Submission to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation - Improving victims’ experiences of the justice system

February 2022

About the submission

In January 2022 the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consulted on its plans for a Victims’ Law, which aims to enshrine in law the key principles of the Victim’s Code and place victims’ experiences at the centre of the system’s response to crime.

Victims of crime who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) face language and cultural barriers in reporting a crime, achieving justice, and receiving the support needed to recover. The Bell Foundation submitted evidence to this consultation from ‘Language Barriers in the Criminal Justice System’, an exploratory piece of research resulting in a series of academic, policy, and practice-focused outputs, as well as from learning from funded partners delivering services on the frontline. 

Summary of recommendations:

  • Recommendation: The Victim’s Law enshrines the Right to understand and be understood, as does the Victim’s Code.
  • Recommendation: All agencies with responsibilities for victims review and utilise the existing language diversity of staff, and aim to recruit staff who are from, and who represent, the communities they serve.
  • Recommendation: Commissioners explore opportunities to provide standalone services, or additional support within existing services, in languages other than English and tailored to meet the needs of under-served communities.
  • Recommendation: All staff working with victims are provided with training on language barriers and their impact on the system, as well as how to remove and overcome them.
  • Recommendation: Victim support staff caseloads are managed with consideration of the additional time required to provide equitable support to speakers of ESL.
  • Recommendation: All written documentation, including the Victim’s Code, should be provided to victims in easy read format as a default, and a minimum standard of service.
  • Recommendation: The Home Office commissions the translation of the most commonly used documents, including the Victim’s Code, into a wide variety of languages, and makes them available centrally for the sector and the public to download.
  • Recommendation: Commissioners ensure that contracted language support providers meet a minimum standard of qualifications and experience: in all interactions with potential consequences, such as taking a victim’s statement, offering legal advice, or informing a victim of the outcome of a case, interpreters must be highly qualified and experienced, holding a level 6 qualification in Public Service Interpreting and at least 400 hours of relevant experience. For more everyday interactions such as general interactions and updates, interpreters should have a level 3 qualification in Community Interpreting.
  • Recommendation: Local police forces and victim support services to lead awareness-raising campaigns targeted at marginalised groups and under-served communities.
  • Recommendation: The Home Office explores innovative approaches to providing centralised translation services for letters and other written communication to be sent to victims.