20 January 2023

Refuge responds to Government’s response of the Justice Select Committee’s report on the draft Victims Bill

Reacting to the Government’s response of the Justice Select Committee’s report on the draft Victims Bill Ellie Butt, Head Of Policy and Public Affairs at Refuge said:

“The Victims Bill is a hugely important opportunity to improve survivors’ experience of the criminal justice system, so it is disappointing to see the government accept just 5 of the 47 recommendations from the Justice Select Committee. The Bill in its current form will not be effective in providing the support that survivors desperately need.

For this Bill to truly transform outcomes for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse it needs to include sustainable multi-year funding for specialist community-based services. Currently far too many survivors are prevented from accessing support due to a postcode lottery, inadequate funding and patchy service provision so it is disappointing to see at this stage the government have not committed to any additional investment. Current gaps in funding must be urgently addressed.

Refuge and the Justice Committee have called for this Bill to strengthen the duty to require police and crime commissioners and local authorities to collaborate and commission community-based services, the government have currently rejected this recommendation, so we urge them again to rethink.

It is also discouraging that the government have once again rejected calls for an introduction of a complete firewall between the police and immigration enforcement, without this we know migrant survivors will continue to face increased barriers to report and risk being excluded from accessing support.

Refuge welcomes the Ministry of Justice expanding the definition of ‘victim’ to include children survivors of domestic abuse, bereaved families and rape conceived persons. But expanding the definition of victim without providing the services they need is unlikely to lead to much improvement in practice.

We urge the government to reconsider the Committee’s recommendations and address the funding gap of specialist services to ensure the Victim’s Bill fulfils its ambition to support survivors.”