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