance suggests it will be kept and states that if there is any evidence of other criminal activity it may be pursued. Does this help build confidence among victims? Consider a complainant (rape victim) who may have contacts who aren’t always absolute sticklers for obeying every law of the land – and, if being honest, I suspect that could apply to just about all of us. Knowing what is on the phone (the odd text, What’sApp, email) am I going to be relaxed about handing the phone over to the police? Am I, perhaps, not more likely to just forget about it and try to get on with my life? Am I more likely to be denied justice (that sounds clinical and not at all reflective of the trauma involved)?

And what about the perception that the desire to have access to all the data on a phone is but another way of building a picture of the victim that, in truth, should have nothing to do with the case. Remember the days when juries were asked to reflect on whether the short skirt the victim (complainant) was wearing contributed to the offence happening. That helped undermine  trust in the criminal justice system and it’s hard to see how this new measure, well intentioned as it is, will help restore said trust.

Asking victims (complainants) to hand over their mobile phones and consent to what some may see as a “fishing trip” isn’t the way to address the problems with disclosure. It is, perhaps, a bit of a sledgehammer approach to what is, obviously, a hugely sensitive area. I’m sure the motives are honourable and that the police and CPS are really trying to help. But it doesn’t look to have got off to a good start. If the criminal justice system is to work it must, as the Director of Public Prosecutions and AC Ephgrave said in their briefing command “trust and confidence”. This approach is, indeed, far from the finished article.

If all this sounds to be but an academic discussion let’s remember what this is really about, indeed, what our criminal justice system is (or should be) about: people. As a rape victim has recently said: “They were the most private details of my life and they were going to be revealed to anyone and everyone involved in the case when all I was trying to do was get justice. Who in their right mind would go ahead with a complaint when this is how they’re being treated?” she said. “People are just going to get away with rape.”

Best intentions are not always enough. We need also to be aware of unintended consequences.

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Brexit: It’s about more than trade and immigration

One could be forgiven for thinking that the only melting pot for discussion on Brexit is the House of Commons (although television studios and indeed, the environs surrounding parliament have also come into their own); but, of course, our parliament comprises two houses and the House of Lords is also playing an important role as the clock ticks towards March 29th. A recent debate in the Lords  raised some interesting and concerning issues.

The Debate

On a “motion to take note” focused on the proposed UK – EU security treaty (European Union Committee Report), took place in the House of Lords on 16 January. Which offered an important insight into a matter of real significance that has, on the whole, not generated a lot of attention, comment or exposure in the media.

Lord Jay opened the debate by referencing the House of Lords as the “calm and thoughtful” end of the Palace of Westminster and it is hard not to agree. He articulated three salient points from the report which was published in July 2018. The report supported the government’s three principal areas for future UK-EU security co-operation – extradition, partnerships with EU agencies such as Europol, and access to law enforcement databases – and considered how the UK’s engagement with the EU in each of these areas may be affected during the transition period and under the future UK-EU security relationship.

The Analysis

The outlook doesn’t appear especially positive with or without a withdrawal agreement. Even if the agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister were to benefit from a Lazarus like revival there would still be concerns about some fairly significant issues: yes, we would still participate in EU agencies and information sharing mechanisms until the end of the transition period but not,  however, be able to participate in the management bodies of EU agencies or opt in to new measures in the areas of freedom, security and justice; extradition arrangements could also be disrupted; and, the report concluded, it’s unlikely that an overarching internal security treaty could be agreed before the end of 2020.

Data Sharing

Europol, data sharing, extradition, European Criminal Records System (to which no non EU country has access) are all issues relating to our security (the first and most important responsibility of any government) and it would be fair to say that we cannot rest easy at the moment. Just one example: UK-EU security relies on the exchange of data and, at present, this can be retrieved almost instantaneously. There is no guarantee, post Brexit, with or without a  deal, that this would not take days or weeks, generating a hurdle for policing and a concomitant threat to public safety. If we have no deal at all the latest reaction from the National Crime Agency gives us even more cause for concern.

It’s in this overall context that the debate in the House of Lords was welcome and enlightening. It’s easy to forget (with sometimes more or less gentle nudging by the popular press) that the Lord’s is filled with many distinguished, knowledgeable, erudite, public spirited, thoughtful and reflective individuals. Take, for example,  Lord Bach who made a useful and thought provoking contribution to the debate. Lord Bach is the police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland and, in his former incarnations, has ben a minister in the departments of Justice and Defence and a shadow foreign minister and shadow Attorney General. Quite an impressive resumé.

