Victims Law

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham 12:00 am, 5th June 2018

What progress is being made on introducing a victims law.

Photo of Jo Platt Jo Platt Labour/Co-operative, Leigh

What progress is being made on introducing a victims law.

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Supporting victims is a key priority for the Government, which is why we are bringing forward a victims strategy this summer. In compiling the strategy, we have consulted victims groups and academics, and across Government. In doing so, we have concluded that we will need legislative and non-legislative measures to ensure that the strategy works for victims.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I hear what the Minister says, but Rotherham Council is today debating the support available to adults who survive child abuse in my constituency. I have now spoken to two Home Secretaries, two Prime Ministers and countless Ministers, and the Ministry of Justice was in Rotherham last week. Still we are not getting the cash we need to enable 1,520 victims—at the current count—to turn into survivors. Will the Minister please give us the cash we need?

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The dreadful incidents in Rotherham, which sadly have been replicated across the country, have proved a challenge both to local government and to the national Government. The ongoing independent inquiry into child sexual abuse—IICSA—is throwing up a significant level of incidents. The Government are clearly engaged with the process of trying to assess what is needed to help these victims of child sex abuse, both as children and as adults. I am under no illusions that this concerns not only the Ministry of Justice but the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. All Government Departments are going to have to wrestle with this issue in the coming years because there has been significant child sex abuse over recent decades.

Photo of Jo Platt Jo Platt Labour/Co-operative, Leigh

Further to the question of my hon. Friend Sarah Champion, a new victims law would ensure that victims of crime are supported and can seek closure on their ordeal. Most importantly, it may encourage more people to come forward and report crime safely. Why, therefore, three years on from the Government’s manifesto commitment to introduce this important law, are we without any legislation in this House?

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I have just said that the strategy is going to include legislative measures to underpin the victims code. I am interested in legislation that is going to work, not legislation for legislation’s sake. Be in no doubt of my determination to improve the offering to victims both at the time of their abuse and in subsequent decades.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch

Two of my constituents have experienced tragic cases. They have been bereaved after the loss of a close relative, and their distress has been added to by the length of time that they have had to wait for the body to be released for a second post-mortem decision. The Minister has been very sympathetic, but will he commit to reviewing the law and raising this issue again with coroners on behalf of my constituents?

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend and I met to discuss these cases recently. The challenge is that coroners hold an independent judicial position, which is important and invaluable. It is their responsibility to determine the cause of death. I clearly cannot talk about individual cases. The responsibility ultimately rests with the chief coroner. I do understand the deep distress that can be caused by any unnecessary delay, and I have passed this on to the chief coroner.