PG BLOG -When does secondary victimisation stop? An argument for accountability

nicola-redgraveThis contribution to the BSC postgraduate Blog is from Nicola Redgrave. Nicola is a new postgraduate student who will resuming her studies in September. Her blog piece marries together her experience assisting victims of crime within the criminal justice system as a volunteer for victim support and the focus of her Masters dissertation; victims and repeat victimisation from the processes of the criminal justice system.  Want to hear more about this topic? contact Nicola here:

n.redgrave15@gmail.com @nikki_redgrave


Police and court procedures have been consistently scrutinised over the years as to the way in which victims are treated whilst working to secure a conviction. However, it is the failures of various agencies on the release of serious offenders which I will consider and the concept of tertiary victimisation in this context, which is quite evidently under-researched within criminological discourse.
The idea of tertiary victimisation does appear to be discussed more commonly in contemporary discourse, however, this does tend to be in terms of the wider social network of the primary victim, such as in cases of homicide and acts of terrorism, the relatives of the victims’ thus becoming tertiary victims. In principle, the notion of tertiary victimisation should naturally link to the concept of secondary victimisation, given the consistent failures from various justice agencies beyond conviction and release of an offender.
Primarily, it is important to outline that within the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights all human beings have a right to life, liberty and security from the state, these are basic fundamental rights. However, it could be argued that once an offender has committed a crime and particularly a crime against another human being which, as a result infringes on their human rights, would thus mean an offender would then forego their human rights to an extent. Reinforced by the Justice for all 2002 white paper whereby it states that victims’ rights should be central, although it does indicate that there should be some level of fairness towards the offender also, and this is where the complications arise in terms of ensuring the rights of both the offender and the victim are honoured without conflict.
Of course, in the UK, we are fortunate to have access to charities such as Victim Support, who are able and are renowned for assisting with a wide range of issues in the immediate aftermath of an offence being committed, right up until and during trial. This does however provoke thought as to what happens beyond this point, when the offender is released from prison.
I volunteered for Victim Support for around 12 months at the end of my undergraduate degree, and noted that the assistance offered in the immediate aftermath was not offered once an offender was released, or due to be released. In fact, it then soon became apparent that there are not currently any services offered for this point of the justice process. Once the courts and police have gotten their conviction, a victim is thus surplus.
At present, the MOJ (2015) highlights that, victims of violent or serious sexual offences will be offered the inclusion in the victim contact scheme by the Probation Service and thus be able to have some influence to the conditions imposed on the offender on release from prison, such as; preventing an offender from contacting them, any family members or entering the area in which the victim resides. This has been a requirement of the Probation Service since 1995 according to D’Enno (2007) where the victim would be contacted only if the offender was imprisoned for over 4 years, this changed in 2001 to offenders sentenced to 12 months or more.
It is highlighted in a number of publications, white papers and reports through various agencies that the reintegration and reform of an offender is imperative to prevent reoffending, thus being the primary concern for the criminal justice system at the point of the offender’s release. Although it is indicated that involvement from the victim is also important it is clear that the rights of both the victim and the offender cannot be honoured without infringing on one or the other. Obviously, reform is paramount here, particularly in terms of preventing reoffending, however it is noted by Baird (2009) that victims are not treated fairly in this sense, she emphasises that for victims of sexual assault, the effect can indeed be long lasting and victims may need support to recover, and not just in the initial aftermath as the impact of the offence could resurface in many cases, years later. It could be expected that once an offender is released in cases of sexual assault and rape that this could indeed resurface the effects the crime bore on a victim, as a result victimising them yet again.
I bore witness to this during my time at Victim Support, whereby a victim contacted the police to ascertain whether an offender had been released from prison five years into an eleven-year sentence, she was told she had “no right to be told as [the offender] had served his time”. This demonstrates the clear lack of understanding from a police officer’s position of the rights and processes in terms of victims within the justice system, thus provoking further thought to how often this is the case when it comes to the rights of a victim being infringed in order to uphold the rights of the offender.
In this case, it is evident that not only was she failed by the police, but by the Probation Service also, as their legal requirement to contact the victim prior to release was not honoured, thus the offender was left to move into a house across the road from her mother and work in an area a short walk from her home, where he continued taunt her through the offences he committed.
Emphasising that due to the lack of agencies available to offer that support for victims on release of the offender, and the rights and resettlement of the offender being central, victims are thus being subject to tertiary victimisation. But, what can be done? Clearly the rights and needs of the victims at this stage in the justice process needs to be carefully considered and awareness within various agencies needs to be reaffirmed and understood as meticulously as the rights and needs of the offender. It is all very well systems being in place in the immediate aftermath of the offence being committed, however victims are being consistently let down and marginalised once the offender has been sentenced and from then on.

References

1. Baird, V. (2009) “Sustainable Support for Rape Victims” available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/aug/12/rape-crisis-funding

2. CPS (2002) “Justice for all” Available from: https://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/jfawhitepaper.pdf

3. D’Enno, D. (2007) “Brighton Crime and Vice 1800-2000” Barnsley: Wharncliffe Books

4. MOJ (2015) “Code of Practice for Victims of Crime” Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/476900/code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime.PDF

5. United Nations (ND) “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Available from: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

6. Victim Support (ND) “Getting Help After a Crime” Available from: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk

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Talking Points -Nathan Constable, the policing of mental health.

