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Conservatives vow to let victims into parole hearings in criminal justice shake-up

Conservatives vow to let victims into parole hearings in criminal justice shake-up
3 min read

Victims of crime and the media would be able to attend parole board hearings under a raft of pre-election promises made by the Conservatives to overhaul the justice system.

The plans form part of a “root-and-branch” review of the prisoner release system promised by the party, with the Tories also pledging to boost the funding allocated to police and prosecutors dealing with rape cases.

The party said it would ensure that victims were notified of parole hearings and allow them to apply to watch them for the first time.

Meanwhile the Tories have said they will double to £16m the funding for the existing Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund from next year in a bid to improve the help available to rape shelters and other victims' services in the wake of a crime.

The moves follow a major political row over the parole board's 2018 decision to allow the release of serial sex attacker John Worboys - a move that was ultimately blocked by the High Court and prompted a shake-up of the organisation by ministers.

Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said: "Victims of crime will often have been through horrific and harrowing experiences. They may have had their lives ripped apart because of physical, emotional or economic abuse.

"These plans will help to ensure that the system is working for them, not against them – and that they can always count on receiving the justice and support that they deserve."

Meanwhile the Conservatives have also pledged to increase the financial penalties faced by convicted offenders, with plans for a 25% increase in the 'victims surcharge', which helps fund Ministry of Justice victim support programmes.

The party is also reiterating its plans for a new 'Victims' Law', aimed at boosting the ability of those affected by crime to challenge the police or other agencies over the way they have been treated.

A majority Conservative government would bring in the new law in 2020, the party promised.

The latest justice pledges come after Boris Johnson vowed to launch a fresh crackdown on "the scourge of knife crime" if the Tories win the election.

The Prime Minister promised that all knife crime offenders would be charged within 24 hours of arrest and would face a day in court within a week under Conservative plans.

Mr Johnson said: "We have committed to putting an extra 20,000 police officers on our streets, but they need to have the powers to act decisively and effectively to prevent crime and see that offenders face justice.

"That’s why today we are announcing greater freedoms for the police to use stop and search on individuals who are known to have carried knives in the past. We are also speeding up prosecutions to make sure the threat of being caught is always an effective deterrent."

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