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Draft Bill proposes PCCs have more scrutiny over victims’ services

The legislation places more accountability on the CPS and the police for the service they give to victims.

The Bill places the principles of the Victims’ Code in primary legislation. The latest revised Code came into force in April of last year. It defines 12 overarching services which eligible victims are entitled to. 

Criminal Justice Bodies, including the police, will need to collect data and monitor their compliance with the Code. 

The draft Bill states that “the elected local policing body [PCCs] for a police area must keep under review how the local criminal justice bodies for the police area are complying with the victims’ code.”

This role had previously been filled by the Victims’ Commissioner. 

PCCs will also have a new duty to work together with local authorities and health organisations when commissioning services for victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence and other serious violence. They will need to publish a joint local strategy with aims and an approach for commissioning relevant services. 

The estimated cost for PCCs to monitor compliance and give regard to feedback is between £0 and £3.5m per year. 

Victims will be given clearer routes of redress if they do not receive the level of support they are entitled to, and they would no longer be required to go through their MP before speaking to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

A complaint could be able to be made directly by the person affected. The change is designed as an exception for those who would consider the ‘MP filter’ a barrier to making a complaint, the government does not intend to remove the filter more widely. 

Meanwhile, the Victims’ Commissioner’s annual report will now be laid before Parliament and agencies will need to respond to the recommendations within 56 days of it being published. 

Criminal justice inspectorates will be able to undertake regular joint inspections on victims’ issues and produce consequent action plans. While they already work together for joint thematic inspections, the Bill is to ensure that “their programme of work regularly includes a focus on victims’ issues.” 

A definition will be created for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors to ensure consistency and they will receive guidance on minimum standards and best practice. 

Prosecutors would be obliged to meet victims in certain cases pre-trial and victim’s will gain the right to attend Parole Board hearings in full and to submit questions.

The Victim Surcharge will see a 20 per cent increase resulting in a raise of £20m by 2025. A five per cent increase had previously been announced in March 2020. This was part of a commitment made during the 2019 election to increase the surcharge by 25 percent.

The Draft Victims Bill will now be subject to scrutiny from the Commons Justice Select Committee.

APCC Joint Victims Leads Donna Jones & Sophie Linden said: “Today’s announcement is welcomed by Police and Crime Commissioners. It enshrines the Victims’ Code into law, putting victims front and centre in the criminal justice system. We are pleased by the prominent role of PCCs in drawing together partnerships, ensuring the voice of victims is heard, and in monitoring compliance across the system locally. Each are critical areas of work.

“We look forward to working with partners to deliver quality services for victims under a new duty to collaborate. This is a real opportunity to assess need and work collaboratively to ensure we are delivering the very best services for victims. 

 “PCCs play a central locally in monitoring performance through chairing our Local Criminal Justice Boards. We look forward to working with our partners to closely scrutinise code compliance data to identify areas of challenge and success, putting victims first. 

“We will be working closely with our colleagues in government on the pre-legislative scrutiny of this draft legislation and look forward to the Bill being introduced to Parliament at the soonest possible opportunity. Resourcing must match the demands placed upon PCCs, their offices, and the services we commission, to continue delivering the high quality of services that victims are entitled to receive.”

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