Criminal neglect: no justice beyond criminal justice - The way forward

Victim Support is calling for

A new way of thinking about crime

There must be specific, targeted action to reduce all the effects and consequences of crime. For this to happen, there needs to be a new way of thinking about crime and its victims.

An effective policy to deal with crime requires three distinct and complementary programmes of action:

We believe government policy should deal with crime, not just with criminals. It must address the suffering that has been caused by crime and take action to alleviate it. To date, this strand of action has been largely overlooked, especially where it relates to reducing the effects on victims of crime in the community. Offences dealt with by the criminal justice system amount to only 3% of all crimes (6% of reported crimes).(38) Government policies are needed to reduce the on individuals, whether or not an offender is found, charged or prosecuted. Programmes of action must prioritise measures to support the victim in dealing with the immediate and long-term consequences of the crime. Support, protection, compensation and information are therefore the main priorities - all of which should be provided in the community, independent of the criminal justice process.

The government to recognise its responsibilities to crime victims

As well as acknowledging the wide-ranging needs of crime victims, the government must accept its responsibilities in meeting these needs. Responsibility for tackling the should not be left to individual agencies and voluntary organisations.

Victim Support exists to alleviate the effects and pain of crime, but we cannot achieve this on our own. A strategic approach is needed, which is centrally monitored, enforced, and resourced.

A co-ordinated, proactive response

At the moment victims of crime are largely seen as the responsibility of the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Attorney General's Department. Other secretaries of state should recognise their responsibilities and work in cooperation to reduce the . The government now requires health and education to join local-authority-led statutory partnerships to play their part in tackling youth crime. Victim Support is calling for the government to adopt a similar approach when responding to the consequences of crime, backed by legislation and resources to ensure consistency across the country.

Obviously, this process will require commitment and dedicated action, but it will reap results - improving people's lives. As a first step Victim Support believes that victims' rights should be protected in legislation and that these rights should be specific, enforceable, and the responsibility of defined agencies. In addition, instead of the proposed ombudsman (39), we are calling for a commissioner for victims of crime whose remit would go beyond the criminal justice system and encompass all agencies whose policies and procedures affect the interests and needs of crime victims. This commissioner would report directly to parliament and have powers to put things right before they go wrong, rather than just dealing with complaints. We believe such an approach is consistent with the present government's strategy for 'joined up' government. Nothing less than a truly joined up approach will be sufficient to address the complex and far reaching consequences of crime.

References

38 Kershaw et al , 2000 & Home Office, 2000
39 Home Office, 2001b and Attorney General, Lord Chancellor & Home Secretary, 2001

top of page