UK

'Victims' law' proposals from Labour panel

Keir Starmer
Image caption Former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer is a member of the group

There needs to be a "cultural shift" in the way victims of crime in England and Wales are treated, a panel of criminal justice experts has said.

The group, set up by the Labour Party, makes recommendations including giving judges the power to control the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses.

Ed Miliband said the proposals would help form a new "victims' law" if his party was elected into office.

The government set out its plans for a victims of crime law in September.

The taskforce which made the recommendations includes the former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer and Labour peer and campaigner Lady Doreen Lawrence.

Its report also calls for a statutory and mandatory duty on those working with children in regulated activities, such as social workers and teachers, to report suspected abuse.

Other recommendations include a right for victims to have cases reviewed if charges are not brought, greater access to information about a case's progress and making the existing victims' code legally enforceable.

'Defining moment'

The taskforce wants new rights for victims to make it easier to report crimes and have them properly recorded.

Sir Keir, who is standing for Labour in the safe Holborn and St Pancras seat in May's election, said: "After 14 months of detailed work and wide consultation, we have concluded that there needs to be a cultural shift in the way victims are dealt with in our criminal justice system.

"It's also clear that we need to take an unequivocal stand against the deliberate non-reporting of child sex abuse.

"We can't put up with repeats of Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby or Oxford."

Panel member Peter Neyroud, a former chief constable of Thames Valley Police and a criminologist at Cambridge University, said there was a "strong desire" for "tougher legal rights for victims and witnesses".

He said: "A key starting point is for the police to have a clear legal duty to record crime because, as victims told us, unless their crime is recorded, few if any of the wider rights and support come into play."

A law would be a "defining moment" for victims' rights, he said.

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