Offenders will be forced to pay up to £50 million a year to help victims recover from the trauma of serious crime, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced today.
This is on top of the £66 million each year central Government already dedicates to services supporting victims and witnesses.
Victims have too often been an afterthought in the criminal justice system: ensuring that victims get the help they need to recover from crime is a priority. The overhaul will ensure victims receive better support and that offenders pay more towards this. It includes a shake-up of the Victim Surcharge, to ensure more criminals contribute more, and a crackdown on criminals claiming compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
Victims will also receive more targeted help in a move away from the current inflexible one-size-fits-all model. As victims’ needs will vary substantially from community to community, many support services will in future be commissioned locally by democratically-elected Police and Crime Commissioners, who are best placed to know what their neighbourhoods need. The decision on when funding for victims services will transfer to PCCs will be made in due course but we would not envisage this happening any later than April 2015.
Rape support centres, the Witness Service and help for victims of trafficking and those bereaved by homicide will continue to be commissioned centrally by the Government.
The full package includes:
- Generating up to an extra £50 million from offenders for victims’ support services by increasing the Victim Surcharge offenders are already ordered to pay on fines and extending the Victim Surcharge to offenders given a conditional discharge, community or custodial sentence. Revenue from increased financial penalties, such as Penalty Notices for Disorder, will also contribute to this;
- Stopping criminal injuries compensation payments to criminals with unspent serious convictions - who have claimed £75 million in the past decade alone;
- Focusing criminal injuries compensation payments on those with the most serious injuries and ending payouts for minor injuries like sprained ankles, cuts and grazes;
- A commitment to revise the Victims’ Code so that victims have improved and clearer entitlements from criminal justice agencies and giving victims a louder voice by committing to increasing the use of the Victim Personal Statement as well as restorative justice;
- Moving from grant funding to commissioning of services - giving a wider range of organisations offering support to victims of crime access to Government funding, so increasing the range of support on offer;
- Moving away from the current one-size-fits-all model to allow the needs of local communities to be better taken into account, with democratically-elected Police and Crime Commissioners making decisions locally about which victims’ services are needed in their area.
Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said:
‘These changes provide victims of crime with better, more personalised support and force offenders to take more responsibility for their crimes, instead of the taxpayer bearing the brunt of funding victims’ services.
‘With offenders currently only contributing around a sixth of the funding that supports victims’ services, the balance is clearly wrong. Our plans will see offenders contribute up to £50 million more each year.
‘Victims too often feel themselves to be an afterthought for the criminal justice system. Despite improvements during the last two decades the system can still fall short. I believe these new measures will change that and provide the support victims actually need.’
Last year the Government announced that up to £1 million would be taken from prisoners’ pay packets through the Prisoners’ Earnings Act. This additional money is going directly to the charity Victim Support to provide much needed help for victims of crime.
We will also put in place the first statutory compensation scheme for British victims of terrorist atrocities abroad. It will see Britons who are targeted in future terrorist attacks overseas compensated in the same way as domestic victims of terrorism. A scheme to make payments to victims of past atrocities such as Bali and Sharm el Sheikh opened on 16 April; the new statutory Scheme will replace it.
Notes to editors:
- For more information call the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 0203 3343536.
- Each year central Government spends £66 million on victim and witness support services. Currently offenders only contribute around £10m to this through the Victim Surcharge. In future offenders will be made to pay up to £50 million in total to help victims recover from the trauma of serious crime.
- The Victim Surcharge is a contribution directly towards the costs of victims’ services that offenders are currently ordered to pay at a flat rate of £15 only when fined in court - which helps fund Independent Domestic Violence Advisers, Witness Care Units and voluntary support groups.
- The Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996, which came into force last September, sees 40% of the net wages of prisoners working outside prison go to Victim Support.
- Victim Personal Statements give victims an opportunity to explain to criminal justice agencies and the courts how they have been affected by a crime.
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the ‘Victims’ Code’) contains standards which must be met by criminal justice agencies in supporting victims through the criminal justice system.
- The Government will move to a new commissioning model in which certain services will continue to be commissioned nationally - such as the witness service, rape support centres, and support for victims of trafficking and those bereaved by homicide - while the bulk of victims’ services will be provided by locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
Reforms to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme include ending payments for minor injuries and to criminals who have been sentenced to community orders or imprisoned.
- To read the consultation response.