Crime victims ignored and confused, says Baroness Newlove

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Media captionAttack victim's mother: "All we found were brick walls"

Victims in England and Wales are still being let down by the justice system, according to an independent review.

Baroness Newlove, the Victims' Commissioner, said many people who raised concerns about their treatment were left feeling ignored.

Helen Newlove came to prominence after her husband was killed by a gang of youths outside their home in 2007.

This is her first major review since being appointed as a commissioner in 2012.

The report looked at the experiences of more than 200 victims who had complained about how they were dealt with by services including the police, probation and the courts system.

'Dismissed and confused'

Almost 75% of those consulted said they were unhappy with the response they received and more than 50% found the relevant agency's complaints process difficult to use.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that victims need time, understanding and compassion.

"Victims will only be at the heart of the criminal justice system if you allow them to understand the journey they are going through," she said.

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Media captionBaroness Newlove says people are being "re-victimised"

Baroness Newlove said it was clear many victims were still not getting the service they deserved and there was a gap between what criminal justice agencies described and the victim's experience.

"All it takes is basic human decency to explain to a victim, in a sensitive and timely way, why something has gone wrong and what they can do about it." she said.

"It is shocking how many victims told me how ignored, dismissed and confused they felt when they tried to raise concerns about their treatment."

One victim said the complaints process was so daunting that it "was almost worse than the actual journey of being a victim".

Another told the review: "I'm just frightened. I think they will harass me if I complain about the way they have treated me and my daughter."

The commissioner has laid out a new set of standards which she expects the government and agencies to adopt when responding to concerns from victims.

Victims' Commissioner's Standards

  • Clear information for victims to support them in raising a concern or making a complaint about the service they have received
  • Information on what to do if they are not happy with the response they receive
  • Agencies commit to mandatory training for all staff who deal with victims' complaints
  • Agencies publish information showing how complaints from victims have led to improvements in services.

Victims' rights campaigner Maggie Hughes, whose son Robert was left in a coma after being attacked, said: "We victims are not just complainers.

"If anything, we are thrown into a new world of rules and regulations and then into a dark labyrinth of the unknown.

"This important report shows just how crucial it is to listen to victims. If we feel that we are not satisfied with a service, then we should be able to get clear guidelines on how to complain, regular updates and a full explanation of the outcome."

Victims' minister Mike Penning said the government had already committed to giving victims legal rights, and strengthening victims' entitlements through the Victims' Code, and was reviewing whether new powers are needed "so that they can better hold the system to account."

He said: "I welcome Baroness Newlove's dedication and hard work supporting my goal to make the system better for victims.

"She recommends many sensible new standards in this important report, which I will carefully consider."

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