This year just like 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 it has been just as hard to navigate the criminal justice system as a victim of crime. If anything, every year seems to get harder especially as I learn more and more about a system that is set up to fail victims. I discovered I had been failed to be informed about my right to appeal and consequently, I am now fighting for Josh’s Law. This will ensure both the offender and the victim or the victim’s family at the time of sentencing will be informed of their right to appeal by the Judge. While studying for a Master’s degree in Criminology over the past 18 months and carrying out research for my dissertation, I discovered that each year on average over 4 million victims fail to report a crime made against them to the police. Why do you think that is? Further research suggests many reasons for this from the victim not having faith in the system and believing nothing much will be done about it, not wanting to be called a victim as it is seen as a weakness and more shockingly victims were worried, they might be blamed for the crime.
It is concerning that we live in a society where we are encouraged to be strong in the face of adversity and through misguidance believe we have a choice about what happens to us. Unfortunately, I know only too well how true this, I cannot tell you how many times I had to stand firm and constantly say Josh was murdered in an ‘unprovoked knife attack’ to everyone because I very quickly became aware of how many people did not want to believe that there are times when we do not have choices and that it could happen to them. How often do we read or see a victim being interviewed on the news saying I am happy to be alive it could have been a lot worse, after being attacked in their home by a burglar with a weapon in the middle of the night. Instead of feeling comfortable to say I feel violated, nothing feels the same anymore I just do not feel safe in my own home and is there, someone, I can talk to and what are you going to do to help me? they feel the need to put on a false front, but this only leaves victims feeling angry and vulnerable after the event.
So where does the anger go and what does this mean for victims? For many who have been failed by the system with no justice or support network in place, they might become ill, or take it out on those closest to them and in some instances become an offender themselves. For others, they fight against a system which is set up against them and from many sides to help push for change and to stop it from happening to others. I chose the latter, I put all my energy and frustration at being failed by the Criminal Justice System into fighting for victims of crime, by highlighting the lack of victims’ rights, while also advocating for them. Working with partners promoting the importance of safer communities by designing and delivering projects to encourage more work around crime prevention and intervention while also sharing Josh’s story has helped me to focus on a long overdue victim centered approach. For me, the label of ‘victim’ is far from weakness I am a victim of the most heinous of crimes and I will live as a victim for the rest of my life but not the way society has been made us believe how victims should be. I am not weak or feeble I am a victim because of someone else’s actions, there is no blame or shame attached to Josh or to me and neither should there be.
With that in mind, I have pushed forward again this year focused on making positive changes in memory of Josh by sharing my story through my blog across social media, the trust supports young people, their families both 1:1 and in large settings. As part of several community groups, I alongside other professionals advise the police and councils about the importance of community safety my part as victim support. I have shared my lived experience, delivered training, consulted on my resilience, and I have continued to campaign while talking to thousands of victims of crime offering support to those who ask for it. I have done this by working an average 15-hour day six days a week with no pay and no government funding, this has been the same for the past five years. It is very frustrating at times especially when the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and various Government agencies fund and support ex-offenders to share their lived experiences while overlooking the value of the innocent victims and how they too can help make positive changes in crime reduction by sharing their lived experience. It shocks me less and less the more I experience a warped criminal justice system especially when I see the voice of the innocent victim being pushed down further and further as we celebrate those who have turned their life around. The work of our Victims Commissioners and the many victim support services throughout the country who fight for victims’ rights are not being met the same way the Police and Crime Commissioners voices are at government level; I strongly advocate that there should be a victim’s commissioner in every region throughout the country who can represent and invest in victims of crime. Victims like me who offer their invaluable time to help change the mindset of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system by sharing our lived experiences offering an insight into how they can turn their lives around, continue to be overlooked. Does society believe vulnerable young children and adults only respond to ex-offenders? I know this is not the case so I would strongly encourage, schools, colleges, universities, and professional services look to both the innocent victim as well as an ex-offender to help save and change lives.
