29 January 2016
Victims’ Bill in House of Commons Second Reading Today
Victims of crime could challenge prosecutors’ decisions not to bring charges under a proposed law which goes before Parliament today.
It could also become a crime to turn a blind eye to suspicions of child abuse under the proposed “Victims’ Law”.
The Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Sir Keir Starmer MP, will impose a legal duty on people working within public bodies and institutions to report suspected child abuse. The Bill also aims to make it easier and safer for victims to report crime and, if it becomes law, victims will have the right to review decisions by the police or prosecutors not to bring charges, and in court cases judges will be given more control over the nature and extent of cross-examinations.
The Bill also requires every police force in the country to have safe places for people to report crime. According to Sir Keir, many victims of sexual or physical abuse do not feel comfortable going to a police station, so the Bill aims to provide an alternative for them.
In the case of suspected child abuse, the proposed law will not only give those working with children an alternative means of reporting it, but will make it a criminal offence for them not to tell the police if they become aware of children being abused.
The mandatory reporting of child abuse has been introduced in many other countries including the USA, New Zealand and Canada but no such law currently exists here. At present in the UK, people working with children are under no legal requirement to report suspected – or known – child abuse, something that specialist abuse lawyer Jessica Standley hopes the proposed Victims’ Law will put an end to.
“A change in the law would make it absolutely clear to everyone working with children that they must report any suspected abuse and would lead to much better protection of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”
“The proposed changes within the Victims’ Bill will also help victims of abuse have more confidence in the criminal justice system. With safer places to report crime and a more sensitive approach to how victims are treated in court, victims who may otherwise feel daunted by the criminal justice system might find the process less traumatising in future.”