Victims Giving Evidence

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

What steps he is taking to improve the experience of victims giving evidence in court.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady has done so much on this issue and on campaigning for victims more widely. While a range of special measures already exist, we can and will do more. As she will recall, last September we published the victims strategy, which sets out the steps to support victims of crime further, including in court, and those steps have recently been added to with our commitments in the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I thank the Minister for his answer. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse often wait decades to see their abuser face justice. While survivors are often key witnesses, there is no statutory duty for them to get paid leave. I have met many survivors who have to take unpaid leave or holiday, but cases could unravel without their attendance. Once again, victims are being penalised for the abuse that they have suffered, so will the Minister review the matter and ensure that no victim experiences a financial loss for getting justice?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I mentioned the hon. Lady’s work campaigning for victims, and she is particularly active in campaigning for the rights of those who have suffered child sexual abuse. She makes an interesting point, and I would be happy, as always, to meet her to go into it in more detail.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Victims want criminals to face the full justice of the law and to be sure that the punishment fits the crime. What are we doing to ensure that, once sentenced, criminals serve their time in jail in full?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Victims expect justice to be done, and when someone is convicted of a crime and sentenced, they expect them to serve that sentence. Of course, sentencing is a matter for the independent judiciary, and we have complete confidence in its approach.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Minister aware that it is not only victims who are affected, but everyone else? A member of my family has just done jury service, and she was amazed by the inefficiency and poor quality of management in the court process, which wastes the time of those on jury service and is wrong for victims. It is wrong for everyone, because it is a badly managed process. Let us get more money for the Ministry of Justice so that it can do things properly.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman makes his point powerfully, as always. We have undertaken a number of reforms of the court system and the criminal justice process, and he will have seen in the victims strategy our clear commitment to improve each stage of the process for victims and witnesses. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer, has been doing a lot of work to ensure that cases run more smoothly, with fewer adjournments, so that victims and witnesses know that when they come to court they have a high chance of actually being heard on the day on which they expect to be.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

I welcomed the publication of the victims strategy back in September but, as my hon. Friend will know, giving evidence is one of the most stressful parts of seeking justice for any victim of crime. Will he reassure me that he will also be working with people such as police and crime commissioners to ensure that there is no patchwork quilt of support for victims across the country?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend is consistent in speaking up for victims’ rights, and I believe that his county’s police and crime commissioner has spoken about such rights more broadly. He is right that the victims strategy seeks to adopt an approach that will give a more consistent level of support across the country.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Independent, Stockport

I welcomed last week’s announcement of an end-to-end review of how rape and sexual violence cases are handled across the criminal justice system. Am I right in my understanding that the review will also consider the effect of rape myths on juries?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady highlights an issue that the House has quite rightly debated on several occasions. I hope that all such relevant considerations will be examined in the end-to-end review.

Photo of Gloria De Piero Gloria De Piero Shadow Minister (Justice)

Back in October, I raised with the Under-Secretary of State, Lucy Frazer, the case of a Nottinghamshire woman whose husband, despite being convicted of her attempted murder, is able to continue a cycle of abuse through the courts by claiming entitlement to their financial assets, including her home. The Minister offered to look into my suggestion of a change in the law that would ensure no financial entitlement to spousal assets following attempted murder, and to provide me with an update. Five months later, can we now have that update?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for once again highlighting an important and distressing situation. I am reassured that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State continues to look carefully at the matter. I appreciate that the shadow Minister will want rapid progress, but it is important that we get this right, so my hon. and learned Friend is examining the issue and will report back in due course.