Dowler case prompts added protection for victims in court

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".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all