Victims’ Bill will have ‘limited effect’ without proper funding – report

The group of MPs found ‘flaws’ in the way victims were defined in the draft Bill.

29 September 2022

The Government’s plans for a Victims’ Bill will have a “limited effect” unless more funding is provided, according to MPs.

The Commons Justice Committee reviewed the proposed legal reforms which could pave the way for the first victims’ law in a bid to make sure they are better treated and supported in the criminal justice system.

The group of MPs found “flaws” in the way victims were defined in the draft Bill, a “lack of enforcement powers” and the need for additional resources so the proposals can be effective.

It also said the sharing of a victim’s immigration status by the police with the Home Office acts as a “barrier to justice” and called for the practice to end.

Rape victims survey
Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird has branded the Bill ‘inadequate’ (Northumbria PCC/PA)

According to the committee, changes proposed in the draft Bill would diminish the role of the Victims’ Commissioner which it argued should be “strengthened”.

The report comes a week after Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird announced she was quitting her post as she accused ministers of “downgrading” victims’ interests in the Government’s priorities and of “side-lining” her office while branding the Bill as “inadequate”.

Committee chairman Sir Bob Neill said: “The draft Bill’s aim to improve the criminal justice system’s treatment of victims is laudable, but the Government must provide new funding to make it all possible. If not, the police, CPS and Probation Service will be forced to divert funds away from their core functions.

“The definition of a victim must be explained in more detail, particularly where it includes witnesses without any mention of how badly said witness has been affected. It can’t be the Government’s intention that a witness to petty theft should have more rights under this legislation than a murder victim’s next of kin.

“The draft Bill comes amid a backdrop of significant and growing court backlogs with victims of crime too often waiting years for their cases to come to court, and criminal legal aid barristers turning away from the profession. The Government is taking steps in tackling those deep-rooted problems but until they are resolved victims will continue to suffer harm for too long.”

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said: “In its current form, the Victims’ Bill is a missed opportunity to transform the justice and support landscape for victims and survivors, who continue to be appallingly failed at every step of the justice process.

“The Government is not doing enough to deliver on its claims that this Bill will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Our reforms will put victims’ needs and voices firmly at the heart of the justice system and increase the accountability of agencies like the police and Crown Prosecution Service for the service they provide to them.

“We will carefully consider the Committee’s recommendations and respond in due course.”

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