However, aside from this I will keep doing what I am doing as I meet the most amazing and remarkable individuals who give me the impetus to keep pushing forward. Those who support me because they believe in me and are mindful of what I have gone through and continue to go through. Those who seek to improve humanity, who are passionate about changing lives and are invested in people on a deeper level outside of just ticking a box or seeking approval and accolades, ‘real’ people. My faith is restored every single day by what I call mini miracles, from calling Zoom for technical help to speak to a ‘real’ person called Imran who not only offered us free Zoom for a month as a way of supporting our 1:1 Fine Lines Art project to young people (which I happened to mention), but also going out of his way to look up our trust and then say he admires me, that was an emotional moment and one that gave me a boost I needed that day. To being supported by an endless list of individuals from other charities and MOPAC (you all know who you are) who are super busy but never say they cannot help me. The most unexpected acts of kindness, compassion, love, generosity, and consideration come just when I say, ‘I have had enough’. Yes, I say this sometimes, I also say I am lost, I am heartbroken, I am vulnerable, I am scared, I am grieving, and I am in pain, because I miss my Son so much it physically hurts. If I did not say these things out loud and talk about my suffering, and what I must endure every single day and when it gets too much, I would not be able to process and accept these normal feelings. These feelings should be encouraged to be talked about and not pushed away because society says we should keep a stiff upper lip.
I talk about Josh every single day and about our charity and the work we do with pride and hope because I am proud of myself and I am truly hopeful that the Criminal Justice System will start to treat victims the same way they treat offenders. Without victims there is no justice and without victims and witness’s crime will continue to rise. I also know there is someone not more than 5 feet away from me at any given time who has also been a victim of a crime and who I hope will feel comfortable enough to talk to me or someone else about it. We need to encourage our society to report crime, to not feel embarrassed by someone else’s criminal activities and to insist when they do report it, they receive the right service. But first victims need to know their rights and know they can reach out to support services and ask for advice and guidance. To better assist victims I have taken part in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime consultations over the past couple of years. This has not been easy I have had to learn a huge amount but I am proud to say I have been part of the changes made to the latest simplified version which has now been published and can be found here . It sets out the rights and key entitlements afforded to victims of crime, however, this document it is not made easily accessible and is not common knowledge or referred to by all agencies supporting victims. Incredulously, the new revised edition released last month had less than 350 responses, how can this be acceptable when we have over 10 million victims of crime on average each year? It is vitally important that this document is as widely distributed as any other public health document and not left in the hands of the Ministry of Justice to circulate it which is not working. Imagine they failed to inform anyone when it was being published, this included the Victim Commissioners. Who is holding who is overseeing them and holding them to account?
Why should we rely on anyone else when we can make change ourselves? Look at what we have done in the face of a global pandemic. As an early Christmas wish I am asking if you would help to make sure that you read the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, share it, and ask your contacts to read it and share it too. Let us make sure it is made available via every statutory and non-statutory agency to victims of crime whether they are reporting a crime or not, they need to know what should happen if they do and what support they are entitled to if they don’t. Knowledge is power it is there for us to read but only if we know where to find it. Help to change someone else’s life for the better and you your own, if someone had sat me down and told me about it, I would not have been repeatedly re victimised.
This is my last blog of the year and which today the 11th marks five years and two months today since Josh was taken from me and ends with my 62nd blog to date, all of which can be found on our charity website. With Christmas fast approaching my flashbacks increase and so does my PTSD as I am left with memories of Christmases past without Josh, but I force myself to celebrate the ones I did share with him all 21 of them. His unique excitement was infectious and his headiness contagious as he laid out his never-ending list of plans and preparations that he would make minute by minute and hour by hour leading up to Christmas Eve. I intend to stay busy, but I am also going to make a huge effort this year to take some time out and recharge my batteries while resting in his love. I want to say a big thank you to every one of you who has supported me and our charity this year, especially those who have donated so that we can continue to run our art projects, victim support services and advocacy in the face of a Pandemic with no Government support. To everyone who has been there for me in 2020 who has supported me and helped me to grow both spiritually and professionally, I thank you. To everyone who has been there for me in my times of need both emotional and physically I thank you. And to everyone who speaks Josh’s name with a smile and continues to support my fight for justice and Josh’s Law, I applaud you.
Wishing you all safe and happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year, love always Tracey ??? #christmas2020 #bereavedmum #Joshslaw #blog #victimsofcrime #victimsrights #victimsadvocate #victimfocused #victimscode #victimslaw