In his role as a member of the Justice Select Committee, Rob Butler, MP for Aylesbury has this afternoon been hearing from the Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC.
With the prospect of up to 4,000 prisoners being freed early due to coronavirus, Rob asked Dame Vera “What do victims think about early release...and when prisoners are released earlier on temporary licence, are victims being adequately informed?”
In response, Dame Vera reassured the committee that she had spoken to ministers about the scheme and “the important thing to do is to ensure that the interest of victims are fully taken in to the decision-making process about who comes out.”
As a former magistrate, Rob stressed that “sentencing somebody to custody is not a decision you would ever dream of taking lightly”, and with some lobby groups pushing for even more prisoners to be granted early release, Rob raised concerns over the type of offender who could potentially be freed.
Rob also drew attention to the issue of victims of domestic abuse and how perpetrators are being brought to justice, despite courts being closed because of the coronavirus crisis.
Dame Vera said that cases of domestic abuse had risen and expressed her concerns for victims.
Rob asked Dame Vera how proposals for a new victims’ law could bring about an improvement and highlighted that “a law and a code are all very good in that they give something a statutory footing, but to be followed through effectively requires an ethos or a culture.”
In his maiden speech in Parliament, Rob was clear that a significant part of his work as an MP would be “putting victims right at the heart of the criminal justice system”. His role in the Justice Select Committee is enabling him to push for action to ensure this happens.
“All too often, victims of crime feel forgotten in the criminal justice system. Whilst some changes to victims’ services are obviously necessary during the current coronavirus crisis, it is extremely important that this does not lead to a breakdown in the support they can access. I entirely agree with the Victims’ Commissioner that there needs to be a much greater focus on victims at all stages of the criminal justice process, and I very much look forward to supporting the new victims’ law when it comes before Parliament.”
Justice Select Committee meetings can be watched live online at https://parliamentlive.tv/Commons.