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Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Section 142:  Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses

617.A Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses was legislated for in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (sections 48 to 53 and Schedules 8 and 9), but a Commissioner was never appointed and the legislation has not yet been commenced. This section amends sections 48 to 55 of that Act so as to modify the status and functions of the Commissioner. Subsections (2) and (6) repeal the provisions in section 48 of, and Schedule 8 to, that Act that establish the Commissioner as a corporation sole, and make new provision in respect of funding.

618.The core functions of the Commissioner are set out in section 49(1) of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. These functions are that the Commissioner must promote the interests of victims and witnesses; take such steps as he or she considers appropriate with a view to encouraging good practice in the treatment of victims and witnesses; and keep under review the operation of the code of practice issued under section 32 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. These core functions remain unchanged.

619.In addition, under section 49(2) of that Act, the Commissioner, for any purpose connected with the performance of his or her duties, may (a) make proposals to the Secretary of State for amending the code (at the request of the Secretary of State or on his or her own initiative); (b) make a report to the Secretary of State; (c) make recommendations to an authority within his or her remit; (d) undertake or arrange for or support (financially or otherwise) the carrying out of research; and (e) consult any person he thinks appropriate. Subsection (3)(a) repeals section 49(2)(d). In future, any such research would be arranged and funded by the Department.

620.In addition to reports made under section 49(2)(b), new subsections (4) to (7) of section 49 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 require the Commissioner to prepare an annual report. Copies of all reports are to be sent to the Justice Secretary, the Attorney General and the Home Secretary. The Commissioner is responsible for publishing all reports.

621.Subsection (4) amends section 50 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 which sets out when the Commissioner can be required to give advice and to whom. Section 50(2) is repealed so the Commissioner is not required to give advice on the request of “an authority within his or her remit”. The Government envisages that such requests can be made through a Minister of the Crown under section 50(1).

622.Section 55 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 created a Victims Advisory Panel which was set up in October 2006. The terms of reference for the Panel are to advise the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General of the views of victims of crime with particular reference to their interaction with the Criminal Justice System and its agencies. The Panel’s remit also includes offering views and advice on the prevention of crime from a victim’s perspective and generally contributing to developing and safeguarding the rights of victims. Subsection (5) inserts new sections (1A) and (1B) into section 55 which provide for the Commissioner to be a member of the Victims Advisory Panel and to chair the Panel.

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