Claire Waxman, London’s first Victim Commissioner (LVC), has published her review of the Victim’s Code – examining how (and if) the agencies that deal with victims are complying.
The Victim’s Code of Practice, published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), explains the entitlements to information, support and participation in the criminal justice system for victims of crime. It is designed for agencies that deal with crime victims (such as the police) to follow, and ensure that victims get access to information and support.
The review is a rigorous one; informed by more than 2,100 victims of crime, including 14 victims’ focus groups (including two for road crash victims and organised in collaboration with RoadPeace).
Inclusion of road crash victims is a step forward, as they are not always represented when looking at victims of crime. The MoJ only mentioned road crime victims as an endnote on the last page in their Victim Strategy, whilst additional funding and support were promised to other groups of victims.
Claire Waxman’s review highlights a number of issues, but the crux of the matter is that compliance to the Code is low, with less than a third of victims having been told about the Victim’s Code, or offered a referral to support services.
The solution she has recommended is for the government to fulfill their manifesto commitment of introducing a Victim’s Law, which will give people legally enforceable rights if they are a victim of crime (currently under the Code they are simply ‘entitlements’).
The London Victims Commissioner reported how:
Throughout the process of research and engagement with victims and practitioners, concerns were raised about groups of potentially highly vulnerable victims missing out on entitlements under the Code.
For example, relatives of people murdered abroad are not currently covered by the Code. Victims of road traffic accidents and victims of crimes found to be perpetrated by mentally disordered offenders don’t have key entitlements provided for effectively under the Code. We can and must do better for these people (Waxman, 2019).
And better is coming… including ensuring the LVC refers to crashes or collisions instead of accidents.
Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) has commissioned RoadPeace to provide information and support for victims of crashes. This includes producing guides for those bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes so they are better informed. RoadPeace’s London Traffic Justice project is also working to improve the treatment of crash victims in London. Key aims include ensuring all crash victims receive information and support, and for victims of road traffic crime (driving offences) to have the same rights as other victims of crime.
Victoria Lebrec, RoadPeace London Traffic Justice Campaign Coordinator, spoke at the London Victim Summit last week on the importance of a thorough investigation and regular updates and communication by the police. A crash victim herself, her experience of the criminal justice system was a positive one. However, RoadPeace’s experience of supporting crash victims suggests this isn’t always the case. So we are running a survey to collect evidence on crash victims’ experience, and the police’s compliance to the Victim’s Code https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8R7ZT/. The survey will complement the work undertaken by the Victim Commissioner, and provide more evidence around how road crash victims are treated.