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Victims’ Law Draft Bill in House of Commons Today

Keir Starmer QC MP will introduce a Victims’ Law Draft Bill in the House of Commons today. The Bill will enhance support for victims, give voluntary duties and codes legal teeth and reduce the impact of crime on victims and the cost of crime to the public.

The Bill has cross party support and, if introduced, could be the first step to improving victims’ rights in the legal justice system.

Slater and Gordon’s Head of Abuse Team Richard Scorer was an advisor to the Victims’ Law Taskforce, led by Keir Starmer QC MP and Baroness Lawrence. In February this year, the Taskforce adopted Slater and Gordon’s mandatory reporting proposals which were incorporated into the Victims Taskforce Report, published earlier this year.

What the Victims’ Law Bill Aims to Do

The Bill will aim to create a statutory framework for victims’ services across the country, introduce mandatory reporting and incorporate and enshrine voluntary duties set out in the victim’s code into law.

The main features of the Taskforce report which are also likely to be the basis of the Victims Law Draft Bill are to create:

  • A clear mandatory duty on those working with children within a ‘regulated activity’ to report suspected child abuse, backed up by criminal sanctions for failure to do so. 
  • A statutory framework for adequate and quality assured victims services in every area of the country, underpinned by an annual Area Victims’ Plan, which must be evaluated by the Victim Commissioner and recommendations for improvement laid before Parliament on an annual basis.
  • A legally entrenched victims’ right of review of decisions by police or prosecutors not to bring charges.
  • Statutory underpinning for the Victims’ Code, with breaches of the Code being published in an annual report to Parliament.
  • A statutory duty for judges to hold ground rules hearings before a trial starts to ensure vulnerable victims and witnesses are treated fairly in court.

Opinion

Slater and Gordon are supporting the Victim’s Law Bill. We believe it is necessary to help give victims confidence in the criminal justice system and also support them through what is often a very difficult process. Failings in past cases such as Cyril Smith and Peter Ball have emphasised the need for a Victim’s Law.

The Bill will also ensure that serious crimes are more likely to be reported, be properly investigated and allow victims to give evidence in the court process without fear and intimidation.

The Draft Bill will be introduced by Keir Starmer QC MP in parliament today and is the first step to introducing a Victims Law.

Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of child abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of abuse and you would like expert legal advice free of charge, please call our Abuse Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, contact us online and let us know where and when you’d like us to call you.

Any communication will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.