Witham: MP Calls For Victims To Have Say

Victims should be given a "genuine say over whether an offender is charged and when a sentence is passed down once a guilty verdict is secured", a Tory backbencher for Witham has told the Commons.

Priti Patel said she had heard of many cases in her constituency where victims felt they had been let down by Britain's justice system. And she told MPs statistics in the British Crime Survey showed people less faith in how criminal justice works in the UK after passing through the system as a victim.

She told MPs: "All too often victims and their families feel let down and unrepresented and abandoned by the process of the criminal justice system.

"Victims' rights must be enforceable with an effective mechanism in place for them to speak and secure redress when their rights have not been respected.

"My Bill will ensure victims get a genuine say over whether an offender is charged and when a sentence is passed down once a guilty verdict is secured. Too often victims are excluded from this process. An appalling example of this was when the police and courts let off an offender responsible for committing some 600 crimes in Essex. Instead of putting him into a prison cell he went into the community to reoffend.

"Needless to say the community throughout the county were angered by this judgment, by the fact they were circumvented from decision making, from the actual process, and did not get their day in court to press for a more relevant and appropriate sentence. Under my Bill this would not happen again.

"As part of giving more rights to the families of homicide victims, authorities would be compelled under my Bill to offer more support to British nationals abroad.

"Currently, in just 13% of cases families feel as if they have been treated by the authorities as the victims and there is a wide disparity in the supporting services available to them.

"Finally, my Bill give greater protection from criminals - not only when these criminals are out in the community but also when they are in prison. I have a particularly shocking case in my constituency where a convicted murderer has been able to torment families of the deceased in jail through media articles, both authorised by the Ministry of Justice and unauthorised. My Bill will empower victims in these circumstances to prevent hurtful statements by their convicted tormentor."

Ms Patel's Victims of Crime (Code of Practice) Bill was introduced under the 10 Minute Rule and is scheduled to receive its second reading on Friday, January 20th.