Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner is calling for a root and branch review of how victims and witnesses are treated in the criminal justice system following the tragic death of Tracy Shelvey.
Ms Shelvey died after falling from a shopping centre roof – days after the man she accused of raping her had been cleared in court.
It comes just a year after Frances Andrade took her life after the teacher who abused her when she was at school was jailed. Ms Andrade’s family said she had not been offered enough support during and after the court process.
Now Tony Lloyd is calling for urgent action to ensure that those who come forward with serious allegations are treated with dignity, from the moment they make an allegation, throughout the investigative and court process and – crucially – afterwards, no matter what the verdict is.
“Tracy Shelvey’s death is absolutely tragic and our thoughts have to be with her family and friends at this terrible time.
“We have to learn from this tragedy and others that have come before. What is abundantly clear is that victims and witnesses are not where they should be – at the heart of the criminal justice system.
“The court process is a brutal one, and the fact that we have had at least two people in Greater Manchester alone who have taken their lives after going through this ordeal is of grave concern. Many, many rape victims say that the court process is as traumatic as their original ordeal.
“This can’t go on – a root and branch review of how victims and witnesses are treated is urgently needed.
“A chain of vulnerability exists from the moment someone reports an incident to police – and it can break at any point. We need to ensure that victims and witnesses are surrounded by support from when they report to police, throughout the investigation, the court process and – critically – after trial is over, whether the accused is found guilty or innocent.
“We need to ensure the right services are engaged, be they mental health or psychological counselling. And we all need to work much better together to ensure that victims and witnesses get the support they need, when they need it.”
Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd
He added that, while it was appropriate that the IPCC investigate the police contact with Ms Shelvey before her death, the review needed to go much further.
“The IPCC investigation is welcome, but they can only look at the police conduct when we need a review that goes much wider and deeper than police actions. This is about the entire system.
“I want to stress this isn’t about finding scapegoats. This is about support for vulnerable people, not assigning blame to agencies.”
Tony will now write to the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary to demand the review.
He will also be seeking an urgent meeting with Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr Starmer has been commissioned by the Labour Party to conduct a review of how victims of rape and child sexual assault are treated in the court process.
Mr Starmer recently said that from the victim’s point of view, the court process “is hardly fit for purpose”.