Victims’ commissioner Baroness Newlove, whose husband Garry was killed by a gang vandalising his car, has hit out at police, prosecutors and courts for failing to show compassion when dealing with victims’ complaints.
In the first of a series of independent reviews, the Victims’ Commissioner found that many victims feel ignored, unimportant and confused when raising concerns about their treatment.
Baroness Newlove assessed the performance of all criminal justice agencies, which also includes courts and tribunal services, prison service, parole board and youth offending teams.
Almost 75% of the more than 200 victims consulted during the review were unhappy with the response they received and more than 50% found the relevant agency’s complaints process difficult to use.
Baroness Newlove said: “It is shocking how many victims told me how ignored, dismissed and confused they felt when they tried to raise concerns about their treatment.
“All it takes is basic human decency to explain to a victim, in a sensitive and timely way, why something has gone wrong and what they can do about it.
“I have seen excellent examples of work by agencies across the country but it’s clear that many victims are still not getting the service they deserve.
“That is why I have set out very clear standards which I expect Government and all criminal justice agencies to follow when addressing concerns from victims.”
The review found that there was “inadequate attention to the personal touch victims need”.
One victim told Baroness Newlove: “I’m just frightened… I think they will harass me if I complain about the way they have treated me and my daughter.”
Another victim said: “I raised concerns about the process, the process was almost worse than the actual journey of being a victim.”
The Commissioner has set out a new set of standards which she expects Government and agencies to adopt when responding to concerns from victims.
Victims’ rights campaigner Maggie Hughes, whose son Robert was left in a coma after a terrifying ordeal on holiday, said: “We victims are not just complainers. If anything, we are thrown into a new world of rules and regulations and then into a dark labyrinth of the unknown.
“This important report shows just how crucial it is to listen to victims. If we feel that we are not satisfied with a service, then we should be able to get clear guidelines on how to complain, regular updates and a full explanation of the outcome.”
Victims’ Minister Mike Penning said: “I want to put the highest emphasis on the needs of victims, and an important part of that is making sure the criminal justice system always listens to what they have to say and treats them with the utmost respect and sensitivity. To help achieve this I have already committed to enshrining their rights in law. We have also significantly strengthened their entitlements in the Victims’ Code, and are reviewing whether new powers are needed so that they can better hold the system to account.
“We are also soon launching the first ever one stop shop for all the information they might need – as it is currently scattered across different organisations and pages of the internet. I welcome Baroness Newlove’s dedication and hard work supporting my goal to make the system better for victims. She recommends many sensible new standards in this important report, which I will carefully consider.”