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TUC’s Response to Home Office Proposals on ‘Victims of Crime’

Rights for the victims of workplace crime

The Home Office is consulting about whether and how to revise the Victim’s Charter, originally issued in 1990 and revised in 1996. The TUC is pressing for the Charter to be extended to cover the victims of workplace crimes, and in particular breaches of health and safety law which have led to injury or illness. This would include the victims of occupational road crashes.

There are over four thousand prosecutions for health and safety breaches in Britain every year, and many involve injuries to working people, but in few cases is the TUC aware that the victims are adequately involved in the process, except by the goodwill of an HSE Inspector taking the case.

The TUC believes that if the Victim’s Charter was extended to cover workplace injury and illness, it would signal the importance of such crimes (which are all too often seen as mere technical breaches of regulations, or only accidentally leading to injury or illness). The opportunity for victims to tell the court how their injury or illness has affected them could also lead to the courts making more use of their existing powers to levy heavy fines on those found guilty of breaches.
The proposed new Charter sets out seven principles that should be followed when dealing with the victims of crime:

* to treat victims with dignity and respect;
* to provide protection;
* to provide help and support;
* to provide accurate and timely information;
* to provide compensation and reparation;
* to give victims the opportunity to say how they have been affected by the crime; and
* to provide a transparent system of justice.

In practice, the main effect of the Charter is to keep the victim informed, which would be useful in cases of occupational injury or illness. The TUC is also keen that victims should have the opportunity to tell the courts how they have been affected by their injury or illness. Although the courts are informed when a breach of the law has led to an injury, the TUC is not aware that the victims are often heard or properly taken into account.

The new Charter also refers to the ability of the courts to make compensation orders to victims, and the TUC would back the use of such orders where a breach of health and safety law has left someone injured or ill. At present, workplace injury or illness victims have to make civil claims for compensation or apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, both of which can be lengthy and indirect processes.

The TUC is urging trade unions to submit their views about how the new Victim’s Charter should affect workplace injury victims, and we will also be pressing the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that, even if workplace crime is not covered by the Charter, they should operate to at least those standards in cases where the HSE is in charge of the prosecution. (This would not apply in the service sector where the local authority is the prosecuting authority, nor in Scotland where prosecutions are taken by the Procurator Fiscal.)

On other issues, the TUC supports what is proposed to adapt the Charter for victims of racial assaults in line with the Lawrence Enquiry recommendations.

Page last updated on June 9, 2003