Baroness Newlove appeals for the victim's voice to be heard
Posted on Friday 10th March 2017
Baroness Newlove of Warrington made an emotional request for victims of crime to be listened to, in the Sixth Annual Ryder Lecture held at the University of Bolton last night.
In her role as Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, spoke to students, staff and members of the local community about the issues victims face in the Criminal Justice System.
Appointed in March 2013 Baroness Newlove encourages good practice in the treatment of victims and witnesses and has campaigned tirelessly for victims since the tragic death of her husband Garry in 2007.
‘If I’m asked what victims want from the criminal justice system more than anything, I would give one simple word “justice”,’ said Baroness Newlove.
‘They want the offender to have a fair trial but what most victims want most of all is to be treated with dignity and respect. They want to be informed of the process and to understand the decisions that have been taken. Most importantly they want the opportunity to have their voices heard.’
Last year Baroness Newlove published a seminal piece of work which looked at what works best in supporting victims of crime and examined international evidence about how satisfied victims were. In this work one of the key issues that arose was the sense that victims wanted procedural justice.
‘Victims want the state to acknowledge that wrong has been done to them. It is so important for all victims but particularly those who have no physical scars to show.
‘There should be a recognition of what the victim has been, and may still be, going through.
‘‘I believe true justice requires offenders and victims be given rights. Both should be treated fairly and both should be able to have their voice heard. This is what I want to see in all parts of our criminal justice system.’
Despite the low numbers of victims who recalled having being offered the opportunity make a statement, judges and magistrates said that a Victim Personal Statement helped them to understand the real impact of a crime.
‘Whilst progress has been made in some areas there is some legal quarters failing to see the victim behind the proceedings taking place. Too many victims are being denied the opportunity to articulate what is happening to them. If we truly aspire to have a legal system that does support victims then there is so much more to be done.
‘I am inspired by so many victims that I meet up and down this country. But all too often I am saddened when I hear about their treatment. They are traumatised people being retraumatised by a system that is there to protect everybody. They didn’t ask to be labelled victims, they asked for a system to protect them.
‘It serves as a stark reminder that despite good intentions and much good progress, we have some way to go before we can truly say we have a criminal justice system that delivers justice to both the offender and victim and a legal system that is fair and just for everybody.’
Baroness Morris of Bolton with Baroness Newlove of Warrington