Report warns victims of crime being ‘robbed’ of chance to have say in court

Victims of crime are being “robbed” of the chance to have their voice heard in court, according to a report.

Just one in seven people were offered the opportunity to make a victim impact statement over the last year, victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said.

Just 14% of more than 2,400 victims of crime said they were offered the chance by police to make such a statement in the year ending in March, according to her report which analysed figures gathered in the Crime Survey of England and Wales since 2013.

Victims should be asked if they want to make a statement about the emotional, physical and financial effect of crime once the defendant is convicted.

They are meant to be offered the chance to read it aloud in court or have someone read it on their behalf – a process which can be “cathartic”, Dame Vera said.

Her findings suggest just over half of people offered the opportunity decided to write a statement, but they were rarely read out in open court even though victims would have liked this to happen.

Dame Vera (pictured) said: “These figures are disappointing.

“Victims are being robbed of the opportunity to have their say in court.

“It is clear to me the police need to do more to raise awareness among victims of crime of their right to make a personal statement.”

Calls have been made in Parliament for changes to the system after the parents of four-year-old Violet-Grace Youens, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash, had their statement edited by the driver Aidan McAteer’s defence barrister with the permission of the court over fears it may upset him.

Dame Vera said: “It cannot be appropriate for the defendant to be able to edit out the bits he or she does not want to hear.

“Victims must be entitled to say what they have suffered without interference.

“We need to change the culture of the whole criminal justice system so that practitioners at each stage recognise and respect the value of the victims’ voice.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Victim’s Commissioner.

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