Moving Forward

As he points out, even with a deal, there would but be twenty one months during the transition period in which to negotiate comprehensive agreements covering all the areas previously highlighted as giving rise to concern. The current, vital agreements, play an important and positive role in policing and will not easily be replicated; they have added greatly to the efficiency and effectiveness of policing both here and abroad. As Lord Bach highlights, we would be seeking future agreements as a third party, albeit a special third party, and, despite best efforts, it can take many years, if not actually be impossible, for agreements to be reached between the EU and outside countries.

With European parliamentary elections and a new European Commission due this year the actual time to negotiate may, in effect, be reduced from twenty one to fifteen months. Should no agreement be possible in that timeframe (even the more generous of the two) it runs the risk, says  Lord Bach , of directly affecting the security of people’s lives in both this country and the EU. This, he rightly notes, would be unforgivable.

Trade, immigration, parliamentary sovereignty: all important and all generating diverse opinions. But it’s important not to forget that security and the need to keep us safe is the primary concern of government. That’s why we should be concerned about what happens next – it’s not an abstract concern but one that goes to the very heart of how we live our lives.


We can easily become complacent. For many years the crime figures seems to have been telling us that crime is falling and that we are safer than we have ever been. The latest  figures tell a different story. And in a rare television interview the former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers said this: “Any form of Brexit makes our security more difficult to manage”. As the clock ticks towards March 29th the debate in the House of Lords and the comments from those who have been charged with our safety and security are matters that deserve and need to generate  rather more attention and concern.

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What’s happening with our courts?

The House of Commons Justice Committee has just launched an inquiry into the current programme of reforms to Her Majesty’s Courts Service. The details of the inquiry can be found here:

Two of the key areas that the committee want to consider are:

  1. What will be the likely effects of the reforms, both implemented and proposed, on access to justice in relation to:
    a. civil justice?
    b. family justice?
    c. criminal justice?
    d. administrative justice, particularly as delivered by the tribunals system?
    e. those who are digitally excluded or require support to use digital services?
  2. What are the effects on access to justice of court and tribunal centre closures, including the likely impact of closures that have not yet been implemented; and of reductions in HMCTS staffing under the reform programme? For users, how far can online processes and video hearings be a sufficient substitute for access to court and tribunal buildings?

Now, court reform, indeed criminal justice issues in general, are not really the stuff of tabloid headlines. The exceptions, of course, are when something is deemed to have gone dramatically wrong: a high profile miscarriage of justice; a high profile trial involving serious crime (or a well known celebrity); or something that is deemed to affront all sense of right and justice (The Worboys case).

The actual functioning of our justice system does, on the whole, not generate a huge amount of interest or engagement by the public; one could even be forgiven for thinking that for lot of the time criminal justice professionals are simply talking amongst themselves.

But the way our justice system works, including the way and means that people have access to that system is one of the bedrocks, one of the essential component parts of a democratic, civilised society. It is not, or should not be an afterthought and something to which we are all subject rather than about which we are informed and concerned.

The reform programmes in criminal justice have noble aspirations: to make sure that the system is fit for purpose (future proofed) and that we continue to have a justice system that is the envy of the world. Better case management, greater and more efficient use of technology, “putting victims first” – all sound great. But are they just sound bites?

If you listen to the government these reforms are doing just what they set out to do – providing a justice system that is lean, fair, empathic and fit for the future. But there are some siren voices that are raising concerns. A recent bestseller (yes, I know, seems something of a contradiction to what is said above) casts a critical eye over these reforms and the system in general. The Secret Barrister raises significant concerns about our justice system and, if you can lay your hands on a copy, it’s well worth a read – this is not a backdoor promotion of the book by the way.

For example, the programme of court closures and the impact these have. The MOJ points out that 97% of users will still have access to a court within an hour’s travel time. Sounds reasonable. And yet many of us who have worked in a court environment know the difficulties, some not insubstantial, that witnesses have getting to court let alone the problems of getting the accused to court on time. So it’s not all rosy garden stuff.

That’s why this inquiry is important. For many of those impacted by our criminal justice system (and that is, let’s face it, most of  us) don’t really have, too often, the chance to have our voices heard. So please, if you have any insights, any concerns, any suggestions on the questions raised, on how to make our justice system serve us better and be the shining beacon on a hill it has been promoted as in the past, let the committee know and send in a response. You have until March 11th.

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Support Needs in the Family Court

There has been much talk in recent times of our criminal justice system being in turmoil, if not crisis. Much of this has been fuelled by the cuts made to legal aid provision: the courts are seeing ever greater numbers of defendants having to represent themselves at hearings. As well as this being perceived as a diminution of the rights of defendants to a fair trial and the disposal of effective justice it can also have a deleterious impact on witnesses who may be subjected to cross examination in court by those untrained and, often ill prepared defendants.

