Criminal neglect: no justice beyond criminal justice - Rights for victims of crime

Victim Support believes that

Psychologically, many victims of crime benefit from knowing that an offender has been charged - it gives a feeling that justice has been done. But even in the minority of cases where this does happen it is a gross injustice and oversimplification to assume that this meets all of the victim's needs.

Several years ago an elderly, disabled woman, who lived alone in an upstairs flat, was burgled. After the crime she felt unable to go out and was distressed, confused and afraid. She reported the crime to the police, but was not referred to Victim Support or given any information or support. A few days later, as no one had contacted her, she decided to ring the police to ask for help. The officer who answered went away and then came back to the phone to say; "It's all right, we've caught your burglar". She asked; "How does that help me?"

The government has rightly acknowledged its responsibility to victims of crime in the process of criminal justice, but that responsibility must extend to the treatment of crime victims throughout social provision and the community as a whole. The state must ensure that national and local government, its agents, and the private sector work together to ensure that victims of crime are not re-victimised by a system whose interest in them is lost once the criminal case is over or aborted.

Victims of crime may have to deal with many different agencies as direct and indirect consequences of a crime. The wide ranging impact that a crime can have means that fields as diverse as health, housing, insurance, education, employment, social security and the media all need policies and procedures which recognise the needs of victims of crime. Systems are needed to ensure that these procedures are adopted and adhered to.

Measures to help victims of crime must be centred on their needs. Crime victims must be recognised as real people with a range of needs and not defined by the crime they have suffered or by the identity of their offender(s). Victim Support is not calling for special treatment for crime victims over groups with other defined needs - we are simply asking for parity.

I wasn't coping at all. I was shaking and I was panicking. I didn't like going home, I couldn't sleep at night, I couldn't eat and I didn't want to go out. I just wanted to shut myself away. At the time this [the burglary] happened, maybe because I was in the house on my own, all of the past traumas in my life seemed to come back to me. Suddenly I had to cope with not just the burglary and all the practical hassle I was getting, but all this as well. I felt I was going mad.

The following three sections consider some specific areas of need: health, housing and finance. These are simply examples to illustrate the scale of the issue, but we could have used many others: for example rights in employment or the treatment of crime victims by the media.

Another vital issue is the impact of crime on children and young people. Research shows that children are more likely to be victims of crime than adults, with the largest category of recorded crime against children being Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)(12). Public perception of crimes against children tends to be limited to child abuse. Victim Support believes society has a duty to recognise and respond to the full range of crimes affecting children, including those committed by other children, and the effects on children of offences against other family members or the family as a whole.

References

12. Morgan & Zedner, 1992

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