Victim Support Manifesto 2001 - Support through the criminal justice process

For those victims who do experience the criminal justice process, it is vital that no secondary victimisation takes place as a result of unintentional but nevertheless insensitive treatment by criminal justice personnel, or by policies which do not take their needs into account. There is a need for openness as to whether restorative justice aims to reduce the effects of crime on the victim.

Ensuring victims' safety and preventing false expectations

The Code for Crown Prosecutors published in 2000 states that when considering the public interest, Crown Prosecutors should not only take into account the consequences for the victim of the decision whether or not to prosecute (which Victim Support agrees with) but also any views expressed by the victim or the victim's family. However taking a victim's views into account may not be beneficial for victims. It can raise false expectations that the Crown Prosecution Service will do exactly what the victim wants. And having too much involvement in the criminal justice process can also raise protection issues for victims. If a suspect believes that a victim can influence the Crown Prosecution Service's decision as to whether they get charged or not, they might harm or threaten the victim.

Victim Support believes that any provisions for victims should be beneficial rather than leading to false expectations or being potentially dangerous for them.

Better safeguards regarding the disclosure of confidential records

When Sunita went to court to give evidence in the trial against the man who had raped her, she was shocked when the defence revealed personal issues which she had discussed in confidence with her psychiatrist.

Mary discovered by chance that her GP had passed her medical records onto the Criminal Cases Review Commission which was reviewing the case of the man convicted of raping her twelve years earlier.

Currently it is possible for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the defence, the court and the Criminal Cases Review Commission to request and obtain (sometimes with a court order) medical or counselling records of a victim or witness in a case, without that person even knowing that their records have been requested, let alone being asked their permission.

Victim Support believes that a person should be informed if any disclosure of confidential records is to be made to a third party. We believe such disclosure should only be decided by a court which should take into account the victim's right to privacy.

Implementation of the Sexual Offences (Protected Material) Act 1997

Two sisters gave evidence regarding abuse they had been subjected to by their brother when they were children and there was a successful prosecution. However the sisters were very concerned that their brother got copies of their witness statements and left these lying around for their mother to see. They were also worried that he might pass them around to other paedophiles or post them on the Internet.

Victim Support believes that the Sexual Offences (Protected Material) Act 1997, created to stop such misuse by defendants of statements, photographs and medical reports of victims of sexual offences, should be implemented.

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