In 2015, the Government promised to enshrine rights for victims in law. Three years later, and we still do not have a Victims Law. Victims and their families have waited long enough.
I used my speech to raise some of the stories from Lewisham Deptford – local people who have struggled in navigating the criminal justice system with no support. They have suffered delays in responses and are often provided with very little communication about updates with their case. Some have even found out offenders have been released without their knowledge. It’s no surprise that many people feel let down by the system.
We need a Victims Law with teeth and I am concerned that without huge changes across Government, the experiences victims have of the criminal justice system will not get better.
How can the Government seriously improve the experiences of victims, while also slashing funding for legal aid and cutting police budgets? In the last eight years, 21 thousand police officers have been axed across the country. Police forces are stretched, and the number of cases that are closed without being resolved keeps increasing. The budget to legal aid has shrunk under the Tories and at the first quarter of last year, two out of three litigants appeared in court without any legal advice or representation. I know families who have resorted to crowdfunding for legal fees – this is shameful. Access to justice must be a fundamental, democratic right. Instead, we have reached a point where justice is for those lucky enough to afford it.
Watch my full speech below: