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Victims' Commissioner publishes annual report

New report

04 August 2020
Victims' Commissioner publishes annual report

Dame Vera Baird QC has published her first annual report since taking over as Victims’ Commissioner in June 2019. The report highlights her work since then, including supporting victims’ charities during the Covid-19 pandemic, pressing for action in reversing the decrease in the number of rape prosecutions, and her work on the Domestic Abuse Bill and the Victims’ Code. Dame Vera calls on the government to make the most of the opportunities created by these two pieces of legislation and to rethink how justice is delivered coming out of lockdown, describing it as ‘a once in a generation opportunity to bring radical change to the criminal justice system and in doing so, transform the experience of victims of crime’.

While recognising logistical challenges, Dame Vera praised frontline victim support services for responding to the demands of the pandemic by offering virtual contact and web chats with victims, adding that ‘long term and sustainable funding’ must be made available for this to continue. With regards to the criminal justice system, she suggested that the potential for remote evidence should be maximised, which should include vulnerable victims being able to give evidence through pre-recorded cross-examination.

Dame Vera welcomed the Domestic Abuse Bill and its recent amendments but called on the government to go further and to use the Bill to specifically outlaw abusive treatment, including non-fatal strangulation and image-based abuse, as well as to support migrant women who have no recourse to public funds. Dame Vera also called for the Victims’ Law to give victims enforceable rights in the justice system with criminal justice agencies held to account, and for vulnerable victims to have a right to receive specialist support.

The report sets out Dame Vera’s priorities for the coming year, which include ensuring that bereaved victims have legal representation at inquests, seeking an end to the breach of privacy of victims who report sexual crime and pressing the government for effective enforcement of victim entitlements in the Victims’ Code of Practice.

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