Crime victims' aid scheme 'a failure'

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The Independent Online

A high-profile Government initiative giving victims the opportunity to tell courts how a crime has affected their lives is an abject failure, say magistrates.

A high-profile Government initiative giving victims the opportunity to tell courts how a crime has affected their lives is an abject failure, say magistrates.

The new scheme, launched in October, allows victims to tell judges about the psychological damage caused by crime. The Victim Personal Statement can then be used to influence sentencing.

A magistrates' survey shows that only a handful of statements have been filled in, although there have been more than 45,000 victims of crime since the scheme began. It fuels concerns that victims are losing thousands of pounds' worth of compensation because magistrates and judges do not have enough detailed evidence to award damages.

Shortages of police have made the scheme unworkable. In some cases, victims have declined to make statements because they fear reprisals.

"If the Government wants this scheme to work, the Government will have to give police and probation services the resources to carry it out, otherwise it remains an illusion," said Harry Fletcher of the National Association of Probation Officers.