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Victims will get right to appeal

Crime victims will be able to win the right to appeal against decisions by prosecutors not to charge suspects under a new policy being unveiled.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC has put out to consultation plans for the new Victims' Right to Review (VRR) policy, which covers any decision taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to not charge a suspect.

The change was prompted by a Court of Appeal ruling involving a case in which the CPS decided in 2007 not to bring sexual assault charges.

The decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal and in 2011 disabled man Christopher Killick was jailed for three and a half years for sexually abusing two fellow cerebral palsy sufferers.

The court stated "as a decision not to prosecute is in reality a final decision for a victim, there must be a right to seek a review of such a decision".

Unveiling the new policy, Mr Starmer said: "The criminal justice system historically treated victims as bystanders and accordingly gave them little say in their cases. The decisions of prosecutors were rarely reversed because it was considered vital that decisions, even when later shown to be questionable, were final and could be relied upon. This approach was intended to inspire confidence, but in reality it had the opposite effect. Refusing to admit mistakes can seriously undermine public trust in the criminal justice system."

Mr Starmer, who will step down from the CPS in October, said the new VRR policy is one of the most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS.

Any victim of crime, which includes bereaved family members or other representatives, can now ask the CPS to look again at a case following a decision not to charge, to discontinue proceedings or offer no evidence. Those entitled to an enhanced service under the Victims' Code will also be offered a discussion with a prosecutor about the outcome of the review.

Victims' Commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove, whose husband Garry was killed by a gang vandalising his car, said: "I am delighted that Mr Starmer and the CPS are committed to a right for review for victims and their loved ones when they have evidence or concerns for this to happen.

"On my appointment I was keen to work with Mr Starmer, victims and families of those who have suffered the loss of loved ones to put right this injustice. I am pleased that Mr Starmer has listened to the representations I have made on their behalf and today is a positive step forward for victims and their families. Whilst I welcome this change, I will continue to monitor the implementation of this change and challenge where necessary any shortcomings."


From Belfast Telegraph