Last week the Government launched their new Victims Strategy. This strategy seeks to improve the victim experience across all criminal justice agencies. Measures include strengthening and promoting the Victims' Code, making the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) more accessible, and improving the experience of coming to court for victims and witnesses. The strategy also details the provision of additional funding for victims of specific crimes, for example survivors of sexual abuse and violence, families bereaved by homicide and children who witness domestic abuse. The strategy also aims to combine and co-ordinate funding for victim support services to increase its impact.
There are the four key challenges relating to the in court aspect of the victim's journey which the strategy seeks to address. These challenges are:
- A complex court system with little information
- The practicalities of going to court
- The court environment itself being challenging
- Specialist needs are not being recognised.
A number of different measures have been proposed to try to improve the experience of victims and witnesses at court. Particular points of interest may include: a Design Guide for refurbished court buildings that makes separate entrances and waiting areas a requirement, use of a new digital platform to improve sharing of information and promote consistency, a new feedback system for victims and witnesses, continuing to promote video links for vulnerable victims to give evidence and dealing with crimes with no identifiable victims outside of the magistrates' courtroom via the Single Justice Procedure. Other relevant proposals include increasing the number of Registered Intermediaries available to police and the courts by 25% and encouraging police to explain alternative solutions to court, such as out of court disposals.
Revised guidance for criminal justice practitioners on Victim Personal Statements
Also last week, updated guidance was issued for criminal justice practitioners on Victim Personal Statements (VPS). Data has shown that only 16.5% of victims said that they were given the opportunity to make a VPS, so it is hoped that the updated guidance will help to ensure that the victim's voice is heard. The guidance provides key information about the practicalities of making a VPS, as well as addressing a number of FAQs.