Gareth Johnson MP for Dartford, member of the Justice Select Committee, has today welcomed the announcement made by Victims’ Minister Damian Green that the Government will be introducing a new Victims’ Code.
Gareth said “The Victims’ Code sets out a framework for how the victims of crime will be treated by the system that is designed to bring them justice. It makes clear what is expected of each of the agencies that may be involved in the investigation or prosecution of crimes. It spells out the importance of consistency in the levels of information victims are given and when they are provided with it. It also recognises that many victims are particularly vulnerable and ensures there is clarity as to whom is responsible for advising victims about the outcome of investigations or Court hearings.”
Gareth continued “What is particularly encouraging is the recognition that victims need to be more involved in Court proceedings. For the first time a victim may come before the Court in person and tell the Court how the crime has impacted their life. This will be across all Courts, including the Youth Court. At present we have a Youth Justice system which protects the identity of young offenders by reporting restrictions and private hearings. There is no public gallery in a Youth Court and unless a victim is giving evidence they are excluded from the Court process. The importance of recognising the impact of a crime on a victim is particularly evident in the Youth Court. The Youth Courts deal with some very serious cases such as serious sexual and violent assaults, which, were the defendant an adult, would result in lengthy sentences from a Crown Court Judge. The long term effect on a victim in these sorts of cases can be life changing and therefore this proposal allows for a greater level of victim involvement whilst ensuring the anonymity of young defendants and privacy of cases is not compromised.”
“I have been seeking to persuade the Ministry of Justice to level the playing field between the rights of a defendant and the rights of a victim. I am in negotiations with them over the possibility of them adopting some of the proposals contained in my Ten Minute Rule Bill on Unduly Lenient Sentences which I presented to the House of Commons in January. One aspect of those proposals was considering the way in which the current system in the Youth Court does not provide the victim the opportunity to ask the Attorney General to refer a case to the Court of Appeal if they feel the sentence given to the offender was too low, even where a victim of the same offence, when committed by an adult and tried in the Crown Court could. This recent announcement really does much to advance the arguments that I put forward in that Bill, that we cannot allow a defendant more right to have his voice heard than a victim. By involving the victim in the sentencing of an offender it makes it harder for their desire for justice to be ignored.”