Dominic Raab has been accused of treating crime victims as an “afterthought” amid calls to appoint a new victims’ commissioner urgently.
Labour has written to the secretary of state for justice, citing examples of two rape survivors who say they were let down by the “crumbling” criminal justice system.
The letter, by shadow justice secretary Steve Reed and shadow minister for victims and youth justice Anna McMorrin, claims Mr Raab is avoiding scrutiny by failing to appoint someone to the victims’ commissioner role.
“Rachel is a rape survivor who says her experience as a victim in the justice system was worse than the rape and attempt on her life she suffered,” states the letter, shared exclusively with The Independent.
“Sarah, another rape survivor, says her truth was not believed and she was stripped of her dignity in the witness box where she was subject to vicious humiliation and personal attacks.
“This is the harsh reality for victims under your government’s broken criminal justice system,” the letter adds.
The signatories said victims need a “strong advocate” rooting for them to make sure their voices are listened to.
“Victims are facing trial delays of up to three years due to growing backlogs after the Conservatives closed 260 courts, reduced the number of judges and stood by as criminal barristers quit the crumbling system in despair,” the letter continues.
“We urge you to appoint a Victims’ Commissioner and introduce a Victims Bill without further obstruction. Victims deserve nothing less.”
The role of Victims’ Commissioner has been empty since Dame Vera Baird QC, former commissioner for England and Wales, stepped down from her position in September, sharing a scathing letter stating the “criminal justice system is in chaos”.
Dame Vera was requested to lengthen her time in the role until the end of last year by the government after ministers postponed the recruitment of her next-in-line by restarting the process last August.
The victims’ commissioner is intended to be an independent champion for the rights and interests of victims and witnesses.
“The delay in appointing a commissioner shows how little this Conservative government cares about victims,” Mr Reed, MP for Croydon North, told The Independent.
“Nowhere is this more evident than for victims of rape and sexual assault – who are little more than an afterthought to Dominic Raab, despite a rising tide of sexual violence.
“Raab must appoint a victims’ commissioner and introduce a Victims Bill without further delay. Labour wants to see victims at the heart of the justice system.”
His comments come after Dame Vera claimed Mr Raab expected her to be his “puppet on a string” as she argued the position of victims’ commissioner has been “deceptively and deliberately” undermined.
The Guardian recently revealed Mr Raab had blocked her reappointment – with sources at the Ministry of Justice saying interviews for a new commissioner were not expected to take place before February, with the final candidate not set to get “ministerial signoff” until springtime.
“Victims of crime are dismayed by your decision to block the appointment of a victims’ commissioner in what looks like an attempt to avoid scrutiny of your failings in the criminal justice system,” the letter, shared with The Independent, states.
“Victims continue to be treated as an afterthought under this Conservative government. After seven years of promises, the government has still not introduced a Victims’ Bill to strengthen victims’ rights in the criminal justice system.”
A representative for the Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.