The Criminal Justice system in the UK

Particular efforts have been made to improve the police response to victims (especially of sexual assault). In response to the criticisms levelled against the police, the Home Office carries out regular surveys now of public satisfaction with the police force in addition to the requirement of each police force to adhere to the 'Statement of Policing standards' and the Victims' Charter standards for police response to crime reports (Home Office, 1996).

The Home Office circular (69/1986) also requires police officers to offer advice and better treatment for victims of rape and domestic violence. This includes setting up of specialist units to provide a better service for women and child victims, special interview suites in police stations staffed by trained female officers, suitable private facilities for examination and access to advice and counselling services. The Criminal Justice Act, 1988 has also implemented the provision to ensure the anonymity of rape victims from the moment of allegation for the rest of her life.

The 'One Stop Shop' (OSS) initiative introduced by the Home Office is an attempt to ensure that victims are kept better informed with the responsibility resting on the police. * The Courts Recognition of the plight of victims (as witnesses in court) especially with regards to certain 'vulnerable' groups has led to certain changes in court procedure and rules of evidence. Rape victims can no longer be questioned about sexual experiences with people other than the defendant and since 1998, the defendant can no longer personally cross-examine the victim when they conduct their own defence.

Child witnesses can have their evidence pre-recorded on videotape, cross-examination can be by television link from outside the court and they cannot be cross-examined by the accused. 'The Witness Service' run by Victim Support (1990) not only provides advice, information and support, it also campaigns for better facilities and special provisions for vulnerable groups. One radical response to help victims was the proposal that a fundamental review of the adversarial process should be undertaken to make it easier to prosecute victims.

However in the meantime views have been put forth for victims to have a greater involvement in the sentencing process. In 1995, victim statements were introduced on a pilot basis to facilitate more informed decision-making by professionals by taking into account victims' interests and views. The introduction of mediation schemes (1970s) and reparative justice attempts to redress the balance and strengthen the right of the victim to 'seek recompense for harms suffered' (Christie, 1977; Ashworth, 1986; Wright, 1991). * Compensation

Following the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995, a new system of financial compensation came into force and dealt with fines according to the nature of injury. Conclusion Overall, although it is evident that without the co-operation of the victim in reporting crime, furnishing evidence, identifying the offender and acting as a witness in court, most crime would remain unknown and unpunished, victims had received very little recognition or attention until the last two decades. The last 2-3 decades have seen monumental measures to rectify this.

However, it must be borne in mind that measures like the Victims Charter and other charters have no legal status and their role is 'perhaps best seen as a statement of interest rather than providing justifiable rights' (Fenwick, 1995). Also, the response in the UK to meeting the needs of victims has focused rather narrowly on providing support and services for the victim along with some financial compensation without endeavouring major changes in the judicial system. Thus, it is obvious that despite all the measures outlined, a lot more needs to be accomplished to strengthen the position of the victim in the Criminal Justice system in the UK.