Charity gives victims code warning
A new code for victims drawn up by the Government risks seeing up to 700,000 people who have been burgled, robbed and assaulted "fall through the cracks", a charity has warned.
Responding to a consultation on the new code, Victim Support said plans to limit automatic referral to support services will make it difficult for people to "get the help they need".
All victims are currently automatically offered support once they have experienced a crime, but in 80% of cases they do not take it up.
Under the new code, ministers have proposed restricting automatic referral to those who have suffered a "serious" offence and those deemed vulnerable by being under 18, mentally ill or persistently targeted.
Victim Support assistant chief executive Adam Pemberton said the charity welcomed many changes to the proposed code but had "serious concerns" about plans to limit automatic referral. He said: "There is a very real risk that people who have been burgled, robbed and assaulted will fall through the cracks and suffer more unnecessary trauma as a result.
"Our research shows that nearly two-thirds of victims need help and that support can reduce their chances of suffering problems such as depression, absenteeism from work and family breakdown with all the hidden economic and social costs they bring. We recognise that ministers are seeking to put victims' rights at the heart of the criminal justice system but call on them restore the principle of automatic referral which has served millions of people so very well."
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show that up to 259,000 victims of burglary and up to 18,000 victims of robbery each year would not be routinely offered the help they want if these proposals go ahead, Victim Support said.
The MoJ said the code will make sure victims of the most serious crime, the most persistently targeted victims and the most vulnerable receive extra help and support - including pre-trial therapy and counselling. The code will also support victims' rights to compensation by making all criminal justice agencies have a clear, accessible complaints system.
A spokewoman said: "We are pleased that Victim Support welcomes much of the Victims' Code. We will listen to any comments they have and consider them carefully along with all other responses to the consultation. Resources and support must be targeted to those victims who most need and want it - the purpose of the consultation is to find out how best we can achieve this."
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "Victims of burglary, robbery and assault deserve better than the Government's weak victims code. Instead of eroding support for innocent victims of crime as this Government has done, Labour is committed to introduce a proper Victims Law, with rights of victims enshrined in legislation."