Victims and witnesses have a better experience from the point of reporting crime to receiving an outcome, with clear pathways to tailored support services and improved confidence in the process.
Victims and witnesses
No one asks to become a victim of crime, nor can they choose the services which investigate, prosecute and ultimately bring offenders to justice when they do. That’s why it is vital that the agencies which make up the criminal justice system work effectively and cohesively, from the first point of contact to the final resolution of the issue.
Victims and witnesses need to be supported throughout the process, both with emotional and practical help, as well as being kept informed as to the progress of their case. Despite clear progress in recent years, it’s clear from the work of the national Victim’s Commissioner that more still needs to be done to ensure this is the case and that victims are truly confident in the criminal justice process.
As Chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), I will bring together all those responsible for the administration of justice, including youth justice services, probation and victim and witness support organisations. I want to ensure that all agencies put concerted effort in placing victims and witnesses at the heart of everything they do. One of the key ways to do this is to listen to victims and my office will continue to chair the Warwickshire Victim and Witness Forum to ensure their feedback is both heard and acted upon. I will also keep under active review how my Warwickshire Victims and Witnesses Charter is being implemented, to ensure that the national Code of Practice for Victims is being adhered to in Warwickshire. This sets out 12 rights to which victims are entitled, along
with a minimum standard that must be provided by criminal justice agencies.
I will continue to commission high-quality support for all victims of crime, with specialist services for those affected by the most serious offences, including victims of sexual assault and rape, domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and other sensitive and complex offences. I will hold the Chief Constable to account in ensuring these integrate effectively across all aspects of the force’s work, with the aim of further boosting the take up of these services. Similarly, I will use my Commissioner’s Grants Scheme to give funding to organisations in the voluntary and charitable sector who work with victims and also help with the rehabilitation of offenders.
In the majority of cases, the beginning of the journey for any member of the public interacting with the criminal justice system is the first contact they have with the police. Whether that’s by getting in touch online, through face-to-face with an officer or as a result of telephoning 999 or 101, the ease and success of that first contact makes an indelible impression about the professionalism and responsiveness of the service. Too often there are barriers to that success. I want to ensure that whenever and however people make contact with Warwickshire Police they are left with a good impression and are satisfied with the service they receive.
Key to this is implementing better overall communication with a strong victim-focus and a customer service ethos. I will work with the force to ensure staff have the appropriate training and support to enable this. Technology will play its part and I will support the force to continuously improve its digital contact methods, however, this must not be at the expense of other more traditional methods of contact which remain important to communities. This includes ensuring that front office facilities are readily available to the public and deliver a friendly and helpful welcome to those who use them.
Similarly, improvements need to be made in the way criminal justice agencies and the courts communicate with victims and witnesses. The public expects a seamless joined-up approach but with many different agencies involved, the reality can be different. Communication can and should be improved to give victims more confidence, especially those who have suffered domestic abuse and sexual violence. Through the LCJB I will encourage all agencies to work more closely together, with a victim-first perspective brought to all aspects of their work. Removing any barriers to accessing justice and ensuring there is no racial disparity in the system will be
hugely important aspects of this work.
Despite countless thousands of successful interactions, sometimes things will not go well or people will do the wrong thing. As well as providing an effective remedy in these circumstances, it is important there is organisational learning from mistakes, as well as accountability for serious wrong-doing. As part of my focus on improving communication, I will work with the force to ensure its complaints process sets the standards for interactions with the public and is both effective and fair and, importantly, is seen to be so, with timely resolution of issues. I will support improved practice, while maintaining my independence from the process due to my role in assessing complaint reviews.
Bringing criminals to justice and achieving the right outcome for victims is more than simply arresting suspects and placing them before the courts. The whole justice system is complex and daunting for many victims and witnesses and feedback shows that not enough is done to explain the processes or to ensure that the victim’s wishes are properly considered. It can also take far too long for victims to get an outcome at court.
The effects of the pandemic have only served to heighten these concerns. A survey in 2021 by the Victim’s Commissioner found that just 43% of victims would report a crime again based on their previous experiences of the criminal justice system. Just half would attend court again, down from 67% in 2020. This is clearly concerning and ensuring that victims have greater confidence and receive better outcomes must be a collective goal.
As the remit of Police and Crime Commissioners grows across other aspects of the criminal justice system, I want to use my position to positively influence change and improvement. Within policing, I will hold the Chief Constable to account in ensuring that crimes are investigated effectively, with the right evidence gathered to enable the Crime Prosecution Service to prosecute cases. In my role as Chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board, I will look to ensure that all agencies locally are working together effectively to deliver better outcomes for victims. One powerful way that can allow victims to have their voices heard, get questions answered and make a plan to move forward is restorative justice. This gives victims the opportunity to explain to the perpetrator the harm that has been caused, while being supported and listened to by a trained facilitator. Evidence shows that in many cases this helps both victims and offenders to repair the damage of offending behaviour, while diverting people away from the criminal justice system in the longer term. I will work to ensure that restorative justice is further embedded across Warwickshire, with greater uptake from victims.
What success will look like:
- Crime investigations are carried out to a high standard, dealing effectively with offenders and ensuring the best outcome for victims.
- Satisfaction with the experience of interacting within the criminal justice system improves.
- Victims know, understand and receive their full entitlements under the Victims Code of Practice.
- High quality specialist support remains available and accessible for victims, with increased referrals from police and other agencies.
- The overall experience when contacting the police and progressing through the criminal justice system is improved.
- There is a reduction in the number of complaints against police, with problems resolved swiftly and satisfactorily.
- The lived experience of victims helps to shape and improve criminal justice processes.
- There are increased numbers of successful outcomes through the criminal justice system.
- Reduced reoffending is encouraged through effective use of out of court disposals such as restorative justice.