Victims to confront tormentors in court

Victims of crime are to be allowed for the first time to directly confront the offenders who damaged their lives in court.

Under a new code, victims will be able to choose to explain to the court and the convicted criminal how an offence has affected them by reading out a “victim personal statement”.

Judges will then take this in to account when determining the sentence. Assistant chief constable Gary Cann, national policing lead on victims and witnesses, said the move would “ensure that victims have a voice in the criminal justice system”.

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Until now, judges have read personal statements in private with only fragments read aloud to the court by prosecutors.

Victims can participate in the sentencing process in almost all common law countries.

In emotional scenes earlier this year in the US, one of the victims of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro confronted her aggressor in court after being freed from more than a decade of captivity. Michelle Knight told Castro: “You took 11 years of my life away, and now I have it back.”

The new Victims’ Code will also for the first time give businesses, who are victims of 9.2 million crimes a year, the chance to write an impact statement.

Victims’ Minister Damian Green said: “I want to create a tougher justice system. Under this Government those who break the law are more likely to go to prison for longer. I’m making sure victims’ voices are heard and that criminals no longer get away with just a slap on the wrist.”

Dan Jarvis, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister and Barnsley MP, said the code would be “toothless” and called for a change of law. He said: “Only by enshrining clear enforceable rights in an Act of Parliament will our criminal justice system treat victims and witnesses with the proper dignity and respect they deserve.”

Comment: Page 14.