***Monday 7th November***

Our November BSC Talking Points discussion, hosted by anonymous tweeting and blogging UK police officer Nathan Constable, will focus on policing of mental health.
Nathan Constable is a serving police inspector in a UK constabulary. He has been tweeting and blogging anonymously for six years, commenting regularly on issues such as policing demand and police professionalisation, and is a finalist for the Best Blogging Police Officer in this year’s Police Twitter Awards.

Read about the reasoning behind Nathan’s annoymity here

If you would like some pre-reading then check out Nathan’s blog http://nathanconstable.wordpress.com (you can search for mental health related blogs) and Nathan suggests taking a good look through the work of @mentalhealthcop (twitter and blog).

See you on our Facebook group, Mon 7th Nov @8-9pm #GetInvolved

In the meantime, this commentary is worth a read: ‘I do much more than police work..’

[Image: Twitter/ ACC Paul Netherton – discussed here ].

 

PhD Blog – The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

larissaThis weeks PhD Blog is from Larissa Povey, final-year PhD Candidate within the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research and Associate Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Sheffield Hallam University. Larissa’s PhD explores the impact of changes in UK criminal justice and welfare policies on the everyday lives of women at the social margins. Using a mixture of qualitative interviews, visual and ethnographic methods her study examines the lived experiences, perceptions and sense-making narratives of women who have been subject to multiple interventions from state agencies spanning both welfare and penal systems. Larissa hopes to make a contribution through using a feminist lens to explore the gendered character of social control and disciplining, texturing theoretical debates which often focus on men.

Larissa’s broad research interests lie in the areas of women and criminal justice, punishment beyond the prison, welfare policy, labour markets and social control.

PhD funding: Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship. This PhD is linked to the ESRC-funded “Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change” project (http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/).

Contact: larissa.j.povey@student.shu.ac.uk

The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

As a PhD candidate researching women’s experiences of the criminal justice system and welfare reform, I was recently invited to take part in a Domestic Abuse Crime Scrutiny Panel for a national police agency. This got me thinking about the way we deal with this type of crime in England and Wales; alongside small steps in the right direction there are contradictory developments which thwart such advances, particularly broader shifts in social policy under austerity.

Based on efforts by the Crown Prosecution Service to show transparency and engage the local community in examining police work, the earlier scrutiny panels focused on hate crime; the first, piloted in West Yorkshire in 2004 focused specifically on race hate crime. The development of domestic abuse crime scrutiny panels followed and more recently we have seen panels focusing on cases of violence against women and girls.

Efforts such as these indicate that across the criminal justice system agencies are attempting to take domestic abuse (DA) crimes and violence against women and girls more seriously. Indeed, statistics from a recent Crown Prosecution Service report (2016: 1) show that it is “prosecuting and convicting more defendants of domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse than ever before”. Importantly, there has been an 11% rise in convictions for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crimes, a trend that has been seen over the past three years. Prosecutions of this nature currently account for almost 20% of the Crown Prosecution Service’ total case load.

While new panels provide encouraging indicators that the police want to improve the way that they handle DA and VAWG crime, things are not entirely rosy. For example, the Home Office does not gather official statistics on the number of women and girls killed through domestic violence, a vast oversight. We do know the number of women killed by men in the UK because of the work of one individual Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of nia (a domestic violence charity) who began Counting Dead Women in 2012, her efforts are now supported by Women’s Aid and has developed into the Femicide Census to record all cases of ‘the murder of women because they are women’ (Women’s Aid, 2016). These efforts show a year on year increase in the number of women dying, averaging two women per week, at the hands of a partner, ex-partner or family member.

On the one hand we have the highest recorded reporting and prosecutions for DA and VAWG crimes. On the other, we have an increasing number of women dying from this type of crime. So what are some of the reasons that might be contributing to this? Since 2010, we have seen swinging cuts to services under austerity. This includes large cuts to women’s refuges resulting in the loss of 17% of specialist refuges and a third of referrals being turned away. Police guidelines outline refuges as a key intervention in the effective protection of victims, so with fewer refuges and places for vulnerable women and children it is a no brainer that this may have a detrimental effect on victims’ ability to get themselves to safety.

Though prosecutions are up, these cases reflect a small proportion of the overall number of incidences reported. And there are new ways of committing these offences as seen in the proliferation of online abuse specifically using social media as a tool for stalking, harassment and control. Policing these new mechanisms of abuse take investment and resources, there is much work to be done and things are likely to get worse as we see continued cuts to police budgets meaning fewer specialist police.

Other reforms such as changes to legal aid have been felt particularly acutely by women, who will have little recourse to free legal aid. According to this report such changes “raise disturbing questions about the state’s failure to protect women, especially those at risk of – and those who have already experienced – domestic violence” (Mayo and Koessl, 2015: 9).

There are deeper, enduring structural inequalities which place women in a position of less power in relation to men, this legacy can be seen in the persistence of devaluing of social reproductive work, the gender pay gap, gendered labour, maternity leave policy to name just a few. It is this power imbalance that creates a breeding ground for domestic abuse which is about power and control. These inequalities will be made worse by ongoing reforms to both in-work and out-of-work benefits. Upcoming reforms are likely to worsen the financial situation of vulnerable women, particularly lone parents. These factors explain some of the reasons behind the statistics and we may see further increases in DA and VAWG crimes and dead women.