This order brings the revised Code of Practice for Victims of Crime into operation on 1 April 2021. It sets out the services to be provided to victims of crime by relevant service providers and is being updated to take account of the responses to the Government consultation on Improving the Victims’ Code.
In light of responses to the consultation, a revised Victims’ Code was drafted, which focused on a number of key areas: raising awareness and accessibility; providing clearer information on victims’ rights to access practical and emotional support; strengthening communication and taking account of the victim’s preferences; and increasing the voice of the victim through providing more flexibility in the Victim Personal Statement process. It also changed the structure so that the Victims’ Code has a clearly defined set of 12 rights, that are easy for victims to understand.
The key changes in the revised Victims’ Code are:
a) Accessibility: The revised Code is simplified to one chapter from the existing five chapters and victims are the primary audience. The complex structure of the existing Code is changed so that the revised version clearly sets out 12 overarching rights that victims are entitled to receive and also make it clear at what point in the justice process victims should receive them.
To help ensure that practitioners are clear on the rights, and at what stage these rights need to be provided, we will also be publishing a separate document containing detailed information and guidance for them – at the time of implementation (1 April 2021).
b) Improved engagement: This option moves from a process where victims are simply informed when and how they will be contacted about their case to one where the frequency and method of communication is more victim led, whilst acknowledging that there may be times when a service provider is unable provide regular updates. Where this is the case the revised Code puts a duty on the service provider to explain why.
c) Victim Personal Statement (VPS): The current Code requires that victims are offered the opportunity to make a VPS at the same point that the witness statement is taken. Under the revised Code, service providers have more flexibility on the timing of the offer, for example by offering the opportunity to make a VPS when a suspect is charged. However, victims must still be provided with the option of providing a VPS when they report a crime. Furthermore, victims are now be able to request a copy of their VPS.
d) Support for victims of mentally disordered offenders: Victim Liaison Officers are already assigned to victims of restricted patients and this option would extend their role to include support for victims of unrestricted patients. This brings greater parity in rights for these victims, ensuring consistency in the level of information and the way it is provided.
e) Access to Support – Awareness of Support: The revised Code includes clearer information about the ability to access support:
• without the need to report incidents to the police;
• at any time during the investigation and prosecution;
• if the case is stopped; or
• at the end of the case.
f) Specialist Support: Whilst retaining the existing eligibility categories for access to specialist support, this makes it clearer that service providers have the discretion to offer enhanced support to victims who fall outside the scope of the existing categories”.