Victim's Rights Bill Introduced
20 October 2015
A comprehensive Bill giving victims of crime new, enforceable rights, will be introduced inParliament by Sir Keir Starmer QC, MP on October 20th 2015, with all party support. Sponsors include; Tim Loughton, (Conservative), Sarah Champion (Labour), Jenny Chapman (Labour), Sir Edward Garnier , (Conservative), Barry Sheerman (Labour) Caroline Lucas (Green) and Liz Saville-Roberts (Plaid Cymru).
The Bill has been drafted by Claire Waxman , founder of Voice4Victims CIC and Harry Fletcher from Digital Trust CIC, following scores of complaints from victims of crime being re-victimised and failed by the Criminal Justice system.
“As a stalking victim, I experienced first-hand the appalling treatment and re-victimisation at the hands of our Criminal Justice System. I naively believed that the system was structured to help victims, however, I soon learnt that victims' needs and rights were neglected. Victims are faced with a terrible ordeal which only compounds their trauma and delays their recovery. The system continually placed the rights of my stalker above my rights to be protected ' said Claire Waxman, founder of Voice4Victims.
Victims of crime have complained that communication and treatment were consistently poor across all criminal justice agencies. One victim complained about the frustration of her case dragging on for over 18 months “'my case was dragged out for 18 months before getting to court, it was the longest 18 months of my life and in the dark for most of that time causing me more trauma and distress'. Others have shown how they were not consulted about police charging decisions, and some not even notified of court proceedings that directly affected them and their case. Many victims describe the courtroom as a terrifying ordeal as they had not been supported during this difficult process. Routinely, victims were not involved in the parole process or told about release arrangements or license conditions of their perpetrator, with many suffering undue stress, years after the crime had been committed. A high proportion of victims reported significant financial loss as a result of the poor treatment they received with loss of work days due to illness or time attempting to navigate through the complex justice system with very little information, support and guidance.
Claire Waxman & Harry Fletcher strongly believe that the strengthening of victims’ rights can only come via robust legislation and a culture shift of attitude towards victims. “We have had a victims’ code for over a decade, yet this code is not working effectively to protect victims’ rights. It is routinely ignored and breached by many of the agencies with no remedial sanctions and no one is held accountable for the inadequate treatment of victims. This is evident in our findings during this campaign, says campaign lead, Claire Waxman.
The Bill places a responsibility on the Secretary of State to publish a victim’s legal framework and outlines numerous statutory duties to ensure that the framework is legally enforceable.
The Bill ensures that a victim of crime shall be entitled to receive accurate & timely information throughout the process, to have access to services and justice, have direct communication with relevant agencies, have rights to review decisions, receive fair and non-discriminatory treatment and representation in all proceedings.
In addition, amongst other entitlements, the Bill ensures that public authorities must not disclose any personal data about a victim and that victims of crime should have access prior to proceedings of any evidence which may cause alarm or distress. The Bill also gives victims the right to access financial compensation and to have any property seized as evidence, restored to them promptly without them incurring more costs and damages.
Critically, for the first time ever , the Bill establishes a victims regulatory body which will enforce the Victims' framework and will have a duty to investigate complaints from victims of crime if their rights have been breached. If the regulatory body upholds a complaint, it may impose a fine on the agency and the complainant shall have the right to refer an individual or agency to a disciplinary body.
Claire Waxman states ‘‘we believe that this vital bill will help all victims’ of crime access justice and ensure their rights and voices are recognised as an important part of the justice process. Currently, there is an imbalance of rights which is detrimental to victims ' safety and well-being. If victims could engage with afairer and more inclusive justice process, this would dramatically reduce the cost of crime , as victims would receive better support and treatment and recover quicker."
Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director at the Digital-Trust said “There is also an urgent need for the establishment of a Professional body to regulate victim services and to have powers to investigate and act on victims' complaints. These necessary reforms would ensure that proper quality standards were in place and that victims had redress.”
