15 May 2024
Victims and Prisoners Bill

I welcome that the Victims and Prisoner Bill will fundamentally transform victims’ experience of the criminal justice system by enshrining the Victim's Code in law, reforming the parole system and stopping prisoners serving whole-life orders from marrying in prison.

Placing the principles of the Victims’ Code on a statutory footing means that victims will have a right to challenge the Crown Prosecution Service or police decisions which directly impact them and to access vital support services such as Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse Advisors.

I welcome that the Bill will establish an Independent Public Advocate to support victims of major incidents, and implement Jade's Law to suspend parental responsibility from a person who is convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they share parental responsibility.

The Bill also introduces changes to strengthen the operation of the Parole Board by increasing ministerial scrutiny and making clear that their only priority is public safety. The legislation will also prohibit prisoners who are serving a whole life order from entering into a marriage or civil partnership. 

Taken together, I am assured that this is a powerful package of measures to support victims, enhance their rights and strengthen confidence in the system. 

Proposed Amendment 26 -

I understand that Amendment 26 sought to enable victims to obtain, free of charge, a transcript of the trial in which they were involved. I am aware that, in the debate on amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill held on 4 December 2023, this amendment did not proceed to a vote as it was not selected by the Speaker for a separate decision but has now been re-introduced for debate in the House of Lords.

I am pleased that my ministerial colleagues have announced a one-year trial pilot that will enable victims of rape and other serious sexual offences to request Crown court sentencing remarks, which contain a summary of the case and the points that have been made, free of charge. This approach strikes the right balance between supporting victims of these horrific crimes and providing something that is affordable and achievable.

Proposed Amendment 44 -

I understand that Amendment 44 proposes to ensure that the NHS is explicitly included among agencies that have a duty to inform victims of decisions made about an offender. I understand that the Government has said that it recognises the importance of ensuring that victims receive the information they need to help them understand the process, including when the release—temporary or otherwise—of offenders detained outside the prison system is being considered. Under the HMPPS victim contact scheme, the victim liaison officer will share information about the process for considering release and will notify victims when the patient is having their detention reviewed. The victim liaison officer will also support victims and make representations to decision makers on conditions of discharge in appropriate cases. The victim liaison officer is best placed to communicate with and support victims in such circumstances, as they will be expert in the process and have victims’ interests at the centre of their work.

Proposed Amendment 45 -

I understand that Amendment 45 seeks to explicitly include the NHS and HMCTS within the victims code principle that victims should have the opportunity to have their views heard in the criminal justice process. It seeks to cover cases in which the full or temporary release of offenders detained outside the prison system under the Mental Health Act 2007 is being considered.

Eligible victims are able to provide their views on release conditions for offenders, but they are not able to explain to the decision makers in the mental health tribunal the impact that the crime had on them, which the Government does not think is right. Victims are able to give such explanations in the courts and the parole systems through a victim personal statement, and that should be the case regardless of where the offender is detained. The Government has committed to making provision in the new victims' code for victim personal statements to be submitted to mental health tribunals considering the release of an offender.