Exclusive: David Cameron looks to strengthen support for victims of crime - Crime - UK - The Independent

Exclusive: David Cameron looks to strengthen support for victims of crime

The PM is expected to back proposals to extend the voluntary code that the police, courts and probation service are supposed to adhere to, and give it legal force

Victims of crime would gain the legal right to tell courts about the distress they have suffered and to be kept fully informed about investigations and prosecutions under plans before David Cameron.

The measures are designed to combat complaints that victims often find the criminal justice system insensitive to their needs and difficult to navigate.

Police, courts and the probation service are supposed to adhere to a voluntary code protecting the rights of victims. But it has been criticised as toothless and the Prime Minister is now expected to back proposals to extend the code and give it legal force.

The moves, which have been drawn up by the Downing Street policy board, look certain to become a Conservative election manifesto commitment in 2015.

Under the plans victims would for the first time have the legal right to be involved by the criminal justice agencies from the moment they are attacked, mugged or burgled.

They would also be entitled to receive help and support within 24 hours of reporting a crime to the police.

If the perpetrator is caught, an “impact statement” detailing the effect of the offence on the victim would be read out in court and judges would be legally required to take it into account when passing sentence.

Police and prosecutors would be required to explain every step of investigations and prosecutions to victims and set out the reasons for sensitive decisions such as dropping charges.

Details of sentences would be spelt out, and victims would be consulted about parole applications and warned in advance if perpetrators were about to be released.

Protection for witnesses to crime would also be strengthened by making it illegal for employers to penalise staff who have to take off time from work to give evidence to the police or in court.

Mr Cameron is also examining plans to underpin the proposed law with a statutory requirement for victims to be treated with courtesy and respect at all times by the criminal justice agencies.

The Government has promised to strengthen the existing code, including spelling out victims' rights and advising people who feel they have been let down how to complain.

The revised version has yet to appear and MPs have complained that the current voluntary approach - even if it is given extra teeth - is not sufficient to boost confidence in the criminal justice system.

Surveys have shown that a majority of the public feels the system lets down victims and witnesses and complaints about their treatment is a recurring theme at politicians' surgeries, MPs say.

Tory sources told The Independent that senior party figures, including the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, were highly sympathetic to the call for statutory rights for victims.

Political pressure on Mr Cameron to act will have been heightened by Labour's announcement last week that it is drawing up proposals to promise a “victim's law” in its election manifesto.

The work is being headed by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who is also tipped as a future Labour MP.

He is heading a taskforce which is examining ways of giving more protection for rape victims and abused children when they are in the witness box.

Victims of crime could also be given a single point of contact so they find it easier to get information about the progress of their case.

Two months ago Mr Grayling said he believed the scales of justice should be tipped more towards crime victims. He said: “Too often victims tell me they are treated as an afterthought by the justice system.”

He has announced plans to divert more criminal assets, and inmates' earnings from prison jobs, into supporting victims.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week