Warning over victims' treatment

Lack of awareness of the Victims' Code by people working in the criminal justice system is placing some crime victims under extreme duress and leading to injustices, a watchdog has warned today.

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Charities worried that victims will miss support

Police tape Credit: PA

Charities have cautiously welcomed the government's proposed changes to the Victims' Code, but say they are concerned that individuals will miss out on crucial support.

Under the current system all victims are referred to specialist services once they experience a crime, but the Ministry of Justice is proposing focusing on "the most needy".

The Chief Executive of Victim Support Javen Khan said "being a victim of crime can be traumatic and we're worried that victims will fall through the cracks".

Government: 'Victims must be given more support'

The Victims' Minister Helen Grant says that the government will push for a new code of practice which would enshrine the rights of victims to receive extra help and support.

People who have made complaints of sexual assault would be entitled to specialist care before trial under the new proposals.

Victims must have more help navigating a confusing and often intimidating criminal justice system. Too often they tell us they feel they are treated as an afterthought or that the 'system' made their already horrific experience worse.

I have always been clear we must put a stop to this, and make sure victims of crime are treated with the care they deserve. This total revamp of the Victims' Code has been one of my main priorities and I have heard from victims just how important getting this right is.

Victims will now be able to understand and prepare themselves for their entire journey through the criminal justice system, from reporting the crime to after the trial. It easily explains what they should expect from the system and who to demand help from if it is not being provided.

– Helen Grant MP, Victims' Minister

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Watchdog: 'Crime victims put under extreme duress'

The Parliamentary Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor claims that the victims of crime are being put under "extreme duress" because of a lack of awareness of their rights.

The Victim's Code tells people what they can expect from the moment they report a crime to the end of a trial.

The government is unveiling new proposals to update the Code which would give extra support to the victims of the most serious offences and also offer specialist support to young people.

Victims, including those who have been subjected to serious crime, such as sexual assault, have spoken to us about how they have been left feeling powerless and shattered.

Failures by agencies to recognise even the most basic rights of those victims under the Code, such as being told that the charges against the defendant have changed or that an appeal was taking place, have added to their distress and undermined their confidence in the criminal justice system.

From customer inquiry teams to legal advisers, from court ushers to area directors, knowledge of the Code and of the standard of service victims have the right to expect is alarmingly thin on the ground.

– Dame Julie Mellor, Parliamentary Ombudsman
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