Supporting establishment of national victims' service
I am welcoming the Labour Government 's new plans to change the way the victims of crime are supported and to ensure that they are at the heart of the justice system.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw unveiled the new plans after the latest figures showed crime continuing to fall, breaking the pattern of previous recessions, with the lowest murder rate for a decade and the British Crime Survey showing the chances of being a victim the lowest since records began.
I have been doing a lot of work with the victims of crime lately trying to find out how we can ensure that our justice system serves the law abiding citizen first. I recently brought Sara Payne, the victims champion to my constituency to meet victimsof a variety of crimes, as well as local agencies who deal with victims, to discuss how they felt the justice system should be changed to best serve the needs of the victim. Most of the victims said they felt that post-trial support was hugely important, their problems did not disappear after the criminal was locked up. Other victims I met with felt there was a lack of transparency in the system and felt that multi agency work needed to be stronger. One of the most common problems raised with me was that there is no main point of contact for victims so I'm hoping that agencies will work together and appoint Victim's Champions who will be the first point of contact and specialises in hearing the voice of the victim and putting their needs and interests first. There should be a timeline for the victim at the outset and a clear plan which shows the victims the possible routes which will be taken by the agencies.I'm also really keen for victim's of anti-social behaviour to be included in these plans. Too many victims are left to suffer the effects of anti-social behaviour without knowing what is happening and if agencies are or are not acting to assist them. There should be clear regular updates for victims as any case activity progresses through the system.
The first stage of the plans, which will begin in March will ensure that families bereaved by murder and manslaughter will be given access to a dedicated support worker to help them through and beyond the investigation of the trial with the bereavement process and help with more immediate problems such as child care, paying bills and counselling. The full establishment of the "The National Victims Service" will begin in April and further ensure that victims are given access to a one to one professional case worker to provide immediate emotional support, a faster referral system, one dedicated point of contact that will guide them through all aspects of the criminal justice system until they no longer need help.The new National Victims' Service is a core plank of Labour's wider strategy to protect the core public services which the public depend on, while at the same time making them more personalised to meet people's needs. Mr Straw has said; "These new measures will make sure the justice system is better focused on people's needs, and that everyone who works on crime - from the police to probation, from court staff to volunteers - understands that supporting victims is a central part of what they are there to do. Victims of crime deserve nothing less."
The establishment of the National Victims' Service is a defining moment. It ensures even greater support for victims throughout the criminal justice process and beyond. Victims will be offered help for as long as they need it.