MP tells of ‘transactional’ experience with Probation after daughter’s death

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  • Peter Dowd
    British Labour Party Member of the Parliament (born 1957)

Labour’s Peter Dowd has told MPs about the death of his daughter and how his experience with the Probation Service was a “transactional process” with “no guarantee that we would be listened to”.

On Thursday, the justice minister, Tom Pursglove, set out in the Commons what he described as a plan for a “world-class service” to “give victims the justice they deserve”, adding: “I want to guarantee that victims are at the very heart of the criminal justice system rather than feeling peripheral to the process.”

Under the Government plans, prosecutors will be told to meet victims to understand how a crime has affected them before making charging decisions in cases.

The “explicit requirement” could apply to certain crimes under a Victims’ Law for England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

MoJ’s policy of placing trans women in women’s prisons
The Ministry of Justice has put forward proposals for prosecutors to meet victims before making charging decisions (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A consultation setting out the reforms was launched on Thursday as the Government published performance scorecards for criminal justice bodies for the first time.

Mr Dowd said he welcomed the statement from the minister, but hoped “we are able to deliver more justice for victims, because being a victim is for life”.

Mr Dowd then shared his personal experience with the Probation Service following the death of his daughter, claiming it was “transactional”.

The Labour MP insisted victims have the right to be heard even after the actual court process itself.

He said: “In my case, the person who was responsible for the death of my daughter in a hit-and-run accident was sentenced to prison, got a custodial sentence and of course is eligible for home detention curfew.

“So, it is not just about what happens before and after throughout that whole process. So, in this particular case, we got a phone call from the Probation Service about this home detention curfew process, but it was transactional. I am not criticising the people involved, I am not criticising the system per se, but it was a transactional process we got.

“No guarantee that we would be listened to as we were in relation to the victims’ statement, no guarantees that that would be taken into account at all. It was a very transactional process so I think it’s important that that is incorporated in this, that victims actually do have the right to be heard, the formal right to be heard even after the actual court process itself.”

Mr Pursglove said he was grateful to Mr Dowd for bringing his personal experience to the House, adding: “I can only imagine the impact that that whole experience has had on him and his family. It is truly heartbreaking. And I wonder if he might be willing to meet with me to discuss this in greater detail. But I think the point that I would make is that I would also expect the criminal justice agencies to be engaging with people (in an) incredibly sympathetic and understanding manner.”

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