Victims of crime, including bereaved family members, will have the right to ask prosecutors to look again at a case following a decision not to charge or to discontinue proceedings.
The government will today set out plans to allow appeals against decisions taken by the Crown Prosecution Service about charging an individual. It will not apply to decisions taken by the police.
The ‘victims’ right to review’ was prompted by a 2007 sexual assault case in which the CPS decided not to bring charges. The decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal which concluded that ‘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’.
The option was previously denied to victims and their families to remove uncertainty hanging over the suspect and establish confidence in the prosecution service.
Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer will put the plans out to consultation today. He said it was one of the most significant victim policies ever made by the CPS.
‘The criminal justice system historically treated victims as bystanders and accordingly gave them little say in their cases,’ he said. ‘This approach was intended to inspire confidence, but in reality it had the opposite effect.’
Welcoming the policy, the chief executive of charity Victim Support Javed Khan said: ‘Too often victims tell us that they don’t have much of a voice in our justice system. ‘This new initiative by the CPS is a step in the right direction and will help to reposition victims back at the heart of our justice system.’
Separately the DPP has strengthened the way the CPS deals with cases that do not come within the scope of the new scheme by appointing Stephen Shaw as the CPS’s first independent assessor of complaints. Shaw will provide external oversight of complaints about all non-legal matters such as staff conduct and communication with victims or witnesses to try to ensure transparency and accountability
Shaw was the prisons and probation ombudsman from 1999 to 2010 and chief executive of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator from 2010 to 2012.