Dowler case prompts added protection for victims in court
Monday 04 July 2011
Victims of crime and their families should be protected from aggressive and disrespectful cross-examination during trial under a charter of rights for witnesses, the Government's "victims' tsar", will recommend this week.
Louise Casey said that her review of the treatment of the targets of criminals, and their relatives, had "made my jaw drop" and the principles of the justice system had to be rebalanced to enshrine in law the notion that bereaved families should not suffer "avoidable intimidation, humiliation or distress". On Wednesday she will deliver a 60-page review to the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, laying out proposals for reform in the wake of public anger at the treatment of the parents of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler.
During the trial of her killer, Levi Bellfield, Bob and Sally Dowler were subjected to intimate questioning about their sex life, Mr Dowler's interest in sado-masochistic pornography, and suggestions that their daughter was unhappy.
Ms Casey, who was appointed Victims' Commissioner last year, is expected to put forward a package of changes including a requirement that the bodies of murder victims be returned to their families within a month and that judges should take a stronger line to protect the privacy and dignity of grieving relatives when they give evidence. Another proposal is that court sitting times be made more flexible to make it easier for family members to give their testimony.
Writing in the News of the World, Ms Casey said: "I have been looking at the treatment of families like the Dowlers who have had their lives ripped apart by criminals. Like most people I assumed that they would get all the help they need and the criminal justice system would be on their side.
"What I discovered is that they are often not given the support, care or consideration they deserve. Many are still treated as if they are an 'inconvenience'... These families deserve not to have to sit next to an offender's family in court listening to them laughing and joking."
Urging ministers to "sit up and listen" when her recommendations are published, Ms Casey said a new code of conduct was required to protect victims.
But representatives of prisoners said that any changes should not undermine the opportunity of a suspected offender to receive a fair trial. Mark Leech, a former offender and campaigner who edits ConVerse, a newspaper for prisoners, said: "Until a defendant is found guilty by a jury, they possess exactly the same status as a witness, and if the prosecution can ask searching, deeply personal, questions of a defendant, there is no case for arguing that a witness should be treated any differently."
Justice minister Crispin Blunt said the Government would shortly announce its review of victim-support arrangements which will look at "services, entitlements and redress".
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 3 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 4 Time runs out for Christian Iraq: Isis deadline passes with mass flight
- 5 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
Time runs out for Christian Iraq: Isis deadline passes with mass flight
Miley Cyrus death hoax: Fans distraught after Facebook scam goes viral and she doesn't tweet for three days
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: France and Germany accused of going soft on Putin as sanctions talks stall
Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells 'used by Israeli military in Gaza Strip’
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash analysis: A tragic lesson of advanced weapons in the wrong hands
- < Previous
- Next >
£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...
£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...