Crime Victims Are Given Right Of Review

Crime Victims Are Given Right Of Review

Crime victims will be able to win the right to appeal against decisions by prosecutors not to charge suspects under new plans.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC has put out to consultation plans for the new Victims' Right to Review (VRR) policy.

The proposals cover any decision taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to charge a suspect.

The change was prompted by a Court of Appeal ruling involving a case in which the CPS decided in 2007 not to bring sexual assault charges.

The decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal and in 2011 disabled man Christopher Killick was jailed for sexually abusing two fellow cerebral palsy sufferers.

The court stated "as a decision not to prosecute is in reality a final decision for a victim, there must be a right to seek a review of such a decision".

Unveiling the new policy, Mr Starmer said: "The criminal justice system historically treated victims as bystanders and accordingly gave them little say in their cases.

"The decisions of prosecutors were rarely reversed because it was considered vital that decisions, even when later shown to be questionable, were final and could be relied upon.

"This approach was intended to inspire confidence, but in reality it had the opposite effect. Refusing to admit mistakes can seriously undermine public trust in the criminal justice system."

Mr Starmer, who is stepping down in October, said the new VRR policy is one of the most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS.

Any victim of crime, which includes bereaved family members or other representatives, can now ask the CPS to look again at a case following a decision not to charge, to discontinue proceedings or offer no evidence.

Those entitled to an enhanced service under the Victims' Code will also be offered a discussion with a prosecutor about the outcome of the review.

Javed Khan, chief executive of independent charity Victim Support , said: "Too often victims tell us that they don't have much of a voice in our justice system.

"This new initiative by the Crown Prosecution Service is a step in the right direction and will help to re-position victims back at the heart of our justice system."

The CPS only allows prosecutions to begin or continue if there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Decisions not to charge or stop a prosecution on either ground will be open to review.

VRR does not apply to cases where the police have decided to take no further action and a file of evidence has not been submitted to the CPS.

Victims' Minister Helen Grant said: "All victims deserve to know that the Criminal Justice System will work as hard as possible to deliver justice for them and help them recover and move on with their lives.

"That's why if a victim has the strength to come forward, it is right that we give them every possible chance to get the justice they so deserve."

The Ministry of Justice is pushing through reforms to give victims a stronger voice in the criminal justice system, including improving the Victims' Code, introducing pre-sentence restorative justice and tackling reoffending.