Tory reforms to our criminal justice system over the last 13 years have stripped courts, prisons and the probation service of vital resources without any coherent strategy to avoid making outcomes worse. This lack of foresight has made it harder for victims to get justice.
Victims are left waiting months, sometimes years for trials, unable to move on with their lives or see justice served. The court backlog is bigger than ever with systems unable to cope under the pressure and victims giving up before they see justice. None of this was inevitable. It is the symptom of the Tories’ decision to cut funding with no vision for transformation or change.
Labour has tirelessly campaigned for a Victims’ Bill for years, yet the Government have dragged their feet. They first promised a Victims’ Bill eight years ago, during which time we’ve had eight Justice Secretaries. Victims cannot afford any further delays.
We will not oppose the Bill at Second Reading but we are concerned that the Tories have yet again missed the opportunity to balance the scales of justice. As such, Labour will be putting down further amendments to strengthen the Bill. We will:
- Offer free legal advice to rape survivors.
- Labour will develop a scheme for free independent legal advice for rape This legal support will guide survivors every step of the way, from reporting a rape at a police station right through to trial, driving up standards and reducing victim drop-out rates.
- Give victims of major tragedies the same legal representation as the authorities that failed them.
- Labour stands unequivocally with the families and survivors of state failures including Hillsborough and Grenfell. We will deliver a fully independent legal advocate accountable to families ensuring they have the power to access documents and data to prevent cover ups. That will be part of our robust Hillsborough Law and will provide legal aid to victims’ families.
- Give victims of anti-social behaviour a voice.
- Anti-social behaviour has led communities to a spiral of social and economic decline, with victims being forgotten. Labour will ensure that individuals whose lives are being ruined by anti-social behaviour are recognized and supported as victims.
- Strengthen powers of the Victims’ Commissioner.
- Labour will grant them with the necessary powers to enforce the Victims’ code and lay an annual report before Parliament to ensure the Government is held to account and give victims a voice.
To find out more about Labour’s plans to fix our criminal justice system and our mission to make Britain’s streets safe, Click here.