Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice

Is this Government Serious about protecting victims?

Is this Government serious about protecting victims? – Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird

This week Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP provided the House of Commons with further information about the Government\’s document \’Our Commitment to Victims\’.

In a Written Ministerial Statement Mr Grayling believes the proposed laws will see victims kept informed about their case and courts will allow most to provide a personal impact statement. 

Vera Baird said: \”What the Justice Secretary has announced is a few add ons to the Victims\’ Code – but nothing of real substance.

\”A lot of what is mentioned in the Written Ministerial Statement is already happening, an example being that victim impact statements will become law, however they have already proved their worth without legislation. We saw the benefits of impact statements in the Rolf Harris case. These statements allow the courts to know how victims have been affected by a crime and for the perpetrator to hear how their actions can ruin lives.\”

Mrs Baird added: \”Let’s be absolutely clear, Chris Grayling is the Secretary of State who has cut compensation to victims to the bone and scrapped legal aid for victims of sexual and domestic abuse.

\”It\’s a shocking indictment of this Government’s policies for victims that two-thirds of domestic violence victims have been left with no legal aid to safeguard families against violent partners.  This is a Government that tells us they take seriously the need to address domestic violence – then they remove the very support that is needed.\”

The Government has published updates and provided further information, but they have avoided the question about why they implemented cuts to the Criminal Justice Compensation Board.

\”Let us be under no illusion, as Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan recently said, the Government has let victims down by cutting compensation for innocent victims of violent crime and leaving the position of Victims’ Commissioner vacant for almost a year, before making the role part time,\” the Commissioner said. 

\”Downing Street does not speak up for victims of crime. David Cameron wanted to reduce prison sentences by half if criminals entered a guilty plea, they have closed refuges and cut resources for Victim Support. 

\”The Labour Party continues to work with organisations that support victims to ensure the right support, at the right time, is in place. The next Labour Government will implement a strategy that keeps victims at the heart of all decisions which is the right way forward – not add ons and bolt ons to existing legislation as the current Government is doing.\”

Putting victims first is a commitment Vera Baird has given in her Police and Crime Plan for residents of Northumbria and from April 2015 responsibility for some victims\’ services will fall to Police and Crime Commissioners.

Vera Baird has consulted on an outline strategy and is mapping the need for services. Through working with local authorities and other responsible partners she will devise a final joint strategy ensuring local services for victims are the best that can be jointly provided.

\”Victims will always be at the centre of the criminal justice system in our region,\” she said.