Victims Strategy - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:11 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 5:11 pm, 10th September 2018

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I join him in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who is not in her place today, on her role in representing victims. I am sure all noble Lords will recognise the great contribution that she has made over the last few years.

Welcome though the publication of a victims strategy is, as my honourable friend Gloria De Piero pointed out in the House of Commons, it comes three years after being promised and in the shape of secondary legislation rather than the primary legislation envisaged. Even now, as we have heard, further consultation is to take place—for example, in relation to the victims’ code and the creation of the post of independent public advocate. Could the Minister indicate the nature of such consultation and its potential timescale?

Will the Government review the position in relation to judicial review where the cuts to legal aid over the last few years have in some cases prevented the pursuit of justice? The Statement is made on the same day that the Metropolitan Police have revealed a drop in the investigation of serious crimes, including sexual offences and violence. How is this supposed to help the victims of such brutality?

We are all aware of the enormous strain on police forces up and down the country, not least in London. There is no indication of additional funding to meet the challenges in the rise of serious crime, including violent crime and sexual offences. Indeed, the Police Superintendents’ Association is warning of a “perpetual state of crisis”. Surely this is unacceptable.

We welcome the promise to revise the victims’ code. How will that exercise be carried out, and what is the timescale envisaged? We also welcome the proposed changes to the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Again, could the Minister indicate the process and timescale for that exercise? We also support the idea of an independent public advocate in major disaster cases. The experience of these over the years has been, to put it mildly, very unsatisfactory for the many people involved in some of those disasters.

What is the estimated cost of the changes, and where will it be paid from? Will the Minister confirm that it will not be financed by cuts in other areas of the justice system? I remind the Minister that the female offender strategy, for example, was underfunded by £15 million. Will the Government look again it their funding of that important initiative?

The Minister described for the first time a cross-government victim strategy. To what extent will other departments be involved? I presume that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care and, of course, the Home Office will all have a role. Will the custodial and probation services be involved in the approach to the new environment being created for the victims of crime? In dealing with offenders they will, I hope, be promoting the need for offenders to avoid such conduct in future, particularly where they have been involved in offences of this kind.

The proposals in the Statement are welcome as far as they go but will come to little without adequate funding and adequate engagement with all interested parties. I look forward to seeing how the proposals develop in practice, particularly in terms of adequate funding across the piece envisaged by the Statement. We look forward to that and I hope that the department succeeds in persuading the Treasury that investing in the ideas in the Statement and presumably to be debated across the justice system will be adequately met. Without that, any hope of change will be lost in practice.