One in five victims of crime are dissatisfied with the Crown Prosecution Service, the director of public prosecutions revealed today, announcing measures to provide additional support.
CPS paralegals will liaise with victims and witnesses in Crown court proceedings, Alison Saunders (pictured) said this morning.
Duties will include answering routine questions about daily life at court, thanking witnesses who have given evidence, ensuring victims and witnesses know they can follow the rest of the case if they wish to, and being responsible for note-taking when prosecutors meet with victims to explain the general nature of the defence’s case.
The scheme will be piloted at courts in Liverpool and Sheffield, and one other area to be confirmed, from October. It will extend nationally from January 2016.
Saunders said paralegals were ‘vital’ to the CPS’s work. By placing more CPS paralegals at Crown courts, ‘we can harness their expertise to help deliver significantly enhanced support to victims and witnesses’, she said.
Saunders announced she is also considering whether the role of the Victim Liaison Unit could be extended. The unit is responsible for ensuring victims are informed about CPS decisions to stop or significantly change charges.
The DPP’s announcement comes as the CPS published its first victim and witness satisfaction survey.
The survey was commissioned due to an absence of ‘up-to-date large-scale research’ into victims’ and witnesses’ experiences of the criminal justice system, Saunders said.
The study was based on interviews from 7,723 victims and witnesses whose cases had been finalised between March and August last year.
According to the report, two-thirds of victims and three-quarters of witnesses were satisfied with the CPS. However, 19% of victims were ‘dissatisfied’; 11% of victims were ‘very dissatisfied’.
Half of victims and over a third of witnesses said they would not consent to being a witness in a criminal trial in future if they were asked to do so.
Saunders said giving evidence was ‘one of the most important public duties that we can be asked to perform and so it is absolutely right that we assist victims and witnesses to give the best evidence possible, as free as possible from stress or shock, whilst at the same time protecting the fundamental rights of defendants to a fair trial’.