Is the Justice System failing victims of sexual crime and abuse?

The Ministry of Justice is today being asked to review how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) handles applications by victims of violent and sexual crime.  Baroness Newlove, the Government’s Victims’ Commissioner, has called for the review after finding that many victims who applied for financial support from the Authority were being re-traumatised and alienated by the system.  After interviewing over 200 victims and support services, the Commissioner found applicants are being re-traumatised by the need to repeat details of the crimes against them including dates, times and locations, which have to be included on the application form and during various other steps in the process.  The process comes into criticism as the CCIA is obliged to obtain reports and the victims’ witness statement from the police, where all of the details needed to complete the application are already available.This is the second round of criticism recently faced by government bodies regarding the impact of their interaction with victims of violent or sexual crime.  In a recently published report Kevin McGinty, HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), found that victims of crime are being “badly failed” by the 10 CPS Victim Liaison Units (VLU) who communicate and liaise with victims about decisions taken by the CPS in respect of the crime against them.   The VLU’s liaise with victims of crime to inform them about decisions not to prosecute, to stop a case or alter a charge.  His review found that only 24 percent of letters sent to victims met the expected standard and of the 76 percent that failed, the most common failing was that the letters lacked empathy.

Both the CCIA and CPS have committed to review their systems with the CCIA expected to report back later this year.

While these recent reports focus on the impact of government bodies’ interaction with victims of sexual assault and crime, the spotlight is steadily turning to focus on the defendants, legal advisers and the insurance industry and how their handling of claims, complaints and investigations impacts upon the victim.  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recently held a public hearing as part of its “Accountability and Reparations” investigation which explored that very issue through an examination of various civil claims case studies. A blog report of that hearing will be published very shortly.


Authored by Partner Sarah Murray-Smith

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