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Victim compensated after failings

A robbery victim who was also harassed by a gang of youths ahead of his court appearance has been paid £2,500 in compensation after government watchdogs found he had been treated in a "degrading and inhumane manner".

Both Trafford Youth Offending Team and Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council failed to deal with the young victim's case properly, causing "unforgivable amounts of stress" and making him question whether he had "done the right thing" in coming forward to report the crime, the investigation found.

In addition, a youth worker assigned to the young victim had already been in contact with one of the offenders and appeared to be acting in the robber's interests, a joint investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman Service and the Local Government Ombudsman found.

The investigation concluded that the youth offending team breached the Victims' Code, which places a statutory obligation on criminal justice agencies to provide a certain standard of service to victims, while the council's actions were "so far below" standard they amounted to maladministration.

Julie Mellor, Parliamentary Ombudsman, said: "This case is a prime example of how failure to follow the Victims' Code can lead to distress and lost opportunities to achieve justice and 'closure' for victims of crime."

The victim and his parents complained that the youth offending team breached the code, while the council's handling of the complaint was not conducted properly. A youth worker assigned to the victim had already been working with one of the offenders convicted of robbery.

She then tried to pressure the boy to meet face-to-face with the offenders, as part of the so-called restorative justice process, the report said.

In addition, she attempted to meet the victim alone, without his parents as his right, and also questioned the victim's integrity by asking if he was clear if one of the offenders - convicted and sentenced for robbery - was definitely guilty.

The watchdogs said that by failing to offer alternatives to a face-to-face meeting with the offenders, the youth offending team breached the code. It also failed to take into account the victim's wishes about the type of community work he wanted the offenders to carry out. The youth offending team and the council also failed to understand the impact the whole process had on the teenager's emotional health.

Victims' minister Helen Grant said: "It is imperative that victims can hold the criminal justice system to account. That's why we will shortly publish a new Victims' Code that tells victims, in plain English, what entitlements they have, what support they should be getting, and who to demand help from if they're not getting it. We must have the right safeguards in place to ensure restorative justice is victim-focused and the new Victims' Code will do just this."

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