Ministry of Justice
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Jack Straw unveils plans for a new National Victims' Service

Jack Straw has announced details of the new National Victims' Service as the next stage of reforms aimed at ensuring the justice system is firmly on the side of the law abiding citizen.

The speech comes a week 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.

An additional £8 million will establish the National Victims' Service, which guarantees all victims of crime and anti-social behaviour referred by the police more comprehensive and dedicated support. The first stage will begin helping families bereaved by murder or manslaughter from March. This will provide intensive support, care and attention, tailored to their individual needs, beyond the conclusion of any investigation or trial.

They will be given a named, dedicated support worker, who will meet with them regularly to identify their needs and liaise with the authorities on their behalf.  The individual may need immediate practical assistance - for example with security, or childcare, or making bill payments – and will be helped through all of this.  Emotional support and expert assistance will also be offered where needed – counselling, for instance, or legal and financial advice. 

From April 1 we will begin rolling out the National Victims' Service for all victims of crime across England and Wales.

The most vulnerable victims will be entitled to: 

  • fast contact to establish their support needs, 7 days a week
  • a one-to-one professional case worker to provide immediate emotional support as well as pulling together public sector agencies and third sector providers to respond to their needs, across housing, health, employment, social services and other areas
  • quick referral to and commissioning of specialist support from other agencies and third sector organisations when needed.

In addition, all victims of crime will be entitled to:

  • fast contact to establish their support needs, 7 days a week
  • immediate emotional support from a trained support worker, including working up and implementing an individually tailored support plan
  • an in-depth 'health check' of their practical, emotional, health, security and housing needs
  • tailored information about what is likely to happen in their case, and practical advice.

From July this year, all victims of crime will also be entitled to one dedicated point of contact who will guide them through the criminal justice system, who will stay with them until they no longer need help

The new National Victims' Service is a core plank of the government'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.  Today's announcement also builds on the wide range of measures the government has introduced over the past 10 years for victims of crime, including a Victims' Champion, Victim Personal Statements in court, a Victims' Advisory Panel and a trebling of funding for victims' services in the voluntary sector.

The National Victims' Service will be delivered in partnership with Victim Support, with funding dedicated to the delivery of more specialist support through other specialist victims' organisations.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

'The government has worked hard to cut crime - with real results. The most recent crime figures show that we are continuing to cut crime, in marked contrast to previous recessions.

'Today the UK has a record number of police officers, a Neighbourhood Police Team in every area, longer prison sentences and tough Community Payback for those who don't go to prison. The chance of being a victim is the lowest since records began - but every victim still needs support and today's plans for the new National Victims Service shows our determination that punishment and reform for offenders is combined with the best possible support for victims.'

Justice Secretary, Jack Straw said:

'The establishment of the National Victims' Service will be a defining moment. It will make sure that victims across England and Wales are provided with even greater personal support throughout the criminal justice process and beyond. If victims need help, we will continue to be there for them – for as long as they need it.

'Alongside record police numbers, neighbourhood police teams in every area, longer prison sentences for serious offenders and tough Community Payback, this new National Victims' Service – inspired by the work of Sara Payne and her work as a powerful advocate for the rights of victims – will make sure that punishment and reform for offenders is combined with better support for victims at the heart of everything we do.

'It will make sure that 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.'

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:
'The support of crime and antisocial behaviour victims is central to a fair and just criminal justice system. Following on from Sara Payne’s report into victims, this nationwide service will deliver an unrivalled support network eventually ensuring that every victim of crime has a single point of contact for emotional and practical support. This service will work alongside our recently announcement ASB Victim Champions who will coordinate services for victims and witnesses at the local level.'

Attorney General Baroness Scotland QC who superintends the Crown Prosecution Service, said:

'We should never forget that in the 1980s victims of crime were barely acknowledged. Now we are fully recognising the vital role that victims and witnesses play in delivering justice. Prosecutors can now speak to victims and witnesses directly, something unheard of and indeed once prohibited, and the CPS is dedicated to monitoring victim and witness care commitments.

'We recognise the importance of providing targeted support to the community through the introduction of community prosecutors. This new tailored support from the National Victims' Service will build on that work and help to ensure that we properly identify and respond to the needs of those who are most directly affected by criminal behaviour.'

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Victim Support said:

'We're delighted to be the government's key partner in delivering the new National Victims’ Service. It builds on the pioneering work of our charity over the last 35 years to create a world-leading service for people affected by crime.'

A review of the Victim's Code of Practice will also take place to ensure it provides a clear and comprehensive set of rights for victims, including looking at how to improve support for victims of anti-social behaviour. The Code is a set of legal rights, which sets out the support each criminal justice agency provides to victims

The government has also announced today a more simplified funding stream available to voluntary agencies that provide support services to victims of sexual violence. This £2.25 million fund has been set-up by merging the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) Victims Fund and the Government Equalities Office Special Fund.

Notes to editors

1. The National Victims' Service will be delivered in partnership with Victim Support, with funding dedicated to the delivery of more specialist support through other specialist victims' organisations.

2. Specially trained case workers will provide a range of specialist and practical support including help with:

  • protection and security
  • childcare or other care needs
  • help with interest from the media
  • everyday needs such as shopping
  • accessing financial support; and
  • help with informing other family members of the death.

3. Over the past 10 years, the government has introduced a solid platform of measures to support victims including:

  • introduction of the Victims' Champion – to represent the interests of victims and the soon to be appointed first even Victims' Commissioner
  • victim Personal Statements to be used in court
  • policing Pledge with a guarantee to victims that 'every contact counts', visiting vulnerable victims within an hour and keeping victims informed of investigation progress;
  • victims' Advisory Panel to ensure victims' views are heard and has lead to an expansion of witness support to victims of anti-social behaviour and improving guidance on special measures for young witnesses
  • trebled the funding for victims' services in the voluntary sector and introduced the victims' surcharge;
  • introduction of the Telephone Helpline for victims of murder and manslaughter
  • crown Prosecution Service introduction of the Prosecutors' Pledge to keep witnesses informed.

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