Claire Waxman, Founder Voice 4 Victims l firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director
M: 07860 540145 l E: Harry@digital-trust.org
Notes to Editor
1 Victims’ Rights survey:
During 2014, Voice4Victims conducted a comprehensive survey of Victims' experiences of the Criminal Justice System. The principle findings were:
- The CPS, HMCTS, Witness services, CICA, Probation/ Victim Liaison Unit, Parole Board all scored over 50% in the extremely poor category for communication, with Parole board scoring the highest with 67%.
- Criminal Justice agencies scored over 40% in the extremely poor category when victims were asked to score the way these agencies treated them, with Parole board scoring the highest at 59%
- 55% of victims were never informed about criminal injuries compensation
- 44% were never given opportunity to make a victim personal statement
- 64% of victims never received any advice or support on writing their victim personal statements
Quotes from Victims Survey
- I will never forgive the CPS and the Police for the stress they added to my case'
- 'at the trial of my murdered son, I was given a strict warning from the judge not to show any emotion during the 3 and half month trial ..if I had I would have been removed from court instantly'
- 'the offender (murderer of my brother) was remanded to a bail hostel just a few minutes from my home pre-trial. It traumatised me to feel so unsafe'
- 'delays in getting personal property of murder victim when not going to be used in evidence'
- ''all my evidence that I compiled has now been lost by the CPS and without any consideration into the emotional trauma, I have been requested to compile the file again'
- 'the police were cruel and mocked me and the court date was set for 3 days before I was due to give birth. I have since left the country because of our justice system'
- 'My personal information was disclosed to my stalker by criminal justice agencies which put me at further risk'
- 'I was advised by police that if i got some actual bruises or injuries from him, that would be better for evidence'
Need for a Victims’ Rights Bill
Currently, victims’ rights are not represented in the criminal justice system. Waxman whose organisation, Voice4Victims, campaigns for rights of victims is working with Digital-Trust to introduce a Victims Rights Bill (see draft: www.digital-trust.org/victims-bill.
The Bill places a responsibility on the Secretary of State to publish a victim’s legal framework and outlines over enforceable rights for victims under the following key areas:
- Overarching rights
- Rights to Review
- Compensation & Costs
About Voice 4 Victims
About Voice 4 Victims
Voice4Victims is a non profit organisation set up by Claire Waxman to offer advocacy and support to victims navigating through the Criminal Justice system and to advise justice agencies on the impact of crime on victims. It has also spearheaded the Victims Rights campaign to address the imbalance of equality though enshrining rights of victims in a Victims’ Law. Working with several victims’ organisations, MP's and charities, the campaign has amassed substantial evidence about the difficulties and injustices victims face within the criminal justice system. They have also highlighted, and looking to address, the legal loopholes within the Civil and Family courts which allow perpetrators direct contact to abuse or harass their victims further.
Together with the expertise of Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director of the Digital Trust , a Victim’s Rights Bill was drafted and has now gained cross party support. Claire is optimistic that it will become law and ensure that there is a culture shift towards the treatment and support of victims in this country.
The Digital-Trust is a new not-for-profit organisation that brings technologists together with those professionals working within the criminal justice system and the associated support charities. This new organisation actively campaigns for more responsive legislation for victims of abuse. It also identifies risks and continuously develops new advice, tools and guidance to combat the rapidly escalating problem of digital abuse.
Harry Fletcher, Digital-Trust – Criminal Justice Director
Harry is a respected criminal justice expert and parliamentary campaigner. Harry was the Assistant General Secretary of NAPO for over 20 years. His role as a criminal justice expert has been to campaign and influence for changes in government policy. He was instrumental in getting the new domestic violence and stalking law through parliament. His current projects include: Victims’ Rights Bill, Digital-Abuse Consolidation Bill and Courts Co-operation, Enforcement and Family Courts Amendment Bill.