VICTIM(S) MATTER(S) – MAKING IN-ROADS LOCALLY
BY MARGARET SMITH, Policy, Planning & Development Officer, Community Justice Glasgow
There are no crimes that do not leave victims in their wake. Community Justice prioritises reducing the risk of reoffending with a focus which acknowledges the offence and its wider impact whilst understanding the underlying drivers of crime.
The National Strategy for Community Justice Vision sets out underpinning principles including:
‘People must be held to account for their offences, in a way that recognises the impact on victims of crime and is mindful of risks to the public, while being proportionate and effective in preventing and reducing further offending.’
‘High quality, person-centred and collaborative services should be available to address the needs of those who have committed offences, their families, and victims of crime.’
Many of the levers for a better experience of the Justice System for victims of crime sit outwith the gift of our Community Justice Partnership locally. They sit instead at a national and legislative level, for example through Scottish Government working with partners and other organisations to build on the Victim & Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 by:
- reviewing current support for victims of crime, and looking at the potential to introduce a single point of contact to help victims through the process;
- making it easier for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in criminal trials by increasing the use of pre-recorded evidence;
- introducing a statutory duty to provide appropriate adult support to vulnerable adults during police procedures; and
- supporting restorative justice which provides safe communication between people harmed by crime and those responsible for the harm.
Our focus locally is a safer Glasgow with fewer victims of crime – which means using the right justice response to reduce reoffending and protect the public. Sometimes this is custody, but we also know that community based responses are critical in reducing reoffending. We do this through the promotion and provision of community based options and alternatives to custody and/or prosecution, over short-term prison sentences – statistically giving us a higher success rate in reducing re-offending (see Figure 1).
We also recognise that the issues are much more complex, and at the heart of all of this there are people whose lives are severely impacted by all types of crime, be that lower level or more serious violent crimes. As I said at the outset – there are no victimless crimes.
There is no easy answer, at a very pragmatic level, for every person who turns their life around and gets off the revolving door of short-term prison sentences, going forward, there will be less offending, less harm to communities and ultimately fewer victims of crime. For lower level offending, where a short-term prison sentence could be imposed, the evidence tells us that community options are significantly more effective in reducing the risk of further offending.
From a local perspective our Community Justice Outcome Improvement Plan (CJOIP) and subsequent actions centre on strong partnership with victim agencies, most significantly with Victim Support Scotland.
Victims are one of our nine priority themes set out in the CJOIP – We will listen to and act on victims’ voice and ensure that victims of crime receive the support they need.
In order to achieve this we focus our action around engagement – increasing knowledge and understanding of the Justice System, giving victims of crime an empowered voice to shape and influence the work that we do, and take action to deliver against the following outcomes set out in our Outcome Improvement Framework:
Structural Outcomes (SO) – Communities (in this context we consider victims a community of interest) Improve their understanding and participation in Community Justice:
SO1(a) Activities carried out to engage with communities as well as other relevant constituencies.
SO1(b) Consultation with communities as part of Community Justice planning & service provision.
SO1(c) Participation in Community Justice, such as co-production and joint delivery.
We know from experience that only by working in partnership with victim representatives and agencies can we achieve these objectives. The route to this is to ensure that we give victims of crime an empowered voice in the work that we do.
Over the years we have worked closely with Victim Support Scotland’s Glasgow Team, some of the work we have progressed includes joint publication of an information pack to help victims of crime understand what it means when a sentence is passed or when an alternative to prosecution is put in place ‘A Summary of Community Options: Alternatives to Prosecution, Alternatives to Remand and Alternatives to Custody’.
You can click on the picture below to go to the publication.
More recently we have been working together to establish a systematic process to gather victim views on any new developments across the Glasgow Community Justice Partnership in Glasgow. Not only to hear their views but to give an empowered voice that can help to influence and shape developments.
We will soon be testing this process, looking at developments around Adult Diversion from Prosecution – you can read more about this in the article A Plan to Improve Adult Diversion from Prosecution. We hope that by working together in this way – within an established system – we can empower victim voices in many more areas of our work going forward.
Other areas of work across the partnership have included a renewed effort to establish Restorative Justice Services and approaches in Glasgow. You can read more about this in the article Restorative Justice – Elevating Victim’s Voices in Glasgow.
The latest data from the Scottish Crime & Justice Survey broken down to local levels (2016 – 2018) suggest that confidence in the Justice System amongst Glasgow’s citizens is improving (see figure 2). By continually working in partnership in this way, we will hopefully help to maintain this positive direction.
On a less positive note, the same survey suggests that crime victimisation rates in Glasgow (measured at Police Scotland G Division level) for the last reporting period has increased by 2.3%. Figure 3, shows quite a mixed picture for Glasgow with the increase following a fairly substantial decrease in the previous reporting period of 7%. Overall since this measure came into place, victimisation rates have fallen by 3.4% (since 2008-2009). We are waiting on the local breakdown of the 2018-19 survey to see if this is a continuing trend.
Community Justice Glasgow (CJG) also maintains strong links with other agencies that support victims. This includes Glasgow City Councils Neighbourhoods & Sustainability Service (N&S). The CJG core team is co-located with N&S, which helps facilitate better partnership working, and strengthens the informal communications across the teams, as well as formal partnership arrangements. N&S provides a number of services for victims, including
- ASSIST – a specialist domestic abuse advocacy and support service focused on reducing risk and improving the safety of victims of domestic abuse. ASSIST was established in 2004 and aims to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse – women, children and men – are safe, informed and supported throughout their involvement with the criminal justice system. It does that through providing a high quality service tailored to individual needs and circumstances.
- Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership – This strategic partnership brings together all key partners that have a role in tackling violence against women, including Police Scotland, the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
- Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance – established in 2004, this is a support service for trafficking survivors, to help identify and support women who may have been trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
- Routes Out – This service supports women who are involved in prostitution, providing a wide range of services, understanding the risk of selling sex and the stigma women can feel.