The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales (“the Victims’ Code” or “the Code”) first came into effect in 2006, following the enactment of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. It was most recently updated in 2021: the new Victims’ Code came into force on 01 April earlier this year. Under the updated Code:
- victims are offered automatic updates when perpetrators leave prison
- victims of rape and sexual violence can choose the sex of their police interviewer
- there will be clearer advice on when victims of rape and sexual violence can have their evidence pre-recorded ahead of a trial (rather than face the stress of cross-examination in court)
- where an offender is a foreign national offender, victims will for the first time have the right to know when they are deported.
These updates to the Code are a step in the right direction towards recognising the importance of victims’ active participation in the criminal justice system. The Victims’ Code accords victims of crime in England and Wales rights to information and support and procedural rights.
Nevertheless, it remains the case that the Code lacks teeth: the procedural rights remain limited, and more often than not, these rights are not enforceable and are only patchily delivered. For example, there is no single, unified victims’ complaint service, there are no monitoring and compliance mechanisms laid down in law to hold agencies to account, and there is no legislature outlining better treatment for victims of crime in England and Wales.
However, it is to be hoped that the amended Code paves the way for a consultation on a new “Victims’ Law” scheduled to take place in the summer this year. The new law will seek to underpin victims’ rights in legislation and ensure justice agencies are held to account for delivering them.
As the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC commented, in February this year: “a Victims Law is an opportunity to finally address this issue and tackle the dilemma that victims’ rights aren’t working, aren’t enforceable and are rights only as long as the agencies responsible want victims to have them.”
B P Collins’ Victims’ Rights Team has extensive experience corresponding with the police, Witness Care Unit, and courts to ensure that our clients’ rights are observed. Whether you are processing the trauma of being a victim of crime and do not have the capacity to follow up with the progress of your case, or you are simply frustrated with the time-consuming challenges of dealing with the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system, our team is here to help and be of assistance. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01753 89995.