Great Britain

Rape victims should be entitled to free lawyers to stop police probing into their personal lives

RAPE victims should be entitled to free lawyers to stop coppers probing into their personal lives.

The Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird has outlined the proposals in a landmark policy paper to protect victims of crime.

She wants to see lawyers protect rape victims from having their private lives delved into by investigations.

The paper also says courts should pay victims compensation immediately after the criminal process finishes - with authorities left to chase up the cash from offenders.

Dame Vera said: “Victims are participants from start to finish, but they are currently treated more like bystanders.”

She is calling for new laws which protect the rights of people afflicted by the horrors of crime in the new “Victims Law.”

The Government are set to start consulting on the proposed legislation in the coming months.

Dame Vera said: “We know victim confidence in our criminal justice system is in sharp decline.

"More and more victims are withdrawing their support for prosecutions and, in my recent survey of rape complainants, only around one in seven said they felt reporting could end in justice.

“Superficial changes are not enough if we are to reverse this downward trend. To regain the trust of victims, we urgently need a change of culture in how the justice system treats them.”

Under her proposals she wants rape victims to have a legal right to a lawyer when it’s felt the victims’ right to privacy is threatened by undue data requests by the police, prosecutors or courts.

Victims should also be allowed to make representations when a case is about to be dropped.

And those blighted by anti-social behaviour should also be recognised as victims of crime and access to support services.

She added: “We must recognise justice cannot be delivered without victims and our justice system needs to reflect this.

“I’m calling for a redefinition of the victim that moves beyond treating them as simply an onlooker or maybe a witness, but as a recognised participant, with statutory rights to be informed, supported and to be able to make informed choices.

“This does not in any way undermine the rights of the defendant and does not make them a party to proceedings, or a decision-maker, but it does confirm victims as active contributors in their own right to the criminal justice process.”

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