Victims "at the heart of government policy"

David has backed the victims' voice in the justice system.

He was the guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Northumbria Area Victim Support where there were representatives from across the Northumbria Police area. He said since 1997 government funding for victim and witness support had almost trebled and measures had been enacted to help victims of crime. David is a lifelong supporter of Gateshead Victim Support - he helped it set itself up when he was Leader of Gateshead Council

The full text of David's speech is:

David speaking at the Victim Support AGM
David speaking at the Victim Support AGM

I was delighted to be asked here today, and be given the opportunity to make brief remarks before moving the Annual Report and Accounts. Its always good to meet up with old friends, and its great to see Alex McDonnell here. I've known Alex now for more years than I care to remember, and still have vivid memories of Alex passionately arguing the case for funding for a Gateshead Victim's Support group when I served on Gateshead Council.

I've had the opportunity to read the draft of the report and accounts and I'm assuming, as the Assistant Chief Constable is seconding the motion, that the Accounts hold no shady secrets,

It would be nice to be able to say that there was no need for Victim Support.

Sadly, that's not the case.

I could quote statistics to show that crime levels have fallen - which is true - and that fewer of us become the victims of crime these days. Also true, but scarcely the point. When you become a victim, whether of a terrorist attack or a 'happy slapping' or a whole range of incidents in between, the only statistic that matters is you and way in which people that you love are affected.

And the government will only have succeeded in its battle against crime when people perceive a reduction. Unfortunately the perception, and therefore the fear of crime, is still a concern - particularly amongst the elderly.

Reading this report, the message coming through loud and clear is that because Victim Support workers are there, because they're focused on the victim, is how and why people are then empowered to come to terms with what has happened and move on.

The important thing for me, as a Member of Parliament, is to keep my eye on the ball to ensure that government policy is just as focused on victims, ensuring that victims aren't neglected in the criminal justice process.

British politics has never generated a more effective sound bite than 'tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime'.

Everybody thought that they knew what it meant but it always seemed to me that a third leg was needed to balance the message, a bit that said that we would be equally committed to help the victims of that crime, the people for whom life had become tough as a result.

Better support for victims is now at the heart of government policy. For instance, since 1997, Government funding of Victim Support, including the Witness Service, has nearly trebled from under £12 million to £30 million. Victims now have the opportunity in court to explain how a crime has affected them and, under the Victims' Code of Practice, must be kept informed about police and prosecution progress on their case.

The Government has also established 165 Witness Care Units around the country, providing a single point of contact for people going through the criminal justice process.

I know that there has been some concern about the recent review, particularly with regard to the changes to the compensation payment scheme. Ministers have tried to simplify and speed up the existing scheme, increasing the amount of support paid to victims of the most serious crimes and making payments quicker.

And I, for one, welcomed the compulsion for offenders to compensate their victim, and the provision that allowed victims to sue if the offender later receives a windfall - like winning the lottery, as happened recently.

I also welcomed the introduction of the 'victim's voice' into parole board discussions, and the Home Secretary's attempts to restrict the 'plainly guilty' to have convictions quashed because of a procedural irregularity - although I can see Human Rights lawyers having a field day with that one!

The point about the recent reforms is that support should get more quickly to the person who needs it - whether it be practical help, like fitting new door locks, or financial help - perhaps help with dental costs. Or maybe, as comes out strongly in this report, the support of simply having someone to talk to about the event.

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks you for giving me this opportunity to make my few remarks.

I now have pleasure in officially moving the Annual review and Accounts for Victim Support Northumbria for the year ending March 2006.

I now move the Annual Review and Accounts for Victim Support Northumbria for the year ending March 2006.

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Promoted by Ken Childs on behalf of David Clelland, both of 19 Ravensworth Road, Dunston, Gateshead. NE11 9AB