The Victims and Prisoners Bill

We need a big change to reap the rewards of Restorative Justice (RJ), and right now there is a real opportunity for the Government to commit to making it available for everyone affected by crime and conflict.

That opportunity presents itself as the Victims Bill. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons as The Victims and Prisoners Bill and given its First Reading in March 2023.

The Government has long promised it will strengthen the rights of those who are harmed by crime. This legislation offers the Government a chance to be the champions and world leaders in RJ by:

  • Legislating for Restorative Justice to be available to every victim of crime at the point of need.
  • Providing statutory footing for the 12 entitlements in the Victim Code of Practice.
  • Creating clear leadership from the top with a National RJ action plan to be laid before Parliament every year, a dedicated Minister of Restorative Justice, and a team of civil servants.
  • Substantial investment into making Restorative Justice available to everyone.

A Victims View: Why RJ needs to be included in the Victims’ Bill. 

The Victims Bill was first coined by the conservative party as part of their 2015 general election manifesto. The legislation has since undergone extensive discussion both in 2021 during the public consultation stage, after which the draft bill was published.

In 2022, the Justice Select Committee undertook its pre-legislative scrutiny to consider any changes that need to be made to the Victims Bill before it was introduced to parliament.

The Justice Select Committee published its report and made 47 recommendations to improve the proposed legislation and ensure that the Government’s ambition to place victims at the heart of justice was met. The government rejected all but five of the recommendations, which include placing an obligation on criminal justice agencies to make victims aware of the Victims’ Code of Practice and requiring data to be standardised to allow comparison across police areas.

Currently, victims’ awareness of their rights under the Victims’ Code of Practice is incredibly low, with only a quarter of victims reporting being made aware of the Victims’ Code. This is even lower for Restorative Justice, with only 5.5% of victims recording being made aware of Restorative Justice. Requiring statutory services to make victims aware of their rights will help improve victims’ access to Restorative Justice.

Following the Government’s response to the pre-legislative scrutiny report, the Victims Bill was introduced to parliament as the Victims and Prisoners Bill. 

The decision to rename the legislation and include measures around prisoners distracts from the need to improve the experiences of victims and ensure that their rights are being provided for.

Why me? are collaborating with other organisations across the sector to seek amendments to the legislation before it is passed. 

You can help support secure Restorative Justice in this once in a lifetime legislation by writing to your MP. Why me? will continue to update on our work on the Victims Bill in our newsletter, on our social media, and on our blog. Be sure to follow.

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