The government has announced an overhaul of the support given to victims of crime – including scrapping the so-called ‘same roof rule’. It follows criticism that some victims are being unfairly denied payouts.
The creation of the first ever cross-government ‘Victims Strategy’, launched by the Justice Secretary, will see a full review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS). It will also involve a consultation on setting up an Independent Public Advocate (IPA) to help bereaved families following public disasters.
The government say they’re looking to ensure that the support for victims – including those of violent offences such as terrorism and child sexual abuse – is updated to reflect the changing nature of crime.
The IPA will seek to help guide families throughout the investigative process, ensuring their voices are heard at inquests and that they are directed to appropriate support services.
‘Fundamental to a Caring Society’
A tribute to the victims of the 2017 ‘Westminster Attack’, placed near Big Ben. Image Credit: Ollie Cole
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “How we support victims is fundamental to a caring society, and in recognition of that we are taking steps to enshrine their rights in law for the very first time.
“Victims need to know they are protected and listened to.”
Also included in the announcement is the intention to ditch the “unfair and arbitrary” rules which prevented some victims of crime from being compensated if they lived with their attacker.
The so-called ‘same roof rule’ was changed in 1979, but not retrospectively, meaning victims from before that time have been refused payouts.
The Court of Appeal declared in July that this condition was incompatible with human rights laws, unfairly denying compensation to a claimant who was abused as a child by her stepfather.
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said the strategy was a “timely focus” on the rights of victims – after being consistently informed they feel their status in the criminal justice system “is not comparable with that of the offender.”
READ MORE: What Human Rights Do For Victims of Crime >>
Making Reforms Work For Victims
Justice Secretary David Gauke MP. Image Credit: UK Parliament
The review of the CICS will look at the existing time limit, where adult victims must apply for compensation within two years of the crime. Justice Secretary David Gauke commented that he wants to “make sure victims get the awards they’re due”.
The strategy also promises a revised Victims’ Code, which will better reflect the needs of victims and the changing nature of crime.
According to the government, fewer than 20% of victims were aware of the Victims’ Code, prompting calls from ministers for more to be done.
Diana Fawcett, Chief Officer of the independent charity Victim Support, welcomed the announcement and called it “much-needed.” He added that they would work closely with the government “to ensure that the reforms truly work for victims.”