Today, the Government has announced the new Victims and Prisoners Bill, which will put the principles of the Victims’ Code on a statutory footing and toughen the parole system
On the bill, Catch22’s Strategic Director for Justice and Education, Lisa Smitherman, said:
“It’s disappointing to see the Victims Bill – which sought to advocate for and protect the rights of victims – folded into a wider Bill to include Victims and Prisoners. We’re concerned that despite the Victims Code now being enshrined in law, support for victims is not being given the priority it deserves. There has been no Victims Commissioner in post since last September and the proposals in this Bill, such as the introduction of the Independent Public Advocate (IPA) are un-costed. With the system already under strain, we’re not confident these new measures will improve the experience of victims, or the effectiveness of parole services, and in fact investment in existing services should be a priority.
“We also await details on how inspectorates will ensure accountability where the Victims Code is not being robustly upheld – a key part of ensuring the code is effective.
“We are further concerned by the Bill’s overly punitive approaches to justice, as evidenced by the new powers given to ministers to veto prisoners’ parole. The greatest challenge the justice system will face in the next 5 years is the overpopulation of our prison estate. We want to see Government pay more attention to rehabilitative solutions that we know not only reduce reoffending but also keep the community safe. It is disappointing to see Restorative Justice not enshrined as a right for victims within the Victims Bill.
“Finally, being released from custody should not be a political decision and making it such risks undermining the expertise of independent parole boards.”