The government has today (25th May 2022) published its long-awaited Victims’ Bill, aiming to improve support and justice outcomes for victims and survivors.
Some of the measures within the new legislation include:
- Establishing the Victims’ Code in law
- Establishing a statutory definition for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs).
- Seeking victims’ views at regular points during their case.
- A new duty on prosecutors in certain cases to meet victims before trial to hear their views.
- Victims’ right to attend Parole Board hearings and submit questions such as querying an offender’s suitability for release. Parole Boards will be required to consider victims’ views before making a decision.
- Ministers will be able to order the criminal justice inspectorates to undertake regular joint inspections on victims’ issues and produce action plans to drive improvements.
- Removal of the requirement for victims to go through their local MP before raising a complaint about their treatment with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) welcomes many of the measures, which have the potential to positively impact on women and girls’ experiences with the criminal justice system. In particular, we welcome news that the Victims’ Code will be put on a statutory footing. This is long overdue and should help improve the quality and consistency of specialist support services in the community – something EVAW and our members have long called for.
However, we think these measures need to go further to reflect the diverse priorities and needs of all victims and survivors.
It’s crucial that this new law delivers in other ways, including on independent legal advice for rape survivors and safeguards to protect them from excessive police requests for their medical history, therapy notes and other personal data.
We also call on government to use this opportunity to address inequalities in access to justice and specialist support for marginalised groups, including Black and minoritised women, migrant women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“We welcome publication of the new Victims’ Bill, which has the potential to improve victims and survivors’ experiences of the criminal justice system.
It cannot come soon enough, as we know that women and girls’ confidence in justice agencies is at an all-time low because of the persistent failings towards victims and survivors of rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse.
This Bill should be seen as an opportunity to build a better landscape for all victims and survivors inside and outside of the criminal justice system, and be a crucial part of the work to transform the conditions that give rise to and exacerbate an epidemic of violence against women and girls in the UK.
Recovery is an essential part of justice, and we need to ensure every survivor who needs help can access a service tailored to their needs. We are a long way from that being a reality.
We need to see government commit to sustainable funding of specialist services – particularly those led by and for Black and minoritised women. Despite these services being best placed to support marginalised women who are disproportionately victims of gender-based violence, they are chronically underfunded, meaning many are on the brink of collapse.
What’s more, we expect to see more done to investigate and address the huge disparity in justice outcomes for women who are marginalised on the basis of their race, class, disability or other characteristics.
This Bill is an important first step, but there remains much to do if we are to improve victims and survivors’ experiences of justice and recovery. The government must listen to victims, survivors and their advocates in the specialist women’s sector, and take urgent action to meet their rights and needs.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07960 744 502