HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc14-5
26. Mr. Booth

To ask the Attorney-General to what extent the Crown Prosecution Service takes into account the interests of the victim when deciding to institute proceedings.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer)

When the Crown Prosecution Service is deciding whether to continue proceedings, the interests of the victim are an important factor in determining the balance of the public interest.

Mr. Booth

In view of the complaints that have been aired in the press this morning about the Government's help for victims, will my hon. and learned Friend tell the House what help has been given to victims and especially to victim support schemes in the past five to 10 years? Is my hon. and learned Friend open to new policy suggestions that will also help victims?

The Solicitor-General

The Government are strongly committed to helping victims of crime. As my hon. Friend will know, the Government published their victims charter in 1990. Although it is a matter for the Home Office, I can tell my hon. Friend that funding for victim support has increased by 46 per cent. in the past two years, from £5.7 million to £8.4 million this year.

On my hon. Friend's more specific point about initiatives that the Crown Prosecution Service has under way, it is at present formulating a national operational service standard for victims and witnesses on which the views of victim support are being sought. In the near future the results of those consultations will be made public.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is the Minister aware that the increase in the amount of money offered to victim support schemes is nothing like the increase in the number of crimes with which they have to deal? His Department could not only make life a great deal simpler by giving schemes sufficient money to fulfil the task that they have been given, but could examine the habit of not informing victims of any particular action taken and the timing of any action. That lack of information contributes to the feeling of great unease and, indeed, of neglect.

The Solicitor-General

I understand what the hon. Lady says. We sympathise with those victims who feel that they are not kept abreast of developments in their cases. It is, principally, a matter for the police to inform victims of the progress of their cases. It is not every victim who requires financial support, but the hon. Lady will be aware of the change that we made to the law in 1988, as a result of which, in appropriate cases, the CPS makes application to the court for compensation to be paid by defendants to victims. That is a welcome reform.

Mr. Brazier

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept from me that one way in which to release extra funds to victims would he by saving money on the scope and size of the CPS, which is involved in almost all criminal cases that the police handle? Since the CPS came into being, it has increased costs and delays and reduced the proportion of cases coming to court. The conviction rate of contested cases in Crown courts has also reduced.

The Solicitor-General

I always listen with interest to contributions from my hon. Friend on the subject of law and order, but I disagree with every statement of fact that he has just made. It is significant that one of the main ways in which the CPS is able to help victims results from a new form that it has introduced, which contains details of a victim's loss. That can be given to counsel in court to ensure that an application is made to the court for compensation. That surely is progress.

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