Significant boost in funding for victim services as scorecards for local criminal justice were released
- £440m package for victim support services in England and Wales
- Pre-recorded evidence is to be passed to Crown Courts in the Northeast
- Local criminal justice scorecards released for the first time
The government announced the multi-year funding package as it publishes for the first time local criminal justice scorecards – shedding light on the work of agencies such as the police and prosecutors at the regional level.
Currently, funding for Victim Support Services is confirmed annually. The move to a long-term model – at least £147m a year by 2025 – will allow charities and service providers to plan for the future, build capacity and build resilience to help even more victims. Police and crime inspectors report that the number of victims accessing support increased by 15% between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
The money will fund emotional, practical and therapeutic support for victims of crime, such as women and girls affected by domestic violence. This includes helping fund more specialized independent domestic violence counselors (IDVAs) and independent sexual violence counselors (ISVAs). The investment will provide more consistency to people accessing these services and ensure help is always there when it is needed.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:
We want more victims to have the confidence to come forward, so more criminals can be prosecuted and victims get the justice they deserve.
We’re increasing transparency through local scorecards, introducing pre-recorded cross-examination for rape victims in more Crown Courts and increasing funding for essential support services to £440m over the next three years to ensure victims get the support they need.
Local criminal justice scorecards provide information about the time it takes for police to investigate a case, bring charges, and bring the case to court. The data can be broken down by local police force, CPS area, as well as local criminal justice agencies. The scorecards also include victim engagement information. Ministers are determined to boost trust in the criminal justice system to encourage more victims to follow the process to ensure justice is done. This data is published along with scorecards detailing the national picture.
Both the local and national datasets shed particular light on the response to rape and sexual violence – fulfilling a key promise in the government’s Rape Review. The aim is to use this data to significantly increase the number of indictments in court.
It was also confirmed today that measures to spare victims of rape and modern slavery the trauma of testifying in the full glory of a courtroom will be introduced in north east England. The measure, known as Section 28, allows victims – subject to a successful application to the court – to pre-record their cross-examination earlier in the trial and outside of the live trial. It can help relieve stress to ensure they are doing their best.
The provision will be rolled out at crown courts in York, Grimsby, Hull, Bradford and Teesside in the coming weeks as part of a phased national rollout. It is already available at Liverpool, Leeds, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Harrow, Isleworth, Wood Green and Durham Crown Courts.
Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Violence Commissioner, said:
I very much welcome the Ministry of Justice’s announcement of multi-year funding. It is important that victims and survivors of domestic violence can be confident that they will receive the long-term support they need and deserve.
For too long domestic violence services have been forced to stagger from one short-term financial arrangement to the next, and I am pleased to see the Department of Justice addressing this issue.
England and Wales Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said:
For many victims of crime, seeking justice can be an unacceptably slow and frustrating experience. But there are marked disparities across the country, with some areas significantly outperforming others. These new scorecards will allow us to uncover regional discrepancies, identify best practices and uncover weaknesses.
But scorecards aren’t a panacea, and numerical snapshots don’t tell the whole story. They need to be complemented by the victim’s voice to give a more rounded picture.
The introduction of Section 28 to more courts is a positive step that will help reduce unnecessary stress and trauma for more victims, and I’m pleased to see this work gain momentum.
Today’s announcement builds on the government’s recent actions to boost confidence in the justice system, including proposing a new Victims’ Act, ensuring violent and sex offenders spend longer in prison and investing nearly half a billion pounds to bring justice through the courts faster.
It comes as the government restarts its #ItStillMatters campaign – to raise awareness of sex abuse support services so victims can get the help they need.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Criminal Justice Lead, David Lloyd PCC said:
Police and Crime Commissioners bring criminal justice partners together to improve performance on behalf of victims and our local communities.
Using local scorecards, we gain a better understanding of how the criminal justice system is performing and can better target problems.
Fay Maxted OBE, Chief Executive of Survivors Trust said:
I know from the Survivors Trust Members Agencies, all of which are specialist volunteer rape and sexual abuse support services, that the additional, long-term funding announced is really welcome and will help them meet the increasing demand for therapy and advocacy that we have in seen in recent years.
Alongside this, the broader introduction of pre-recorded evidence under Section 28 will make a big difference for rape victims, who often tell us that testifying in court feels like re-traumatization, rather than having the opportunity to say what happened to them .
Joe Shalam, Policy Director at the Center for Social Justice, said:
It is to be welcomed that the government continues to raise the ambitions for victims of crime in the justice system. The CSJ Commission on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation revealed alarming deficiencies in the support available to victims of heinous criminal acts.
Measures unveiled today, including local victim scorecards and the wider adoption of pre-recorded evidence, will drive further advances in protecting the most vulnerable victims of crime.
Chief Constable Sarah Crew, head of the Council of National Police Chiefs on Rape and Serious Sexual Assault, said:
As national director for rape and serious sexual assault, I applaud this funding for services that play such an important role in supporting victims. Police play an important role, particularly in prosecuting criminals, but it is vital that services throughout the criminal justice system are properly funded to support the victims of these horrific crimes.
We are working harder than ever with the Crown Prosecution Service in our shared commitment to raising rape charges and conviction rates, which are still too low. Operation Soteria, a new and research-based approach to rape cases, is currently being tested by five armed forces and the feedback from it is encouraging. Our joint national action plan is already showing improvement and progress across the board, recognizing the importance of our relationship to help those most in need.
The publication of local scorecards offers an opportunity for more openness and transparency towards victims and the public. Having this data available to all partners in one place for the first time is central to developing a more accessible and understandable system. We will now focus on looking at the data and working to improve our response where necessary.
Notes for editors:
- £147m a year over the next three years is the minimum funding services will receive, including those mandated by police and crime commissioners via core funding. It’s part of last year’s Spending Review commitment to increase support for victims to £185m by 2024/25. This additional money will be used to increase the number of ISVAs and IDVAs from 700 to 1000 by 2024/25, establish a 24/7 service for victims of rape and sexual violence, and ensure there is flexibility and capacity to respond respond to emerging support needs and call for victims of crime.
- Consultation on the Victims Act ended on February 3, 2022. The Government will respond in due course.
- If you’ve ever experienced sexual violence or abuse, you can get confidential support from professionals who will listen to you, believe you, and understand how hard it is to talk about it. visit gov.uk/SexualAbuseSupport to see the support offered.
Re Section 28:
- Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor will be present in court during the pre-recording, as will the judge and the accused.
- The independent judiciary will be responsible for overseeing the use of Section 28 and will use its discretion to ensure that the interests of the judiciary are served.
- Pre-recording cross-examination protects a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
- In 2021, more than 1,800 witnesses used provision S.28 to prerecord their evidence. It is already available at Liverpool, Leeds, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Harrow, Isleworth, Wood Green and Durham Crown Courts and we are working with the Judiciary, Police and CPS to get it to all of them as soon as possible introduce crown courts.
- Vulnerable witnesses and victims are defined as all witnesses under the age of 18 and all witnesses whose quality of evidence is likely to be reduced because they suffer from a mental disorder, physical disability, or significant impairment in intelligence and social functioning.
- Intimidated witnesses and victims, for the purpose of this pilot project, are defined as complainants or witnesses to modern slavery sexual offenses and crimes.