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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 10:08 GMT
Criminal justice 'fails victims'
There is a battle over how to treat burglars
The criminal justice system's failure to deliver for many victims is eroding public confidence, says a new Audit Commission report.

National targets should be set to ensure there is consistency in the way witnesses and victims are treated.

According to the report, little has been done to assess existing services.

"For many victims, the criminal justice process fails to deliver a satisfactory conclusion," said the report.

"And very few ever see an offender brought to justice."

The commission says targets should be applied to the criminal justice system, local councils and crime reduction partnerships (CDRPs).

"Mori research carried out for the Audit Commission also shows that two out of five witnesses would not be prepared to go through the process again in similar circumstances," the report states.

'Huge impact'

"The role of victims and witnesses is critical to the criminal justice system."

The report says a failure to improve services for both victims and witnesses has a "huge impact" on the public response to crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.

That occurred by making people "reluctant to report an incident, or by making them more likely to drop out of the CJS ahead of or during a trial," the watchdog said.

The report also highlights the fact that much in the way of victim counselling and advice services were within the voluntary sector.

Of the 13bn spent on the criminal justice system each year only 29m goes to Victim Support, which is the main counselling and support charity.

Discouraged by the system?

Audit Commission chairman James Strachan said: "With just 9% of crimes resulting in a conviction, and two out of five witnesses unprepared to go through the process again, confidence in the CJS is being eroded.

"It is crucial for future crime reduction that both victims and witnesses are valued within the criminal justice system.

"This report calls on the disparate agencies in the CJS and all those involved in reducing crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour to work together."

The government is unveiling its plans for victim and witness care on Wednesday, which includes the creation of the post of commissioner for victims and witnesses.

The report said: "It is essential that government objectives in this area are backed by robust performance or management information that allows agencies to judge outcomes."

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