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Victims 'must get more support'

More must be done to support victims of crime, a report has concluded.

Agencies in the criminal justice system need to create a "culture of empathy", Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove said.

Earlier this year she hit out at police, prosecutors and courts for failing to show compassion when dealing with victims' complaints.

Baroness Newlove, whose husband Garry was killed by a gang vandalising his car, publishes her annual report today.

She said: "Criminal justice agencies have robust systems and processes in place to rehabilitate offenders but not enough is being done to rehabilitate victims.

"I want victims to be supported through what is often the very worst time in their lives. I want them to understand what is happening and for them to be given the help and support that they need, for as long as they need it."

Her report added that the Government and authorities have made "unprecedented commitments" to improve victims' experiences.

It added: " I welcome many of these intended changes and am aware that they will be made against a backdrop of increasing financial restraint.

"Nonetheless, I want to use the next year to hold the government and agencies to account to deliver on these commitments. I am more concerned about changes to practice than I am about changes to policy.

"I want to see tangible changes in how victims are treated by each and every person that comes into contact with them.

"I will speak out about what I find to ministers, officials and agencies. I will highlight good practice, draw attention to failings, and never stop speaking about the need for victims to be treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect - I am the voice of victims and I will not be silent."

She wrote that at the end of her second year in the role she saw a "mixed and changing landscape" for victims.

The report said there were examples of "excellent" services and positive feedback from victims.

It added: "Good treatment for victims should be the norm and not the exception.

"I want to see agencies paying as much attention to how their policies are implemented as they do to devising the policies in the first place.

"More than anything I want them to ensure that staff demonstrate decency, kindness and empathy in all their interactions with victims"

Last year the government announced plans to give victims of crime legal rights for the first time.

Baroness Newlove backed the proposals.

"I hope the Government's plans for a Victims' Law will go some way to improve the experience for victims so they are treated with dignity and respect," she said.

"A Victim's Law will make a real difference to victims but only if it is accessible and enforceable. Rights for victims should be our first thought, not an afterthought."

In a review published earlier this year, the commissioner found that many victims feel ignored, unimportant and confused when raising concerns about their treatment.

Baroness Newlove assessed the performance of all criminal justice agencies, which also includes courts and tribunal services, prison service, parole board and youth offending teams.

Almost 75% of the more than 200 victims consulted during the review were unhappy with the response they received and more than 50% found the relevant agency's complaints process difficult to use.


From Belfast Telegraph