Labour unveils plan to help relatives of murder victims


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Labour has unveiled new plans to help murder victims' grieving relatives.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan pledged to strengthen existing practices which see police forces appoint family liaison officers to bereaved families.

He told Labour's conference in Liverpool: "A future Labour Government will introduce a new victims' law as called for by the Victims' Commissioner, Louise Casey, enshrined in statute so the rights of bereaved families of victims of homicide are honoured."

He said the law would "deliver effective justice and treat victims with respect and dignity".

Mr Khan told delegates the plans would "support victims through all stages of the process, including the deeply traumatic experience of when a case reaches court".

He added: "Under Labour, victims will be at the heart of our criminal justice system and I will work with victims groups to ensure we get this right."

Mr Khan's wide-ranging speech included criticism of the Government's police cuts and an attack on Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's infamous radio interview where he claimed there were different types of rape.

The shadow justice secretary hailed Labour's record on law and order during its 13 years in power, telling the Arena and Convention Centre: "On our watch, we prioritised victims of rape, we strengthened the law on consent, trained 500 more specialist rape prosecutors and increased investment on centres offering help to victims of rape and sexual assaults.

"And, because of human rights legislation, rape victims are no longer put through the traumatic experience of being cross-examined in person by their alleged assailants."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said later: "The Government recognises the immense trauma suffered by families bereaved by murder and manslaughter.

"This is why we have invested £2.75 million in the homicide service and specialist groups this year, to provide bereaved families with a dedicated caseworker, emotional support and practical help.

"We are also reviewing victims' services, including the victims' code which enshrines victims' rights, to ensure everyone receives the best support throughout the criminal justice process.

"This will be followed shortly by a full public consultation."

But Policing Minister Nick Herbert said Labour's pledge to set up an inquiry was "an abdication of any kind of political leadership".

"I'm afraid that Labour's announcement today merely reveals the curiosity of their policy on policing which seems to me to consist of opportunistic opposition to cuts - in spite of the fact that they themselves are committed to cut public spending on policing by over £1 million a year - and now subcontracting decisions on police reform, reform which they espoused in government and are now opportunistically opposing, to a committee.

"This is not political leadership.

"This is an abdication of any kind of political leadership."

Speaking at the Police Foundation's annual conference in central London, he said there was simply no time for an inquiry or Royal Commission into policing, adding: "You cannot contract out political leadership."

"The fiscal challenge is urgent, there's no time for delay," he said.

"There is little use setting up committees of wise men if you don't even acknowledge there are problems to be solved."

Mr Herbert added: "We cannot rely on committees of experts consulting other experts.

"Our reforms will give the people a voice."