APCC Lead Sophie Linden urges government not to underestimate the cost of implementing the Victims Bill and calls for greater powers for PCCs to ensure compliance.
The APCC Lead on Victims and Deputy Mayor of London, Sophie Linden, gave evidence at the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Victims Bill session on Tuesday 21 June, alongside Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board and leader of Enfield Council Cllr Nesil Caliskan.
Sophie Linden stressed the need for PCCs to have more powers to be able to request data and hold services to account as well as have the ability to ask for improvement plans. She also asked to extend PCCs power to request HMIC to inspect policing to other agencies, calling for PCCs to be able to request inspections for all CJS agencies where there are failings in compliance against the Victims Code of Practice.
Although we are very pleased that the new Bill contains a duty requiring agencies to share data, we remain concerned that, as PCCs we have a duty to review compliance and through this, to hold partners to account at our Local Criminal Justice Board for delivering against the code, but with no additional powers to do this. she said.
To ensure PCCs can effectively monitor compliance with the code we need consistent funding and analytical support. Currently the funding across local areas is variable, and if the expectation is that these are through which compliance is monitored then resource must be provided to strengthen capability.
Sophie also called for any guidance on the Bill to provide clarity on the best structures for partnership working and stressed the need for the Bill to adequately reflect the needs of all victims, in particular the needs of child victims. She also asked for bereaved families to be included in the bill.
As PCCs we commission victim services for all victims and there is a risk in this Bill that by ring fencing three areas for collaboration that other victims may not get the service they need. We understand the prioritisation given however, there are vulnerable victims of other crimes as well and so consideration should be given to how we engage with partners working with these victims.
We also strongly believe that the Bill should be more explicit in its reference to children as victims and in ensuring commissioners reflect those needs in commissioned services.
Failure in supporting children as victims can lead to challenges later down the line. If we can get effective victims support in place in the early stages, we can prevent later issues developing, she said.
The cost assessment associated with the implementation of the Bill was also raised as a concern, as well as the impact raising the profile of the victims' code will have on service demand welcomed the raising of the profile but it will inevitably increase the need for services and this will need funding, the bill is not cost neutral.
A successful campaign to raise the profile of the Victims Code would certainly have an impact as it will help to increase trust and confidence in the police and wider criminal justice system which is ultimately what we want to achieve and there will be cost implications with this.
We are also concerned that as PCCs we will not be properly resourced to effectively deliver the new duties. Effective collaboration which leads to a strong strategy will be complex and require coordination of input from across organisations.
I do believe the costs of effectively implementing this Bill have been underestimated and this needs to be appropriately assessed going forwards.
Watch the session on Parliament TV
The APCC submission has been published it on the committee's website.