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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

Jack Straw on the National Victims' Service

continued from page 1

"Today, I am going to set out the next stage of reform in the criminal justice service – to embed a culture in which support for victims is given the priority it deserves, through the creation of a new National Victims' Service."

"Only two decades ago, victims were treated appallingly by the criminal justice system. Prosecutors couldn't even speak to victims, let alone interview them before trial. Some police officers presumed that victims of certain crimes must have 'asked for it'; that there was no point investigating, because the victim would just withdraw the allegation. The comments of one senior officer in the late 1980s are revealing. I quote: 'We don't want police officers tied up with helping victims; they haven't got the time.' "

"The justice system was geared squarely towards offenders. 'Real' police work involved crime-fighting. The priority was to investigate the offence, arrest the suspect and see the case through to conviction in court."

"As Kenneth Burke [20th century literary theorist and philosopher] famously said: 'a way of seeing is always a way of not seeing.' The focus on criminals meant that the justice system did not see the victim. Victims were simply considered a source of information about the crime, or a witness when the case came to be heard in court. This could leave them isolated, frustrated, and in the worst cases, victimised again by the system."

How did this come to pass? How did the criminal justice system become so skewed towards offenders that the role of victims and witnesses was too often subordinated? The answer, in part, lies in history."

"Early systems of justice were based around the individual. In Anglo-Saxon times, for instance, conflicts at the local level were managed by the 'Moot' – a semi-formal court made up of members of the community. Complaints against suspects were brought directly by victims or their families. The victim provided the impetus, the evidence and the financial means to detect and prosecute crime. Without them, there could be neither conviction nor punishment."

"This started to change from the reign of King Alfred – in the late 9th century – when the state began to press charges in some cases and crime came to be seen as an offence against God and the King's peace; against society as a whole rather than an individual victim in isolation."

"By the end of the 17th century the state had firmly established its right to bring prosecutions, although in practice it rarely intervened directly. That position changed over the course of the next two centuries. By the First World War, the police prosecuted the vast majority of cases on behalf of the public, and private prosecutions were very much the exception."

"This process is a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. Individuals should not have to pursue justice on their own; nor is there any place for acts of revenge and vigilantism. But this positive move had negative – and unintended – consequences for victims of crime. As they lost their role as instigators of criminal proceedings, they gradually lost their place in the system entirely."

"By the beginning of the 20th century, as Margaret Fry [magistrate and social reformer] argued: 'the injured individual [had] rather slipped out of the mind of the criminal court'. The interests of victims were subsumed within the wider public interest. The focus of the police, the courts and criminal lawyers was on those who broke the law, not on those who suffered as a result."

Continued on page 3