Response to Victims’ Commissioner’s proposals to Government on the Victim’s Law
24th February 2021
Mark Burns-Williamson OBE, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) said that he broadly agreed with the proposals outlined in Dame Vera Baird’s policy paper submitted to Government and released today. (WED)
The paper contains 34 recommendations for inclusion in the Victims’ Law. There are a number for PCCs and Mayors, including being given the statutory duty to monitor compliance with the Victims’ Code at a local level, requiring them to include a section on details for providing victims’ services in their future Police and Crime Plans and appointing a Victims’ Champion within three months of being elected.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I recognise and welcome these proposals and will support them to be included in the Victims’ Law, including those requiring local action that make the PCC’s and Mayors accountable.
“In practice I have put victims at the heart of my Police and Crime Plan since I was elected in 2012. I have also lobbied for the Victims’ Law introduction. Last February (2020) I launched the first West Yorkshire Victims’ Strategy ‘Supporting People Harmed by Crime’ in Wakefield, with the support of Dame Vera, who I worked with closely when she was PCC for Northumbria, and now as the national Victims’ Commissioner.
“We have made over £6m available to Victims’ Services in the last year including Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Victims Funding, Covid Special funding, additional Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) funding and our new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
“As chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), made up of our criminal justice partners, I will be discussing these recommendations with them.
“This policy paper shows that support for victims needs to be a priority across the whole of government, and in a more co-ordinated way with all government departments truly working together including the health service.
“There isn’t enough funding for victims services to meet the demand pressures, let alone the growing crises of delayed court cases and building backlogs after years of Government cuts and under investment across the Criminal Justice system, so this needs to be addressed at both a national and local level.
“The Revised Victims’ Code launched last November with its 12 rights is an important step forward but it isn’t enforceable unless it becomes law. I also supported PCC’s monitoring the Code from the start, and support what Dame Vera proposes to ensure this happens, at both local and national level.
“However, this should only be the start to making sure that victims are no longer bystanders in the criminal justice system, but recognised as full participants. That is a crucial development which I believe could be a huge shift for how victims are seen and treated within the criminal justice system.
“Collectively, there needs to be a will to make sure their voices are heard, and I have been actively engaged with victims groups in West Yorkshire to take this journey forward.
“Mindful as we head towards devolution, PCCs and elected mayors including the West Yorkshire one, who will be elected in May, will need additional powers to hold the criminal justice system more to account starting at the Ministry Of Justice level to help facilitate these required and needed changes putting victims at the heart of the system.”
West Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Russ Foster, said:
“As an organisation focused on providing a quality service and wherever possible achieving the best outcomes for victims’, we naturally welcome any proposals which addresses the needs and rights of victims and which clearly sets out exactly what they can expect from the police, partners and the criminal justice system as a whole.
“Putting the victim first is at the heart of what we do at West Yorkshire Police and we work in partnership with other organisations and agencies to provide support and advice where victims need it the most.
“Victims need to be reassured that they will listened to and measures will be put in place to safeguard them and we will continue to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner and partners to make sure they receive a quality service.”