More support for victims is promised

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The Independent Online

Victime of crime are to have a Bill of Rights as one of a series of ideas designed to restore public confidence in British justice. David Blunkett said yesterday he intended to appoint a commissioner for victims and to establish a government advisory panel made up of victims of crime and their relatives.

The Home Secretary insisted the measures were necessary because public confidence in the criminal justice system was "unquestionably low". He said: "Victims of crime are still, too often treated with indifference or with disrespect. I am not having that. These are the very people the criminal justice system should protect and defend, the very people who should be cared for and considered at every stage and by every element of the justice process."

But Mr Blunkett's claim that he was "putting victims at the heart of our reforms" had a familiar ring. The idea sounded similar to the Victim's Charter, drawn up by the Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and maintained by Labour in government. The charity Victim Support said last night that the charter had been "well intentioned but has not had the required effect".

Previous attempts to engage victims in the criminal justice system have had limited effect. The opportunity for victims of crime to have their statements read out in court was introduced last year but has so far had little take-up. Victim Support said a victims' commissioner must be independent and "have teeth".

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said victims were not being served by Mr Blunkett's other announcement, that thousands of prisoners would be released early from prison. He said: "It is time this Government stopped looking at reasons not to send people to prison."