Tough new measures to bolster landmark victims’ law

Victims of serious crimes committed by those with mental disorders will be able to explain in their own words the impact the offence has had on them

  • Decisive government action to hold criminal agencies to account
  • Bolstered role for Victims’ Commissioner to ensure support available to all
  • Victims and families able to make impact statements at Mental Health Tribunal

Victims of serious crimes committed by those with mental disorders will be able to explain in their own words the impact the offence has had on them, thanks to tough new amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. 

New measures will mean survivors are provided with the opportunity to make a Victim Impact Statement during the Mental Health Tribunal process, which takes places before offenders are released and allows survivors to request release conditions.

The police and other criminal justice agencies will also be placed under greater scrutiny through a new statutory duty, which will mean they have to not only inform victims of their rights under the Victims’ Code – but deliver services in accordance with it.

Compliance with this duty will be overseen by the Victims’ Commissioner, and ministers will be required to consult the commissioner when agencies fail to deliver the required standard of services for victims ahead of being issued “notifications of non-compliance”.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC, said:

"Navigating the criminal justice system can feel complex and overwhelming so it is right that we hold agencies to account to ensure victims are getting the support they need.

"These new duties will improve transparency, accountability and consistency, ensuring all victims receive support wherever they are, whatever the crime."

Justice Minister, Edward Argar, said:

"The Victims’ and Prisoners Bill is a pivotal step towards ensuring all victims feel listened to, supported, informed, and are treated with dignity and respect. 

"These additional measures build on those foundations and will mean victims always know what help they should receive."

The Home Office is also tabling an amendment which will make it mandatory for the police to notify schools and colleges when they believe a child may be a victim of domestic abuse, so that they can provide support at the earliest possible opportunity. This builds on the landmark Domestic Abuse Act, which formally recognises children as victims in their own right when they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse.

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris said:

"Today’s amendments stand as testament to the importance of victims’ voices, transparency and information sharing throughout the criminal justice system.

"We have already legislated to ensure children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, but we are now going further and ensuring that the police inform schools when abuse occurs, which will improve protection for vulnerable children."

Further amendments to the bill tabled by the government include:

  • a requirement to consult the Victims’ Commissioner on all changes to the Victims’ Code, to ensure measures are in the best interests of victims of crime
  • a requirement for ministers to review agencies’ compliance with the Code to publish public non-compliance notifications to tackle severe and persistent issues, ensuring no agency can hide if they are not providing victims with the support they deserve
  • a duty for ministers to publish an annual report on compliance with the Victims’ Code
  • clarification that confidentiality clauses cannot be legally enforced if they prevent victims from reporting a crime and will ensure information related to criminal conduct can be disclosed to support services without fear of legal action

The bill will also cement in primary legislation the four overarching principles which must underpin the Victims’ Code. These are that victims require:  

  • information to help them understand the criminal justice process
  • access services which support them (including, where appropriate, specialist services)
  • the opportunity to make their views heard in the criminal justice process; and
  • the ability to challenge decisions which have a direct impact on them

Alongside new legislation, the government is also continuing to bolster support services, quadrupling victims’ funding by 2024 to 2025, up from £41 million in 2009 to 2010, and using ringfenced funding to increase the number of Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse Advisors by 300 to around 1,000 – a 43% increase by 2024 to 2025.  

From: Ministry of Justice, Laura Farris MP, The Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP, and The Rt Hon Edward Argar MP