Standing up for victims in Parliament

Queens Speech Debate

I spoke in the debate on the Queen's speech on Monday. Here is a copy of what I said about Victims' Rights, ID cards, police reform, the DNA database and CCTV.What plans does the coalition have to ensure that the needs of that group are put at the centre of our criminal justice system? It is the lack of consideration for victims that causes some people to think that the system is broken and many to believe that it is weighted entirely in favour of the offender. I have been working with victims for some time now, the most recent phase of which culminated in an input into Sara Payne's report. I take this opportunity to wish her well. I hope that she makes a full recovery, because she is a remarkable lady.I have become convinced that we need local charters for victims that all criminal justice and public agencies must sign up to so that everyone knows what is expected of them, and that we must reweight the system by putting the rights and needs of the victim ahead of the demands and desires of the wrongdoer. I ask the Government to examine how to reshape the criminal justice system so that the victim becomes our top priority.I understand the coalition's desire to abolish identity cards. I do not agree with its view, nor do a great many other people who have worries relating to the contribution that ID cards can make to combating crime and fraud. Will there be any compensation for those who, in good faith, have already purchased ID cards, or are they to become the first uncompensated victims of the coalition? As the databases are dismantled, what will happen to ID cards for foreign nationals? Without that infrastructure, how will we tackle illegal immigration?I should like to know more about the priorities on police reform. Money is tight, so why, as the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) might well ask, is it a priority to have elections that nobody wants at a cost of perhaps £50 million per throw? Where will that money come from? Can my constituents in Selly Oak have an assurance that it will not be stripped from their policing budgets? What will happen to the policing pledge under elected police chiefs? Can it simply be ditched? If so, how will the Home Secretary safeguard against massive variations in behaviour and performance across police forces? Is incentivised and common-sense policing still on the agenda? On DNA and reducing the retention period for DNA profiles-not abolishing them as a matter of principle, but reducing the period-is the Home Secretary convinced that her proposals will not result in an avoidable tragedy? How will she sleep at night if a murderer or rapist who could have been caught goes free and does it again? Finally, what are the Government's intentions in relation to closed circuit television, and what was the purpose of the Deputy Prime Minister's outburst against it? Is he merely trying to rekindle his liberal credentials and using CCTV as an Aunt Sally? Remember all those warm words-"It doesn't have to be like this," "It can be different," and "We can change it"? That was rhetoric with the shelf-life of a TV debate from someone whose ambition is now exposed as being to acquire power and hang on to it by any means possible, no matter how illiberal or anti-democratic. Let me tell him that it will not wash. The people in Selly Oak want CCTV. Of course, they want it to be used responsibly, but they want it, and they will not accept any sham diversions.I have experience of Lib Dem-Tory coalitions in Birmingham, and I know how poor they are at dealing with crime, antisocial behaviour and victims, and how poor they are at using tools that are regularly available elsewhere. I warn this Government not to make the same mistakes, not to rob us of the very tools that make people feel safe and that assist us in the fight against crime, and, for goodness' sake, not to do that to help to save face for an already tarnished Deputy Prime Minister.

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