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Standing up for ‘forgotten’ victims of crime

Standing up for ‘forgotten’ victims of crime

🕔12.Sep 2012

Candidates running to become Britain’s first police commissioners are being urged to put the ‘forgotten’ victims of crime at the forefront of everything they do.

The charity Victim Support, which runs witness protection schemes throughout England and Wales, has launched a pledge scheme which it wants all PCC candidates to sign.

There are five promises that would-be commissioners are being asked to approve:

  • Be open and accountable to victims and witnesses, seeking out and acting on their views.
  • Ensure that victims and witnesses get the high quality help and support they need, when they need it.
  • Make the police more victim-focused and more effective at meeting their needs.
  • Give victims and witnesses an effective voice in the wider criminal justice system.
  • Constantly work to develop new ways of delivering justice for victims.

Bob Jones, Labour’s PCC candidate for the West Midlands, signed the pledge card in Birmingham alongside Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, who is standing for PCC in Humberside.

As well as setting police force budgets and establishing crime-fighting priorities, police commissioners will be expected by the Government to “invoke the voice of the public, the vulnerable and victims”.

They must ensure that victims are consulted and that the most vulnerable individuals are not overlooked. The instruction follows years of mounting concern that the justice system is skewed in favour of the criminal.

It is claimed that police routinely lose contact with the victims of robbery, burglary and assaults and fail to inform them when cases are coming to court.

Home Office guidance states that from this November upon taking office the new commissioners will have a duty to provide effective support for victims and witnesses.

A new code of conduct sets out a minimum level of service that the criminal justice agencies should provide to victims of crime, including families bereaved by crime. All will be entitled to receive information about local support services in their area.

The police must also make sure the victim’s contact details are passed to the appropriate local victims’ service organisation.

A YouGov poll carried out for Victim Support recently found a widespread lack of awareness about the elections for police commissioners, which will be held in England and Wales on November 15.

Just over 80 per cent could not identify any of their local PCC candidates, while only 18 per cent thought commissioners would make any positive difference to the support victims get.

Victim Support in the West Midlands received over 40,000 referrals from the police last year.

Of those, more than 7,000 were given direct help and support including 3,000 victims of violent crime and 1,000 victims of robbery.

Brian Senior, West Midlands manager at Victim Support, said: “Crime can wreck lives. Even what might be seen as relatively minor crimes can have a major and sometimes permanent impact on victims or witnesses.”

 

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