The government's witness strategy highlighted the good work and progress made, however, it also reported on issues of lack of awareness, understanding and delivery of the victim code. It identifies that less than 20% of victims were aware of its existence. The Metropolitan police service “victims commissioner” found that less than a third of victims were aware. The government recognises that the Victims Code of Practice (VCOP) is extensive and difficult to navigate and has started a programme of revision to simplify it, making it more user friendly and concise. The issues identified are valid both nationally and locally.
From a victim perspective, information should be conveyed at key points, including point of report however, research has shown that information delivery is somewhat limited. As such, many victims do not clearly understand from the outset that the VCOP exists and what entitlements there are to support them. Knowledge of the witness charter is just as limited. Due to its status still being non-statutory, it receives less exposure. The 21 standards of care to be adhered to throughout a witness's journey mirror closely many of the victim entitlements and include assessments and special measure provisions.
The VCOP currently has over 120 entitlements for adult victims alone. Due to its complexity and volume, officers understanding of the code can be limited. Since its inception, previous and current training packages within Kent Police have provided an overview but do not provide an understanding of the detail. This strategy will seek to comprehensively review and improve our victim code and witness charter training to ensure that all staff fully understand all aspects of both, enabling them to deliver the highest quality service.
Due to its volume, we often refer a reader directly to the VCOP document itself rather than explain the relevant entitlements. Improvements to policy and standard operating procedures and providing more information regarding entitlements will benefit officers, victims and witnesses.
The Quality Policing Programme have created some focused internal communications, designed to include clear information and updates around the victim code and the witness charter. This will provide clarity regarding force expectations; ensuring staff meet their obligations as well as helping to raise awareness, provide advice and guidance in order to improve service delivery.
Victims and witnesses can currently access information through our website. It provides a crime reporting function, information on how to report a crime, what happens after you report a crime, support for victims and witnesses of crime and the victims’ right to review scheme. It also provides a ‘Live Chat’ facility where an individual can interact with us in a direct messaging format. The information, accessibility and layout are sufficient, but improvements can be made in order to provide a better, more user-friendly experience.
- raise awareness of the victim code and witness charter, both internally and externally
- ensure victims and witnesses are explicitly made aware of the victim code and witness charter
- review and seek to improve our online resource solutions for victims and witnesses making it easier to access information and support
- revise and improve our training programmes for all operational staff and new recruits
- review and improve policy and guidance in relation to victim code and witness charter to ensure it is clear and clear-cut
- ensure external messaging signposts adequately explain entitlements
- explore ways to engage with the people of Kent in order to successfully deliver information and raise awareness of victim’s entitlements and witnesses' standards.