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World Victims' law call amid falling confidence

05:31  24 february  2021
05:31  24 february  2021 Source:   bbc.com

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The victims ' commissioner for England and Wales has called for a law to ensure people affected by crime are treated properly as they wait for justice. Dame Vera Baird QC said victims had for too long been treated like bystanders. She said mounting evidence of a loss of confidence in criminal justice was driven by people's experiences. In a wide-ranging report, Dame Vera said falling confidence in criminal justice could only be restored by treating victims as participants rather than outsiders in events that could have been pivotal moments in their lives.

The majority of victims of crime have no confidence in the justice system, as police “routinely” fall short of standard codes of practice, new research reveals. Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed said the system failed to meet their needs, while only a quarter felt they were properly supported after reporting incidents to Victim Support said the lack of monitoring and enforcement for the victims ’ code could be contributing to the problem, and that those failed have no clear means of redress. Earlier this year a national inspection warned that police were taking days to respond to 999 calls because of rising

The victims' commissioner for England and Wales has called for a law to ensure people affected by crime are treated properly as they wait for justice.

a person standing in front of a window © Getty Images

Dame Vera Baird QC said victims had for too long been treated like bystanders.

She said mounting evidence of a loss of confidence in criminal justice was driven by people's experiences.

The government is introducing a new victims' code and has promised to consult on creating legal rights.

In a wide-ranging report, Dame Vera said falling confidence in criminal justice could only be restored by treating victims as participants rather than outsiders in events that could have been pivotal moments in their lives.

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Victims Commissioner has called for a new Victim 's Law for rape victims . The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales has called for a Victims ' Law to ensure women have 'a lawyer on their side' when they report their attacks. Dame Vera Baird argues that sex assault victims should have a right to a legal aid-funded solicitor able to challenge unreasonable demands by officers wanting to download their entire mobile phone contents and snoop through emails and internet search history.

Requiring law enforcement to respond immediately to domestic violence reports. Developing a special system for asking for help and promoting it on government websites or on television. Establishing a coordination center to help victims receive medical, legal, and psychological help. The code word allows victims to communicate to pharmacy workers that they are experiencing domestic violence, but are afraid to call the police. Victims can now use “mask 19” in any pharmacy in France, in order to ask for help.

She calls for the police, courts and prosecutors to be made legally accountable for basic standards of care:

  • Victims should be fully informed about what's happening with an investigation
  • Vulnerable victims should have a guarantee of specialist support
  • Rape complainants should get free legal advice before they hand over access to their social media, the contents of which may be used in a trial

"There is a collapse in confidence and it is not just about Covid [backlogs in courts], and it's not just about delay," Dame Vera told the BBC. "It is very largely to do with how people are treated."

She said that a victims' law would be a once in a generation landmark piece of legislation that would transform experiences.

"We are trying to put the victim at the centre of the criminal justice system. The defendant stays securely where they are, well protected. But at the moment, because all the focus is on prosecuting, investigating and making sure that the defendant has a fair trial, nobody's duty is to look after a victim."

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Dame Vera recommends that compensation due to a victim should be paid to them directly by the court. Under the current system, offenders often pay tiny instalments to the court because of their limited means, meaning it takes years for the money to come through.

She also calls for people who have experienced anti-social behaviour to be recognised as victims of crime and given appropriate support.

  • Is four years too long to wait for justice?

While a specific victims' law would be entirely new in England and Wales, it has been successfully implemented in parts of Australia, which has the same style of criminal justice system.

Conservative governments have promised for six years to place a legal duty on the criminal justice system to properly look after victims. Ministers say they will consult on that proposal later this year - 30 years after the first code of conduct towards victims was published.

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Advocacy groups are sounding the alarm on what is being described as an epidemic of domestic violence in Canada, as victims are confined to their homes with their abusers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest version of that code will be introduced in April - but critics say that without legal teeth many victims will not benefit from its promises to ensure they are listened to and kept informed. Labour has separately launched its own attempt to create a victims' law, although it stands virtually no chance of becoming law.

A government spokesperson said: "Our new code enhances the rights of victims at every stage of the justice process. But we plan to go further, strengthening and enshrining these rights in a new victims' law.

"We are also investing millions in vital support services, recruiting more independent sexual and domestic abuse advisers, and reviewing the entire response to rape to build back confidence in the justice system."

Head of French church child abuse probe says possibly 10,000 victims .
The head of an independent enquiry investigating church child abuse in France said Tuesday that there might have been at least 10,000 victims since 1950. The Bishops' Conference of France agreed in November 2018 to set up the commission after huge and repeated child abuse scandals shook the Catholic Church at home and abroad. The move sparked mixed reactions from victims' associations at the time, who applauded attempts to encourage survivors to speak out, but questioned French prosecutors' willingness and ability to press charges.

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