Giving victims a greater say

ots Liverpool magistrates court

Victims of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour are set to have a greater say on how offenders should be punished, thanks to new legislation launched in Merseyside by the Deputy Police Commissioner.

Cllr Ann O’Byrne is unveiling the new powers that, from today, will give victims the opportunity to choose how those who have offended against them are dealt with outside of court.

The ‘Community Remedy’ is a list of appropriate actions that can be offered by the police to victims of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour to select as punishment for perpetrators.

The list has been introduced as part of a range of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour by the Home Office through the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The powers, which have been handed down to Commissioners, are intended to give victims more say in the range of punishments offenders may face.

In preparation for the introduction of these new powers, Ann launched a three-week consultation in September to ask people across Merseyside their view on the types of punishments which should be included on the list and handed out to perpetrators.

Nearly 74% of respondents agreed that ‘community remedies’ would an appropriate alternative to the court system when dealing with low-level crime and anti-social behaviour.

The survey also showed that nearly 77% of people agreed that ‘reparation to the community’, such as litter picking unpaid for 10 hours, would be a fitting remedy.

Ann said: “This new legislation is designed to put victims first and empower people to have a greater voice in the punishment of those who commit crimes against them.

“It provides a unique opportunity to ensure victims are at the heart of our criminal justice system while making offenders put right some of the harm they have caused.

“I wanted to ensure the options offered in Merseyside reflected the views of the community and that is why I encouraged people to have their say through our consultation. I have taken everyone’s responses into consideration in creating our ‘Community Remedy’ list which will give victims the opportunity to pick from a range of punishments for those who commit crimes against them.

“Community remedies are designed to reduce reoffending by encouraging offenders to face up to the consequences of their anti-social or criminal behaviour, to take responsibility for their actions and to appreciate the suffering they may have caused.”

All the punishments must be appropriate and proportionate to the crime. The list includes punishments such as mediation, a written or verbal apology, restorative justice, the perpetrator signing an Acceptable Behaviour Contract in which they agree not to carry on their behaviour or face more severe consequences and educational or rehabilitative activities.

The Deputy will continue to monitor the use of the Community Remedy and carry out a review at the end of the financial year in April.

As part of the new powers, victims of anti-social behaviour are also being given the chance to request a review where they are not satisfied with how their case is being handled.

Known as the ‘Community Trigger’, victims will be able request a case review if they have complained three times about separate incidents of anti-social behaviour over six months and are unhappy with the response they have received.

The legislation places a duty on relevant bodies, such as the police, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and co-opted social landlords, to carry out a case review. If victims are still not satisfied with how their case has been treated they can request their case is escalated to the Police Commissioner by their local Community Safety Partnership.

To ensure consistency for victims across Merseyside, Community Safety Partnerships, in consultation with the Deputy, have agreed the threshold for complaints will be the same across the entire region. They have also extended the powers so that victims of hate crime can ask for a ‘Community Trigger’.

Ann said: “These additional powers mean those people whose lives are blighted by anti-social behaviour or hate crime know they have the opportunity to have their case looked into if they aren’t happy with how it is handled.

“This again is about ensuring victims are given the support and care they deserve and means no-one should be living with anti-social behaviour or hate crime day-in day-out without knowing there is something that can be done.”

Despite welcoming these new victim-centred powers, the Deputy has warned that central government has failed to provide any additional money with which to fund these services.

Ann added: “While these powers will give victims a greater say and that is something we all want, it is extremely disappointing that the Government has not given any extra money to fund these new initiatives – once again we are all being asked to do more with less.

“That isn’t fair to victims who deserve the best possible treatment and support.”

Councillors from across Merseyside have also welcomed the new legislation.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member Communities and Environment, said: “This scheme was introduced by the Government and we will continue to work closely with Merseyside PCC to implement it.

“Despite concerns about funding for the initiative, we will carry on looking after our local communities and endeavour to make sure they feel safe.”

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