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The study of crime victims has, until quite recently, been a largely-neglected aspect of policing in England and Wales (and everywhere else come to that) so it may surprise you to know that since the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), there have been a succession of Victims’ Commissioners whose role is:

To promote the interests of victims and witnesses, encourage good practice in their treatment, and regularly review the Code of Practice for Victims which sets out the services victims can expect to receive.”

One way this is achieved is through various forms of research – survey and otherwise – into crime victims and a selection of the latest Reports can be found on the Commission website. While there’s some interesting stuff available, such as details of an upcoming Report into victims of online harm (including a copy of the questionnaire used), I thought it might be useful to bring the 2021 Victims Survey to your attention.

While the full Victim Survey Report (it’s only 10 or so pages…) is available if you want details of the sample (not huge – 587 responses to an online survey) the questions used and answers received (a mix of qualitative and quantitative data), the edited lowlights are as follows:

  • 43% of victims would report a crime again.
  • 34% of victims would not report a crime again.
  • 50% would attend court again (a year-on-year decline from 67% in 2020).
  • 66% had to wait ‘too long’ for their case to go to court.
  • Ethnic minorities are less likely to feel like they were treated fairly and respectfully by police:
  • 33% of ethnic minority respondents “felt the police treated them fairly and with respect” (compared with 44% of white respondents).
    16% agreed “victims are fully supported by the police” (compared with 26% from white backgrounds).

  • 9% of victims thought the courts dealt with cases promptly.
  • 83% claimed to have little or no confidence in the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in prosecuting those accused of a crime.
  • The most important factors for respondents in the overall process were:
  • “having the crime fully investigated” (48%)
    “being treated fairly and with respect by the police” (38%)
    “perpetrator being charged with a crime” (24%).

  • In 2018 39% were given the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS). This increased to 51% in 2021.
  • 29% of victims are aware of the Victims’ Code.
  • The 2021 survey covered “experiences of the criminal justice system” in the previous three years, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Although around 50% of victims reported their victimhood during the pandemic “there were few substantive differences in responses compared to those whose cases were dealt with earlier”. This suggests that problems relating to victim’s experiences in the criminal justice system are structural and endemic rather than the result of exceptional circumstances caused by the medical emergency. As Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner put it:

    Time and time again, the police, CPS and other justice agencies have been found wanting, with the CPS, in particular, shown to be inconsiderate of victims’ needs. All too often victims are still treated as an afterthought – a bystander to proceedings, rather than the valued participant they should be.”

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