The government has been holding a consultation – Delivering justice for victims: A consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system with the aim of understanding “how victims can be better supported through and beyond the criminal justice process across England and Wales” (the deadline for responses is 11:59pm on 3rd February 2022).
The consultation document suggests some key principles: ensuring that victims are informed, are supported, have their voices heard, and have a right to review.
We agree with these, but we think another is needed: that victims have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, sensitivity, compassion and courtesy, as specified in the Victims’ Code.
To meet these principles, it is crucial that a belief in gender identity is not imposed on victims and that the Code – and the government and agencies that implement it, and the data systems that they use – recognise sex. The published Code refers only to ‘gender’ and this needs to be corrected in the Victims’ Bill.
The bill should ensure that victims of rape and serious sexual offences and domestic abuse have the explicit right to choose the sex of their police interviewer, a right specifically announced by the Ministry of Justice on 1st April 2021.
The principle also requires that victims receive trauma-informed support: the provision of trauma-informed and specialised services, including single-sex services, should not be compromised in the interest of “inclusivity”.
We have also registered our concern that many of the agencies tasked with implementing the Victims’ Code are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme, because Stonewall encourages organisations to replace the protected characteristic of sex with “gender identity”.
Information on the protected characteristics of victims needs to be accurately and consistently recorded, and this includes sex. Many constabularies are not recording sex at all, and instead using self-declared gender identity. Sex must be clearly included in all data collection and reporting across the criminal justice system. We think that a national standard is required.