UK Politics

Victim Support criticises code changes

Police officer
Image caption The code defines how victims of various crimes can receive help

Up to 700,000 victims of crime could find it harder to get help because of plans to change the Code for Victims in England and Wales, Victim Support says.

The charity said it had "serious concerns" that limiting help to certain categories of victims could mean people would "fall through the cracks".

The Ministry of Justice has recommended restricting automatic entitlement to support services.

It said that 80% of victims did not want assistance of any kind.

The ministry's proposals included offering "enhanced" assistance to "victims of the most serious crimes, vulnerable or intimidated victims and the most persistently targeted victims."

Side-effects of crime

This covers victims of rape, other sexual offences, domestic violence, human trafficking, terrorism and violent crimes such as wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent, or if you are a close relative who has been bereaved by criminal conduct.

It would be a change from the current code which only provides an enhanced service to vulnerable and intimidated victims and, at certain stages of the process, to bereaved relatives.

Victim Support said it had 1.1 million victims referred to it annually, and had calculated that up to 700,000 of them would fall outside of the revised criteria.

Victim Support, which contributed to the consultation process ending on Friday, said its research showed that nearly two-thirds of victims needed help and that support could reduce their chances of suffering problems such as depression, absenteeism from work and family breakdown.

Assistant chief executive Adam Pemberton said: "We have serious concerns that the government's proposals to limit automatic referral to only some categories of victims, will make it much more difficult for some victims to get the help they need after suffering at the hands of criminals."

He called on the government to "restore the principle of automatic referral which has served millions of people so very well".

Targeted resources

The ministry's proposals said that "all victims will be entitled to a minimum level of service under the revised code. However, in about 80% of all cases, victims say they do not want any information, advice or support from the state or from other sources.

"Therefore it is crucial to focus resources on those who really need it."

A spokeswoman said: "Resources and support must be targeted to those victims who most need and want it - the purpose of the consultation is to find out how best we can achieve this.

"This simple new code - written for victims rather than the 'system' for the first time - has been designed to tell victims what they can expect from the moment they report a crime to the end of a trial, and who to demand help from if it is not provided, as well as provide more help for those who most need it."

Victims who fall outside the criteria will be asked whether they wish to be referred and will be given information about how to contact victims' services.

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