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Crown Prosecution Service to transform its service to victims


Transforming the support offered to victims of crime so more stay engaged with the justice process is key, the CPS has said today, as independent research into victims’ needs and expectations is published.

The research, carried out by Crest Advisory, an independent body, was commissioned by the CPS to help the organisation build on the positive changes being made to improve victim’s experience of the Criminal Justice System.  It sought to explore what victims say they want and need in terms of support.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Being a victim of crime can be one of the most challenging things a person will ever experience - we recognise how overwhelming the justice process can be, especially when already in a time of extraordinary stress.

“We do not underestimate the enormity of this experience and know the resilience many victims show as they navigate the complex route of their case.

“But many need better support and that is why we’re taking a comprehensive look at what we offer to make sure we are meeting those needs.

“We are making progress - but are focused on making sure victims get the consistent and compassionate service they deserve.”

Crest Advisory Executive Director Samantha Cunningham, who led the research, said: “Victims want a voice and victims deserve agency. Victims of crime subjected to trauma do not want an impersonal letter that reduces them to a case number. Our research is a powerful evidence base on which the CPS can build to make meaningful change.

“The CPS have worked with us every step of the way and what this piece of independent research shows us is that there is a genuine desire and positive context for change. Although the findings are stark, this report is anchored in a real ambition for change from the leadership at the CPS.

“It has never been more important to put the victims’ voice at the front, left and centre of a complete shift in approach. We look forward to working with the CPS and stakeholders across the criminal justice system and to seeing the recommendations gain momentum.”

The victims’ needs assessment, carried out by Crest Advisory, is informed by victims, voices of people who support victims and practitioners across the Criminal Justice System.

Victims’ needs increase according to how vulnerable they are and the severity of the crime, the report says. It calls for an enhanced service for specific vulnerable groups to be developed, such as for victims of serious violence, hate crime or sexual offences.

The independent research identified four priority areas where improvements can be made for victims. Based on these findings, the CPS will take forward recommendations to:

  • Improve the quality of communications for all victims, working with Criminal Justice Partners to develop a different model
  • Enhance the service provided to victims with the greatest needs
  • Innovate and pilot new ways to strengthen our engagement with victims
  • Build an organisational and leadership culture within the CPS that prioritises engagement with victims.

The CPS is setting action plans and timeframes for delivering improvements on each of these areas to continue driving progress on our work to transform the service for victims.

Claire Waxman, London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, said: “This work from Crest Advisory provides fantastic insight into the needs of victims and most crucially where these needs remain unmet by the CPS. Consistent, clear and trauma-informed communication with victims is a fundamental element of their justice journey, and the absence of this can push victims to withdraw from the process, particularly with cases taking such a long time to reach court.

“We know that victims do not all receive the justice outcome they want, but a greater driver of satisfaction is that they are treated with respect, receive timely and effective communications, and have their rights met. The CPS play a crucial role in a victim’s journey, and I am confident that if they implement the recommendations set out by Crest we will see a marked improvement in satisfaction and better engagement with the justice system.”

The report has helped inform next steps as we seek to build on the significant programme of work already underway including:

  • Earlier engagement with victims of rape and serious sexual assault – we are piloting earlier communication at a pre-charge stage as we recognise their need for more direct and proactive contact from the CPS.
  • A new communications guide so staff can build on their skills and improve the language, frequency and timeliness of our communication with victims and witnesses. 
  • Publishing a refreshed information guide for victims of rape and serious sexual offences – to make sure victims are getting the right information at the right time. A guide will also be available for victims of other crime types later this year. 
  • An updated toolkit for writing to rape victims, to ensure prosecutors properly explain our role and give victims the information they need.

This work will sit alongside the upcoming Victims’ Bill and wider package of measures designed to improve the experience for victims across the Criminal Justice System.

The CPS will be publishing a defendants strategy in the coming weeks.

Notes to editors

  • You can read the CPS summary of the Crest Advisory findings and outline of next steps on our website
  • Read the full victims’ needs assessment carried out by Crest Advisory
  • The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) commissioned Crest Advisory to conduct a strategic victims’ needs assessment (SNA) to better understand the needs of victims and where they are not fully met in CPS communications. Crest was commissioned in June 2021 – the information outlined in this report reflects a snapshot of the CPS demand and victim experience at the time.
  • The purpose of this project was to support the improvement of the CPS’ engagement and communication with victims and response to victims’ needs. Crest worked collaboratively with the CPS on this.
  • The methods used to build this report included: quantitative analysis of publicly available and specialised service data; consultation of practitioners both statutory and third sector; and the consultation of victims.
  • Researchers surveyed over 150 victims and specialised victim services who described changes they would like to see in the CPS. The accounts of victims’ experiences can be found on slides 59 - 81 of the report.
  • Crest are crime and justice specialists – equal parts research, strategy and communication. Crest produce research reports but also practical strategy and advice designed to be useful on the frontline.

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