Friday, October 21, 2005

Victim's Code Of Practice

The Home Office has now published the Victim's Code of Practice which sets out the responsibilities and duties owed towards victims of crime by government bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service.

One part of this document contains details of how the Crown Prosecution Service are to keep their victims and vulnerable witnesses informed about proceedings. In many cases the Crown Prosecution Service are obliged to report to vulnerable witnesses within one day why a decision was made to do what the Crown Prosecution Service has done. The Crown Prosecution Service are now going to be involved in a burdensome administrative procedures in both trying to prosecute a case and to keep the victim or vulnerable witness informed of the progress of the case. The Police have similar duties.

The government is often accused of creating red tape where it is not necessary. I believe that this is a fine example of a government meddling with a system and imposing changes that are likely to have a negative impact on the criminal justice system. It may well be advantageous for victims of crime to be kept informed of the progress of their case but is it really in their interests when a massive administrative burden will be placed upon the government agencies that are sometimes struggling simply to carry out their duties in the Police Station and Courts?

I watched three cases be dismissed today because the Crown Prosecution Service had been unable to get their papers, and evidence, in to a satisfactory format for the case to be committed from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court. The reason given by the Prosecutor for not being properly prepared for the committal hearings was that there was a backlog of work in the CPS typing pool that had not been overcome since the case was last in Court.

Well done Mr. Clarke, this is another fine addition to the criminal justice system. I am just so happy that the Victim's Code of Practice places no duties upon me.


Anonymous said...

Surely the main problem is that the C. P. S. need a typing pool at all? Why anything is being handwritten in this day and age is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's daft to have all this "keep the victim informed" nonsense. The reason that we have that at all seems to be that the criminal justice system crawls along at the page of an arthritic tortoise. "Keeping victims informed" is papering over the cracks - what is needed is to fix the system so that justice is administered speedily.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I disagree somewhat. The biggest complaint I get on the streets (or rather the most common complaint) is that the victims were never informed of the outcome.

I try to explain that once we've arrested the suspect and put them before the courts, our involvement generally ends (aside from giving witness testimony). Somebody somewhere needs to feed results back to the victims, or how can justice be seen to be done?

If an offender pleads guilty early on and is dealt with without witnesses ever having to attend court, the whole case effectively goes into a black hole as far as the victim is concerned.

Anonymous said...

My point is not exactly that victims don't want to know that justice is done, but that if the system proceeded without quite so many pauses to allow reams of largely pointless paerwork to be produced, then the victims would see justice to be done because the scrote in question would be in court the week after his arrest, and in prison the week after that. If justice was speedy and efficient, Mrs. Smith would know that she could check the court reports for the couple of weeks after she's informed of the arrest, and discover the outcome. There is really no reason why common everyday crimes (muggings, burglary, car theft, assault etc.) shouldn't be dealt with in less than 2 weeks from start to finish.

Clearly it might take longer to put together a case when one is dealing with an organised crime network, or a complicated fraud. In those cases one could inform victims without much extra overhead, but the vctims are less likely to have the same concerns as the Mrs Smiths of the world.