Missing: Have you seen the National Victims’ Commissioner?

Published: Friday, August 25th, 2023

This is a blog by our Director Lucy Jaffé.


It has now been 11 months since Dame Vera Baird KC resigned from her role as National Victims’ Commissioner. But the role has remained vacant for almost a year. At a time when a landmark piece of legislation, the Victims and Prisoners Bill, is passing through Parliament, victims of crime are without a champion. 

Let’s take a step back and look at the facts. 

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) adults aged 16 years and over experienced 9.1 million offences (estimates for the year ending September 2022). Expenditure on victims’ services is a small percentage of the amount spent on prosecuting, imprisoning and rehabilitating people who commit crime. Victims, despite the emergence of victims’ statements at sentencing hearings, still have very little formal role to play in the criminal justice process, other than as witnesses. This Government is committed to improved strategic service provision through the Victim Funding Strategy (May 2022). Implementation of the Victims Code of Practice is poor and not transparently monitored and evaluated. For example, in 2021, under 10% of victims of crime with a known offender were aware of the offer of Restorative Justice – a key entitlement in the code (CSEW 2021). 

In the Victim Funding Strategy and the Victims and Prisoners Bill, the role of Victims’ Commissioner is absolutely pivotal. Indeed, in the Victim Funding Strategy, it states in the governance section: 

The success of the Strategy relies on its effective implementation. Scrutiny will be provided through the establishment of a cross-government oversight board, chaired by the Victims’ Minister. This will bring together key departments and stakeholders, including commissioners and support sector representatives where appropriate, to ensure challenge and adherence with this Strategy.

But in 11 of the 18 months of the oversight board, there has been no independent national voice representing the views and experiences of people affected by crime. 

There is a great opportunity through the Victims and Prisoners Bill, to make the new legislation effective by giving the Victims’ Commissioner the powers to ask for reports, lay their reports before Parliament, and to hear complaints. 

So let’s join the dots, and urge this Government to appoint a Victims’ Commissioner promptly to ensure that the voices of victims up and down the country are represented and people feel confident that their needs are being taken seriously. Write to your MP and ask them to write to the Justice Secretary of State Alex Chalk KC MP, to raise this matter. 

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