Rt Hon James Cleverly MP
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
13 February 2024
Criminal Justice Joint Inspection Meeting the needs of victims in the Criminal Justice System: An inspection of how well the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Probation Service support victims of crime.
I am writing to you in response to the above joint inspection by HMICFRS, His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation published on 19th December 2023. The inspection aimed to assess how well the Criminal Justice System (CJS) meets the needs of victims, from when a victim reports an offence to after the offender has been convicted. 5 forces were inspected alongside their corresponding CPS areas. Neither West Mercia Police nor the West Midlands Regional CPS team were inspected as part of this programme of work.
The report concluded that for many victims, their needs weren’t met and they didn’t receive a good quality service. Too often high workloads and competing demands meant staff across organisations couldn’t invest the time and attention needed at every stage of the case. These issues were further exacerbated by a lack of good quality information and poor communication between Criminal Justice (CJ)bodies.
The inspectorates made 6 recommendations in the report, all aimed at national agencies including the Ministry of Justice, College of Policing, NPCC, CPS and Probation Service.
The Chief Constable and I welcome the joint inspection, and the national focus on working with partners to better support victims of crime. Whilst the report did not make any recommendations for local Chief Constables or Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) I can confirm that many of the findings drawn out of the inspection are already key priorities for West Mercia Police. Putting victims and
survivors first is a central pillar within my Safer West Mercia Plan which comprises of specific commitments aligned to the national recommendations including:
- Playing a leading role in supporting and challenging CJS partners to deliver swifter access to justice and improved outcomes for victims;
- Ensuring compliance from West Mercia Police and Partners with the Victims’ Code, and that services are delivered in a caring and compassionate way;
- Acting as the voice of the victim within the force and the wider CJS;
- Holding the Chief Constable to account to ensure an effective first response is provided by understanding the victims needs, adapting behaviour to meet those needs, and ensuring appropriate referrals are made to access support services.
As PCC, I chair the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) and Victims Board in West Mercia. These boards are the key vehicles for driving the multi-agency activity set out above. I would welcome any further support from the Home Office to strengthen the role of LCJBs by considering options for legislation to put these boards on statutory footing, as set out in the PCC part 2 review. This would give PCCs the levers to bring together CJS partners to drive the improvements identified through this inspection, particularly in respect of oversight of victims’ code compliance, improving the quality of data and information sharing across agencies, and providing a more seamless pathway of support for victims.
I also welcome the recommendations to fundamentally review the experience of victims of crime and measures to assess how well CJ bodies obtain feedback from victims to improve the quality of services. Different working practices and systems across agencies currently make it extremely difficult to truly understand the quality of engagement experienced by victims throughout each stage of the process. A better understanding of the quality of engagement across the system would enable local partnership boards such as the LCJB to better target activity. Whilst I have an aspiration to explore options to conduct end-to-end CJS satisfaction surveys locally, there would be many benefits of developing a national methodology and reporting process to ensure consistency across areas.
It is clear through my assurance and accountability activity that the force recognises that reporting a crime to the police is the first step on a victims’ journey and shapes their experience, so it is crucial to get this right. Alongside the partnership activity set out above, the force has locally taken steps in relation to a number of the national recommendations including the development of a strategic plan to deliver a quality service to victims. This includes a great deal of progress on compliance with the victims’ code. I am pleased to report that the force has also made significant improvements in use of victim needs assessments and the offer of Victim Personal Statements as noted through the recent HMICFRS Victim Service Assessment.
Given the relevance of this inspection to the work of my Office, the force and my key partnership boards; a briefing on the inspection findings was shared at my Victims
Board on 25th January 2024. This Board included key CJS representatives including the police and the CPS. I will continue to use this Board to seek assurance that local partners are sighted on national developments, and that local activity continues to drive change across the themes identified.
Police and Crime Commissioner
cc West Mercia Police Chief Constable