Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Guide planned to help crime victims

Victims Minister Helen Grant says the justice system can be confusing and often intimidating
Victims Minister Helen Grant says the justice system can be confusing and often intimidating

Victims of crime will be able to hold the criminal justice system to account under proposals for a new code of practice backed by law, the Government has announced.

The Victims' Code tells people what they can expect from the moment they report a crime to the end of a trial, and who to demand help from if it is not provided, said the Ministry of Justice.

The code will also ensure extra support for victims of the most serious crimes and offer specialist help to young victims.

But victims' charities warned that some people who need support will no longer be automatically referred to victims' services under the changes. All victims are currently automatically offered support once they have experienced a crime, but in 80% of cases they do not take it up.

Instead, the Ministry of Justice now proposes automatically offering help to those who "most need it", such as victims of the most serious crimes.

Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan said the charity welcomed many aspects of the draft Victims' Code.

But he added: "Being a victim of crime can be traumatic and we're worried that victims will fall through the cracks. We hope that police and crime commissioners, with their responsibilities for victims, will want to go further than this to ensure that all victims have the support they need, when they need it."

The code will make sure victims of the most serious crime receive extra help and support including pre-trial counselling and ensure more victim personal statements.

Victims' Minister Helen Grant said: "Victims must have more help navigating a confusing and often intimidating criminal justice system. Too often they tell us they feel they are treated as an afterthought or that the 'system' made their already horrific experience worse.

"I have always been clear we must put a stop to this, and make sure victims of crime are treated with the care they deserve. This total revamp of the Victims Code has been one of my main priorities and I have heard from victims just how important getting this right is."

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