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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

May 9, 2009: Victims And Criminal Justice

Over 80% of victims and witnesses are satisfied with their experience of the criminal justice system, an independent report published by the Criminal Justice inspectorates today, has highlighted.

The joint inspection was carried out by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Court Administration is on the HMCPSI website.

The ‘Joint Thematic Review of Victim and Witness Experiences in the Criminal Justice System’, which found there had been significant improvements in the support provided to victims and witnesses, has been welcomed by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the Attorney General Baroness Scotland.

This follows the introduction of a range of measures to better support victims and witnesses, including:

  • enshrining the first Victims’ Code in law to give victims the right to a high standard of service
  • establishing over 150 joint police and Crown Prosecution Service Witness Care Units, with dedicated witness care officers to provide protection, support and information to victims and witnesses going to court
  • introducing special measures, such as giving evidence by live-link or with the support of an intermediary, to help support vulnerable and intimidated witnesses
  • establishing the first Victims’ Champion to make sure that victims’ key concerns are heard by and acted upon at the heart of government
  • using 30 pioneer areas to test a range of new measures to give communities more say in the way justice is delivered in their neighbourhoods

The inspectorates found an increase of around 10% in witness attendance rates, from a baseline of 77.3% before the establishment of Witness Care Units to 85.1% by August 2008. In the Crown Court there has been a 43.9% reduction in the proportion of ineffective trials and a 48.8% reduction in cracked trials due to witness issues. In the magistrates’ courts there has been a 33.3% reduction in ineffective trials due to witness issues.

Between April and June 2008, 81% of victims and witnesses whose cases were brought to charge were satisfied with their experience of the criminal justice system (CJS). This figure comes from the Witness and Victim Experience Survey, which interviews nearly 40,000 victims and witnesses across England and Wales every year.

Key reforms to the way victims and witnesses are supported by the CJS include:

  • the introduction of special measures, such as giving evidence by video link or with the support of an intermediary, to help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give their best evidence
    the introduction of a Victims’ Code of Practice, giving victims the legal right to a high standard of service
  • the establishment of over 150 joint police and CPS Witness Care Units, to support victims and witnesses whose cases go to court
  • the introduction of Victim Support Plus, an enhanced service provided by Victim Support to give victims of crime immediate practical and emotional help in the aftermath of a crime
    the creation of Local Criminal Justice Boards (LCJBs) to bring together criminal justice agencies to support victims and witnesses at local level
  • the appointment of an independent Victims’ Advisory Panel and Victims’ Champion, to give victims a voice in the heart of government.

Local Criminal Justice Boards (LCJBs) are the key partnerships for delivering improvements to victim and witness services. LCJBs bring together the local chief officers of the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Her Majesty’s Courts Service, the Prison and Probation Services and the Youth Offending Teams in each of the 42 criminal justice areas in England and Wales. Their role is to agree and own local contributions to national targets through the business planning cycle; develop and agree local strategies and plans to deliver the targets; and identify priorities, manage performance and address issues of poor performance or concern.

Inspectors also made recommendations and actions for further improvement, to ensure that victims and witnesses receive a consistently high standard of service from the criminal justice system across England and Wales. The government accepts all of the recommendations, and will be working closely with the inspectorates to take these forward.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw commented:

‘These findings highlight the significant improvements for victims and witnesses in the justice system and I am grateful to the inspectors for their work on the review.

‘I am also especially grateful for the vital work of criminal justice staff and volunteers, who have been instrumental in improving the support provided to victims and witnesses.'

‘I appreciate, as this review highlights, that there is still more for us to do. We will be working hard to take forward the inspectorates’ recommendations so that every victim and witness gets a service tailored to their needs. We will also continue to make sure the voice of victims is heard loud and clear across government. That is why we have appointed Sara Payne as an independent Victims’ Champion.’

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

‘This report recognises that the government is working hard to ensure that the rights and needs of a victim are at the heart of the criminal justice system.

‘I am pleased that we are putting a system in place that places the most important person – the victim – first, but recognise that there is always more to do tailor services to each individual’s needs. That is why we will be working closely with the new Victims’ Champion Sara Payne in the coming months to gain a deeper insight into the needs of victims of crime, their families and witnesses.’

Attorney General Baroness Scotland, the minister responsible for superintending the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said:

‘This report is a valuable examination of how far we have come: it recognises that the CPS has made great strides and has succeeded in improving the service it owes to victims and witnesses, writing to and meeting with victims to explain CPS decisions and allowing witnesses to have their say by supporting them, and where needed by giving the vulnerable special protection.'

‘But there is no room for complacency and the ten-point prosecutor's pledge to victims is an important reminder of what each prosecutor must strive to achieve. It is important to inform victims if the charge is to be withdrawn, discontinued or substantially altered.

‘A well supported victim or witness can make the crucial difference in a case and help to ensure justice is done both for the victim and the alleged offender.’