Hundred families today responded to the Ministry of Justice’ consultation on the Victims Code.
The Victims Code is the official government guidance setting out minimum standards of services and support that victims of crime should receive from state agencies like the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Probation service and others.
Unfortunately the existing Code doesn’t take sufficient account of the needs of the families of victims of mentally disordered offenders and could be significantly improved.
What we’ve asked for:
- The Victims’ Code must apply to all NHS agencies, mental health trusts, clinical commissioning groups, secure hospitals and managers, Responsible Clinicians as well as staff dealing with mentally disordered offenders, not just criminal justice agencies.
- Full disclosure of information is important to many families, particularly at hearings where the evidence is agreed in advance, where there is a guilty plea, and when there is only a sentencing hearing.
- The Victims’ Code must include the right for victims to receive witness statements and all reports for the court and Tribunals following the conviction of an offender, if they so wish.
- An offender convicted of serious and violent offences, or his responsible clinicians, should not be able to determine what information victims receive – as often happens when such offenders are mentally disordered – adding considerable distress and further injury to already grieving families.
VICTIMS CONTACT SCHEME
- Given the difficulties for grieving families to understand implications often years in the future, the Victims’ Code should ensure the Victim Contact Scheme is an ‘opt-out’ scheme, (so the default position is for victims to be kept informed about developments in the case) rather than ‘opt-in’ as it is currently.
- The Victims’ Code should guarantee victims rights to legal aid at Inquests where state agencies are involved and represented.
- The Victims’ Code must include improved rights for victims when a mentally disordered offender is being considered for release.
- The Victims’ Code should ensure that victims of mentally disordered offenders will be entitled to the same rights at Mental Health Tribunals that other victims of violent crime enjoy at Parole Board hearings.
- These rights should include (as a minimum)
o The right to make a victim personal statement.
o The right to give evidence in person.
o The right to know the names of the members of the Tribunal.
o The right to receive a written explanation of the decisions taken.
o The right to appeal a decision.
o The right to make a complaint that will be considered and acted upon.
o The right to be told and challenge any statement made about them or their family.
o The right to be considered an ‘interested party’ at the hearing.
- The Victims Code should ensure that mentally disordered offenders do not receive welfare benefits whilst detained for committing serious crimes. Any state benefits paid to such indefinitely detained offenders must be subject to the Victims Surcharge to help pay for victims’ services.
- The Victims Code must ensure victims have the right to be consulted, involved in, and be told precise information about safeguarding arrangements to protect them and their families following the release of an offender who has previously harmed them.
- The Victims’ Code should be strengthened so that victims are not just be able to make a complaint about their rights not being met, it must ensure the complaint is considered promptly and acted upon to restore those rights.
POWERS OF THE VICTIMS’ COMMISSIONER
- The role and the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner need to be strengthened.
agencies listed under the Victims Code must have a statutory duty to cooperate with the Victims Commissioner, including giving the Commissioner the power to request data and information.
- There should be a statutory requirement for agencies to consider and respond to recommendations contained within Victims’ Commissioner reports within a reasonable timeframe.
- There should be a requirement for the Victim’s Commissioners reports and reviews to be laid before Parliament.
If you’d like to contribute to the consultation please send a response by May 28 2020.