Has anyone else noticed that tribunals seem remarkably unconcerned these days about whether the VLO has sought victim representations. In the past tribunals would adjourn if there was any chance of discharge to find out. Now they rarely ask and it is exhausting chasing MHT office in advance of hearing to find out if there are victim representations. Where VLOs put evidence in it is sometimes just a map labelled ‘exclusion zone’ with no representations or reasons given. If nobody else raises VLO involvement I always do ,if discharge is on the cards, but do you think we are obliged to? After all the onus is supposed to be on the MHT to seek VLO representations.
This is seriously concerning - Tribunal members don’t seem to have any training or knowledge around victims whatsoever. I know of at least nine cases where Tribunals have released restricted patients who have gone on subsequently to kill - mainly members of their families (& three of them had killed before).
The Tribunal system is overly secretive, lacks any form of public scrutiny, and is in urgent need of reform.
My experience has been that victim representations are rarely submitted or even mentioned. I have always assumed that the absence of a statement meant the victim decided not to get involved, and tribunal panels seem to assume the same. I would be willing to seek victim representations where appropriate, but never have done and have never seen a tribunal panel do it either. It should be easy for research to be carried out on whether the system is working as intended.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tribunal made the wrong (or, at least, a blameworthy) decision at the time. It would be good to know more about these cases.
I’d be very interested in research in this area - Would HMCTS be able to conduct it / have the data already? Any other agencies / sources who might be able to help?
And I know many victims are not aware / told about the Victim Contact Scheme which notifies them of their ability to make representations at Tribunals. I was reliably informed that only around 40% of eligible victims apply to join the VCS - in some areas only 30% - so it’s probably not safe to assume the lack of contact was because the victims decided not to get involved.
I suppose the first place to start would be a Freedom of Information request to HMCTS. They should be able to tell you how many cases have, in a given year, been heard where victims are entitled to make representations, and in how many cases victims have done so?
I’ve made that FoI request and received their reply this morning.
They say they hold the information but are not obliged to disclose it as the cost of complying with the request is more than £600.
They say the information is held in individual case files, and which would have to be identified, located, and the relevant information retrieved. The reply came from someone in the ‘Analysis and Performance Division’ of HMCTS.
That doesn’t entirely surprise me.
A few years ago I asked how many MHA cases the Parole Board hears per annum and got the same reply.
I found an email about it, from 2017 - the gist was that it would have cost them over £1.2m to find out how many mental health cases they’d had in the previous five years.