Sadiq's pledges to victims of crime

Sadiq's pledges to victims of crime

Victims of crime will be spared the trauma of reporting crimes at a police station under new plans unveiled by Mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan that will put victims at the heart of London’s policing.

The plans, announced by Sadiq Khan, a frontrunner for Labour's nomination for London Mayor, will also mean that victims will be given a right to have crimes recorded by the police, and will have access to up to date information on their case through the internet.

 

Sadiq Khan's commitment follows a story in the Evening Standard last week when police officers refused to arrest the perpetrator of a sexual assault committed on a bus.

While the officers were given written warnings, it is clear a culture change is needed, and victims need to know they are entitled to decent treatment by the Met.

As part of this offer to victims of crime, Sadiq will introduce:

·        A Right to Report, so crimes can be reported in a safe way and not necessarily in a police station.

·        A Right to Record, so that victims always have their crime recorded;

·        A Right to Review, so that the police’s decision not to charge someone can be appealed by a victim;

·        A Right to Information, so that information can be accessed online about a case at every stage of the process, keeping victims up to date.

·        Produce an annual Area Victims’ Plan on how London’s police service is providing adequate and quality assured victims services; and

·        Appoint an independent Victims Commissioner to provide additional scrutiny of services for victims across the capital.  


Commenting on this, Sadiq Khan said: "The number one job of any criminal justice system is to prevent people becoming victims in the first place. But on those terrible occasions when crimes are committed, the system doesn’t serve victims well.

"For too long, victims and witnesses have been treated as an afterthought, or worse still ignored altogether. Victims that lack confidence and don’t come forward mean the wheels of justice grind to a halt. Criminals get away with their crimes and justice isn’t done. 

 “I’m alarmed at how many victims of sexual and domestic violence simply don’t come forward and when they do they aren’t taken seriously. This has to stop. And this is why, if I become Mayor, London’s police will work with charities, refuges and other safe havens to create a network of places where victims can report crimes.

"And I’ll also make it the case that when someone reports a crime, the police in London must record it. We can’t keep failing to take victims seriously, or turning a blind eye to the problem.

“We need a cultural shift in the way victims’ services are dealt with and I want to lead by example here in London. Giving people more information on their cases, a right to have their crimes recorded and a strong independent victims commissioner will go some way to improving people’s experiences.”

Labour MP Keir Starmer, QC, said: "For far too long the rights of victims have not been properly recognised. I am delighted that Sadiq Khan has taken a clear lead on the matter and support his initiative. With his criminal justice experience, he knows better than anyone how to improve the rights of victims."

A spokesperson from the charity Victim Support said: "We welcome proposals from any Mayoral candidate to improve the treatment of victims of crime across London.

"Giving victims the right to review police decisions not to press charges would represent a real and meaningful change. 

"The police do a tough job and we know that most officers are committed to achieving the best outcome for victims. 

"However, it is important that victims have the right to an independent review of charging decisions to increase confidence in the system."

 

Editor’s Notes


Right to Report

1.     Many victims of crime are unlikely to report their allegations to the police. This is particularly so for victims of personal, domestic or sexual violence. Many do not report directly to the police. When they do report crimes, many victims go to places where they feel safe such as Sexual Assault Referral Clinics, Refuge, Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid or other support services and counselling centres. Under Mayor Khan when they report to these places, that report will count.

2.     Under-reporting of crimes is a big problem when it comes to violence against women and girls[1] - between 2007-2012, an estimated 85% of the most serious sexual offences were not reported to police.[2] This is made worse by the fact that even when a crime is reported to police, it is often under-recorded, primarily due to the police not complying with the national standard of victim-focussed crime recording.[3]

3.     Police stations might be appropriate places to report most crimes, yet even with specially trained officers it can often be an intimidating and therefore unlikely place for victims of personal and sexual violence to report.

4.     Some areas rely on alternative resources, including Sexual Assault Referral Centres providing services to victims, including medical examination and storing of samples while victims decide whether they wish to report to police. 

5.     Other organisations provide legal advice and support with reporting to police, but do not provide an independent reporting service. At the Centre for Rape Victims in Denmark, medical examination, counselling and police interviews are available in the one location in order to avoid the need for the victim to repeat their account to multiple agencies.[4] 

6.     Sadiq will build on existing support bodies and agencies already in place in London, and provide a network of safe places for victims to report crimes.


Right to Record

1.     Having a crime recorded by the police is an important aspect of victims’ rights in the criminal justice system. No investigation, no charges, no prosecution and no sentence can follow unless a record of a crime is made.

2.     The EU Directive on Victims’ Rights makes provision for incident reporting that requires the acknowledgement of criminal complaints and the allocation of a file number[5].

3.     Over ten years ago the police, supported by the Home Office, made significant changes to the recording standards[6] so that crimes should be recorded as and when the victim makes their first report.

4.     However, worryingly, recent Inspectorate reports on crime recording have shown that crimes are still not being recorded as they should be, particularly with sexual assault and domestic violence.

5.     Sadiq will introduce a victim’s ‘right to record’ an allegation of crime, supported by an ability to appeal a refusal by the police to accept the report.


Right to Review

1.          When a decision is taken not to bring criminal charges or to discontinue a criminal case, that is a ‘final’ decision for a victim. Victims have only limited powers to challenge any decisions not to bring charges.

2.          The EU Directive on victims’ rights now requires member states to put in place a right of review of decisions not to prosecute,[7] and the Court of Appeal has given guidance on the issue.[8]

3.          In 2012, the CPS under Sir Keir Starmer QC, introduced the Victims’ Right of Review scheme[9] allowing any victim of crime, which includes bereaved family members, to seek a review of any decision to charge, to discontinue or to offer no evidence in a case.  This is a voluntary scheme and has worked well in practice. It was used most recently by the victims of allegations against Lord Janner.

4.          The scheme needs to be extended to the police. Sadiq will explore the options for doing so in London so that any decision not to bring criminal charges or to discontinue a criminal case can be reviewed by the victims.


Right to Information

1.     For too many victims of crime, lack of information on their case in an infuriatingly common problem. Sadiq will create an online web portal so that victims, using their crime number, can access information on their case.

2.     This would provide information on the status of any investigation, dates of court hearings and outcomes of trials, and reasons why a case has been closed. Victims will be informed via text and/or email as and when new information has been updated on the website

3.     This is currently in place in Avon & Somerset, Kent and South Yorkshire police areas, under the TrackMyCrime initiative (https://trackmycrime.police.uk/about/) and this will be extended to London.

 

[1] See e.g. Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Office for National Statistics, An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales (January 2013),https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214970/sexual-offending-overview-jan-2013.pdf

[2] Ibid, p. 17.

[3] House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Caught red-handed: Why we can’t count on Police Recorded Crime statistics, Thirteenth Report of Session 2013-14 (April 2014),http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmpubadm/760/760.pdf.

[4] See http://www.voldtaegt.dk/; see further Rikke Holm Bramsen, Ask Elklit and Louise Hjort Nielsen, “A Danish Model for Treating Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault: The Multidisciplinary Public Approach” (2009) 18 Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma 886.

[5] Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, OJ L 315, 14.11.2012,

[6] The National Crime Recording Standard was introduced nationally on 1 April 2002 as part of the Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime, following Home Office, Review of Police Forces’ Crime Recording Practices, HORS 204 (2000) and HMIC, On the Record (2000).

[7]            Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, pp. 57-73, Art 11.

[8] R v Christopher Killick [2011] EWCA Crim 1608.

[9]            See CPS, Victims’ Right to Review Scheme http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/victims_right_to_review/.


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