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Briefing Paper: Understanding the current system of victim data collection

 |  6th July 2023

Justice Lab (a part of The Legal Education Foundation) commissioned the Centre for Justice Innovation (in partnership with Russell Webster) to produce a briefing paper exploring the current systems for recording victim data within the criminal justice system and analysing the impact of poor data practices on victims. The paper focuses on groups who are disproportionately affected by ‘crime harms’. 

As the Victims’ Commissioner notes, “victims should not come away from the justice process having been made to feel worse”. And yet, in 2023, it is hard to conclude that we are delivering even that humble goal. In the first quarter of this year more than one quarter (29%) of police investigations were closed because the victim did not support further police action and nearly one in six (16%) prosecutions were halted because a victim did not provide evidence or withdrew.  This briefing paper explores current systems for recording victims’ data within the criminal justice system, in order to highlight their shortcomings and raise awareness of the negative impact on victims. 

Key findings include: 

  • Despite the Victims’ Code and detailed policy aspirations to put the victim at the heart of the justice system, the system  continues to fail victims 
  • In many parts of the justice system, victims’ data is simply not recorded (or at least not in any accessible format). Where it is recorded, the information is incomplete and lacks the sort of detailed information (particularly protected characteristics) which would help policymakers improve the victim experience 
  • Where data is collected, it is not shared effectively, leading to victims falling through the gaps and losing trust in the system
  • Recently designed systems (such as Common Platform) have not sought to address widely acknowledged failings 
  • Poor data practices have an impact on the integrity of the criminal  justice system itself, with high numbers of victims (particularly of the most serious crimes) withdrawing from the criminal justice process to protect themselves from repeat victimisation

The briefing is based on a rapid review of the literature and interviews with key stakeholders in the victims’ sector, including representatives from the Better Outcomes through Linked Data (BOLD) Project; the Domestic Abuse Commissioner; His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service; His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services; His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation; the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime; the Parole Board; the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and the Victims’ Commissioner.