A new partnership has launched a pioneering study examining the barriers faced by those who have limited English skills when accessing the criminal justice system. This is the first large-scale research of its kind in the UK.

National charity Victim Support, The Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck, University of London, and research and development charity The Centre for Justice Innovation, have joined forces to examine national policy and data as well as looking at the individual experiences of victims, suspects and offenders in Leeds and London. This project is supported by The Bell Foundation, a charity which aims to change practice, policy and systems for people in the UK who are excluded through language.

The project will provide insight into the experiences of people with English as an additional language who are victims of crime or are otherwise in contact with the criminal justice system. The project will also identify ways of addressing language barriers within the justice system.

Rachel Almeida, Director or Knowledge & Insights at independent charity Victim Support, said:

“We are excited to be part of this pioneering research which will help us better understand how language can affect a victim’s willingness to report crime a crime and beyond that what impact it has on victims’ experience and ability to obtain justice and cope and recover.”

“Our researchers will be hearing directly from victims based in Leeds who have English as an additional language who have been through the criminal justice system, as well as criminal justice agencies and services that support refugees and asylum seekers.”

Dr Jessica Jacobson, Director of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck, University of London, said:

“This promises to be an innovative and original study, which will incorporate the voices of individuals with English as an additional language who have come into contact with the criminal justice system in any way: whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or convicted offenders.”

In addition to interviewing victims, witnesses, suspects and offenders, the researchers will carry out a national survey of Victim Support staff and volunteers, examine existing policy and research, and interview national stakeholders and local practitioners.

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “Supporting victims and witnesses is key focus, their needs should always be at the heart of the criminal justice system and they are at the forefront of my efforts to keep communities safe, working alongside Victim Support West Yorkshire.

“I welcome this innovative new research and will be keeping a close eye on the results. There should be no barriers to both victims and witnesses accessing appropriate support, ultimately helping to ensure justice is being served .”

From this a research report will be produced and toolkits will be created offering guidance and resources to help practitioners identify and meet language-related needs within the criminal justice system.