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 Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 5:11 pm, 10th September 2018

My Lords, I am most obliged for the contributions from the noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Marks. I understand their expressions of concern about various areas of the strategy which are going to be the subject of consultation. I sense a perception, across the House, that we need to move forward on this matter and that we may be moving in the right direction, without looking at the detail that we are immediately concerned with.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised a point about the conduct of the Metropolitan Police regarding certain matters of prosecution and the pursuit of certain investigations. That is clearly an operational matter on which I cannot comment. Ultimately, the conduct of the Metropolitan Police in that regard is a matter for the commissioner and the Mayor of London. I turn to the other matters raised. First, we intend to amend the victims’ code to address the questions of complexity and accessibility that were referred to. We hope to consult on that in early 2019 and intend that an amended code is in place by the end of that year.

Both noble Lords touched on the victims law. There is already key legislation in place to support victims but we want to go further. It is clearly important that new legislation should be pursued as rapidly as is reasonably possible. We are committed to consulting on the detail of the victims law and that consultation will take place in 2019. We will work closely with the parliamentary authorities to identify legislative slots once we are clearer on what proposals there will be for legislation. We must make sure not to put the cart in front of the horse. We want to complete the consultation process, determine what legislative measures are going to be taken and then decide how best to take that forward.

On the point touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, I stress that we do not want to pre-empt the consultation but we wish to carefully consider, among other things, strengthening enforcement of the victims’ code, to make sure that victims receive the services that they are entitled to and that it is more than just black letters on a piece of paper. That is at the forefront of our minds. We also wish to look at strengthening the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner, and the consultation will explore increasing those powers so that she can better hold government to account in these matters.

I will touch on one or two of the other issues raised. First, again we wish to consult on the criminal injuries compensation scheme; that is likely to be in early 2019. We understand the need to look at the “same roof” issue, and I touched on that in the Statement. Clearly, we will have to consider how this scheme can better serve victims of child sexual abuse and explore, among other things, the concerns raised and recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which recently made its interim report.

Regarding the independent public advocate, as noble Lords will be aware, we have launched that consultation today and that will close at the beginning of December this year. We would hope then to publish a government response to the consultation process in March 2019. Clearly, it is important to take this forward to ensure that after tragic events such as Grenfell or the Manchester bombing, there is a party in place who can take an overview of where and when parties who are bereaved, who are victims, have been given—or should have been given—the opportunity to be heard and considered.

Finally, on parole, which was touched upon, steps clearly have to be taken to address what occurred following the Worboys case, and the concerns expressed about, in particular, the victim contact scheme and the way in which victim liaison officers may deal with victims in that context. We hope to have a training programme rolled out by the end of 2018 and are looking at changes to the code by the end of 2019 concerning that. We are particularly concerned to ensure that victims will be properly consulted in the context of the parole process. Again, I would not wish to pre-empt the consultation process. We are alive, however, to the need to ensure that change and improvement is made. With that, I hope I have responded to the points made by noble Lords. I welcome their contributions to the debate and to the consultations that will follow.