But there’s also something of a crisis in the family courts. “Crisis” was the word used by the previous Head of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, and whilst his successor Sir Andrew McFarlane has suggested that the word “crisis” may not be helpful, he too remains in no doubt that there are serious issues that need to be addressed. Family courts are continuing to see an increase in the volume of cases being heard – in the period April to June this year over sixty eight thousand cases started in family courts, a seven percent increase from a similar period last year. The number of domestic violence remedy order applications has risen over a similar timeframe.

It has  sometimes been assumed that those appearing in criminal trials are, because of the nature of the trial process and the potential impact on witnesses, victims and, indeed defendants  more in need of support than those attending civil cases or the family courts. But why should this be so? To appear at court, particularly if one is a victim of domestic abuse and in continuing need of protection and the need to feel safe is just as traumatic, potentially, as giving evidence in a criminal trial. And, as things stand, there is little by way of support available.

The Witness Service offers support before and during criminal proceedings to witnesses giving evidence at all criminal courts in England and Wales. This support has proved to be invaluable to thousands of such witnesses each year and offered them better opportunity, as a result, to give their best evidence when they appear. It is widely recognised throughout the system as being an invaluable and highly valued part of the overall provision of an effective and efficient justice system.

The support offered at criminal trials is long overdue in the family courts where those appearing, far too often unrepresented, are just as in need of support. Appearing at family court can be a hugely stressful experience and, if justice is to be be served, there is a real need, no, a demand, for support and help to navigate what is a difficult and often complex system to be made available to those with such needs.

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Quality Standards for victim support services in Serbia

Our collaboration with VSE

We are delighted to have been able to help Victim Support Europe and the Multi Donor Trust Fund for Justice Sector Support in Serbia with the production of their recent report.

Supporting Justice has collaborated on this piece of work and engaged with colleagues in Serbia over the past few years and we hope that this will play a significant part in improving the support offered and delivered to victims of crime in Serbia.

The report also recognises that Supporting Justice is leading the way and pioneering this approach in England and Wales. Our Quality Mark standards has been of real use in the development of ideas and production within the report, highlighting the need for standards, indicators and criteria to assess the effectiveness of victim care.
As the executive summary highlights;

“It is important to be able to verify the quality of aid to victims.”

Our Quality Mark

The development of our Victims Choice standards and the application of our independent and outcome focused approach is one that we think has intrinsic merit in delivering effective victim care.

The recipients of our Quality Mark think so too, recognising that it has helped them deliver even better service to victims.

It is heartening to read that our contribution to the improvement in victim care is recognised beyond these shores.
We look forward to continuing to assist others in their determination to improve victim services wherever they are needed.


Contact Us

If you would like to know more about our Quality Mark standards please get in touch.

As well as our Quality Mark assessment, we also offer a touchpoint analysis to help you determine if your organisation is “Quality Mark ready.”

We are happy to provide more information on request.

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Russia needs to kick-start reform on Domestic Violence

Russia’s hosting of a very successful World Cup finals is a major step in a campaign to enhance the country’s international reputation – and the warmth of the welcome for visiting football fans, the quality of the new stadiums and other infrastructure, along with slick organisation of the tournament, seem to be shifting opinion in Europe away from a perception of an authoritarian, belligerent, isolationist state. (more…)

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Putting Victims First

It’s a strange paradox that as a society we talk a lot and hear a lot about the need to reduce crime, bring offenders to account, the dreadful impact crime can have and the need to offer effective support to victims. Yet we also turn to crime as a means of light entertainment: crime novels, crime dramas on  television. I’m not sure of the psychology behind this but it’s real enough. (more…)

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GDPR and what it means for victims

Most people last week were bombarded with emails, that you may have felt you were actually a victim of this new data protection legislation yourself. But as the calm is restored after the last few weeks of madness you might wonder what is GDPR all about and crucially what does it mean for victims. (more…)

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Victims Choice: Driving service standards and information for victims of crime

This article first appeared in Policing Insight.
There was a real gap in the provision of independent information to victims about where best they could find support, and also a lack of opportunity for victims to leave objective feedback that would help others choose the most appropriate services. Sam Maxwell Smith of Supporting Justice talks about the launch of Victims Choice to fill the gap. (more…)

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Criminal Justice post referendum

The result of the EU referendum last month seemed to take most people by surprise. The seismic shifts that have taken place in our political landscape in such a short space of time are testament to that; no one really expected a “leave” vote and no one expected we would have a new prime minister in short order. (more…)

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A voice for victims

We live at a time when the visual is just as, if not more, important than words; indeed, when we are bombarded with the notion that “image is everything” it’s easy to lose sight of the substance that needs to sit behind it. That can be as true of websites as it is of the weekend colour supplements. (more…)

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