Bringing offenders to court is not enough to keep people safe, the prime minister said today as the government published what it says is the first ever cross-government Victims Strategy.
The 52-page strategy brings together under a single umbrella new policies and existing funding commitments made by various government departments.
It includes an immediate review of the criminal injuries compensation scheme, which was announced by the lord chancellor yesterday. The review will cover time limits to make applications and unspent convictions. The government also wants to abolish the pre-1979 'same roof rule', under which applicants are not entitled to compensation if they were living with their assailant as members of the same family at the time of the incident.
'Better support' will be provided to victims during the court process. These include dealing with crimes such as fare evasion on paper by a single justice assisted by a legal adviser to enable magistrates to focus on more serious and complex cases. Vulnerable witnesses will be able to give pre-recorded evidence, which will also be tested for victims of sexual and modern slavery offences. The government will also review guidance on reporting restrictions.
The government has also begun consulting on establishing an independent public advocate to support bereaved families immediately after a disaster, and ensure they are well informed and engaged throughout any subsequent inquiry.
Justice minister Edward Argar says the aftermath of tragedies such as the Hillsborough disaster and Grenfell Tower fire have shown the exceptional challenges that families and those responsible for investigating them face.
'I am determined that we should never again see families struggling, as we did in the many years that followed Hillsborough, against the very system that was supposed to deliver answers - and, ultimately, justice,' Argar said.
The government says in its consultation paper that it does not envisage the advocate providing legal advice or representation, but acknowledges that the title could cause confusion. 'We do not think that this is a problem, however, because whilst not an advocate in the legal sense the Independent Public Advocate will certainly be an advocate for the families and we are confident that the role will become clearly understood in the public mind once it has been established,' the consultation paper says. 'We also think it would be inadvisable to move away from the name we used in the Queen’s Speech, with which stakeholders are already familiar.'