Crime and Society Foundation response to the Home Office consultation on the Victims' Code of Practice
Are there any comments on the eligibility of Code services?
The Victims' Code of Practice only covers victims who come into contact with criminal justice agencies and can therefore only have limited scope for addressing the needs of those harmed by crime.
Do you consider these to be the correct obligations to ensure victims receive information, protection, support and the opportunity to provide information?
Section 4 of the Code identifies 'persons entitled to receive services under the Code' covering 'which crimes', 'which people' and 'exceptions'. If this constitutes the definition of a 'victim' within the terms of the Code, then this should be explicitly stated at the beginning of Section 4.
The Victims' Code of Practice provides a narrow definition of those harmed by crime and will therefore have limited scope for ensuring that all victims of crime receive information, protection and support.
The consultation document states that 'the focus is on a victim's interaction with criminal justice agencies only' (p9). The Code is focused on assisting and supporting victims through the criminal justice process so that agencies can bring an offence to justice. This risks prioritising the prosecution and conviction of offenders over and above the safety and welfare of those harmed by crime.
A more holistic approach would involve an assessment of the impact of the crime on the victim. This would provide an opportunity to:
- attempt to establish the level of harm experienced by the victim
- identify vulnerable victims
- look at short- and long-term needs and locate services available to address these needs
The role of the police is central to the Victims' Code of Practice as the gatekeepers for receiving allegations of a crime and identifying vulnerable victims. Due to the changing nature of the extended policing family, it would be helpful to have a much clearer definition of 'police'. If 'police' is intended to cover neighbourhood wardens, police community support officers and other members of the extended policing family, then this should be stated and consideration be given to training and their ability to identify and support those victims identified within the Code.
Should any obligations be added/removed or amended?
There should be a stated acknowledgement of the limitations of the Victims' Code of Practice in that it has a narrow focus in only dealing with the limited number of victims who come into contact with the criminal justice system and that the many other agencies supporting victims have been overlooked within this code.
The list of vulnerable victims ignores the role of economic and social disadvantage and the impact these factors have on vulnerability to crime and the effects of victimisation.
The Code says that Youth Offending Teams should be notified of a victim's details when the 'perpetrator' is under 18 so they can be notified about restorative or reparative justice schemes. This unfairly excludes victims whose perpetrator is aged 18 or above.
Are there any other comments you would like the Government to consider in relation to the code?
The needs of those harmed by crime extend beyond what the criminal justice process can offer in terms of bringing an offence to justice. Interventions with offenders through an 'offence brought to justice' can only provide limited resolution to the small number of victims the CJS comes into contact with. Much greater consideration should be given to the long- and short-term needs of victims and the extent to which the criminal justice system is best placed to deliver services to meet these needs.
The criminal justice system is just one of many agencies that comes into contact with victims. As part of the ongoing development of support for those harmed by crime, it is recommended that the responsibility of non-criminal justice agencies and the role they play in providing services to those harmed by crime should be considered in greater detail. For example, the NHS, DfES, DWP, Local Authorities, Social Services and the private sector all have direct and regular contact with people harmed by crime.
Victims' Code of Practice: A Guide for Victims
Vulnerable victims: On page 3 of the guide, it says 'You are considered a vulnerable victim if:' followed by a list of conditions. It is suggested that the guide should also include guidance on 'what to do if you consider yourself to fall within any of these categories' - many vulnerable victims may not know who to report their 'vulnerability' to and this could be made clearer.
For information contact: