An integral part of the justice system is ensuring that the rights and concerns of victims of crime are heard and acted upon.
The new Victims & Prisoners Bill will place victims at the heart of justice and introduce some common sense reforms to the parole system.
This legislation goes to deliver three key manifesto commitments: to pass and implement a Victims’ Law, to reform the parole system, and to establish an Independent Public Advocate to support victims of a major incident.
Principles of the Victims’ Code will be enshrined in law, with a duty placed on criminal justice bodies with Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to review their compliance and raise awareness of the Code.
It is vital for support to be targeted where victims need it. The Government will secure the introduction of a joint statutory duty on PCCs and health and local authorities to work together when commissioning support services.
Guidance on Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors will be introduced, to increase the awareness and consistency of these roles: providing greater support for victims of sexual and domestic abuse.
The Victim Surcharge has been increased by 20 per cent, meaning offenders pay more towards vital victim support services. This increase will generate additional income of up to £20 million per year by 2024-25.
The Victims’ Code will also provide for the Crown Prosecution Service in certain cases to meet victims before a hearing takes place. The Ministry of Justice continues to work with the judiciary to introduce a Code entitlement for victims of the most serious crimes to be able to submit a victim personal statement to the Mental Health Tribunal, where an offender’s release is being considered.
Updates to the Bill will see the creation of an Independent Public Advocate.
By fulfilling this longstanding Government commitment, the Advocate will apply to the victims of major incidents. They will provide assistance to bereaved families and the injured in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale disaster such as the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, as well as assisting with any follow-up inquest or inquiry process.
I have received assurances from the Secretary of State for Justice that he will work closely not only with parliamentarians but with the Hillsborough families, Grenfell support groups and families of the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.
The Bill will also create a power of veto for the Secretary of State to refuse the release of the most dangerous prisoners. It will also prohibit those serving a whole life order from entering into a marriage or civil partnership.
Through these reforms we can enhance our support for victims of crime.
Henry Smith MP