West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner warning over lack of victim services funding

There is not enough funding for victims' services to meet demand, a crime commissioner has warned after recommendations for a new Victims' Law were published.

Thursday, 25th February 2021, 6:00 am

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said he broadly agreed with the proposals outlined in a policy paper by Dame Vera Baird QC that has been submitted to the Government.

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He said it showed support for victims needs to be a priority across the whole of government, involving all departments including health.

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Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Picture: Scott Merrylees

And he warned there were urgent challenges around how existing services were provided as a result of earlier budget cuts across the criminal justice system.

"There isn’t enough funding for victims' services to meet the demand pressures, let alone the growing crises of delayed court cases and building backlogs after years of Government cuts and under investment across the Criminal Justice system, so this needs to be addressed at both a national and local level," he said.

"The Revised Victims’ Code launched last November with its 12 rights is an important step forward but it isn’t enforceable unless it becomes law. I also supported PCCs monitoring the Code from the start, and support what Dame Vera proposes to ensure this happens, at both local and national level.

"However, this should only be the start to making sure that victims are no longer bystanders in the criminal justice system, but recognised as full participants. That is a crucial development which I believe could be a huge shift for how victims are seen and treated within the criminal justice system."

Dame Vera, the national Victims’ Commissioner, said a change of culture was "long overdue" to look after victims of crime, amid concern of plummeting confidence levels in obtaining justice.

Her policy paper contains 34 recommendations for inclusion in the Victims’ Law, including PCCs and regional mayors having the statutory duty to monitor compliance with the Victims’ Code at a local level, to include a section on providing victims’ services in their future Police and Crime Plans and to appoint a Victims’ Champion within three months of being elected.

Mr Burns-Williamson, who lobbied for the introduction of Victims' Law, said he had put victims at the heart of his own annual plans since his election in 2012 and had made more than £6m available to victims' services in the county over the last year.

With the support of Dame Vera, he launched the first West Yorkshire Victims’ Strategy last February.

However, the role of West Yorkshire PCC will be absorbed into the responsibilities of a West Yorkshire mayor to be elected for the first time in May as part of the county's devolution deal.

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