Sara Payne appointed 'Victims' Champion'

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Indy Politics

Sara Payne has been appointed as the new Victims' Champion, Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Attorney General Baroness Scotland announced today.

Ms Payne has agreed to take on the post of Victims' Champion, a new independent public voice for victims of and witnesses to crime. She will work with existing victims' groups as well as with the Government's 60 neighbourhood Crime and Justice Coordinators, based around England and Wales.

In the course of her one year appointment Ms Payne will:

* listen to the views and concerns of victims and witnesses;

* work with and learn from the experience of Victim Support who provide emotional and practical help to over 1.5 million victims and witnesses per annum;

* represent the views of victims and witnesses to Ministers, Government officials and in the media;

* challenge criminal justice agencies further to reform their practices in relation to victims and witnesses;

* act in an advisory role on victims' issues and prepare the foundations for the appointment of the Victims' Commissioner in 2010;

The Victims' Champion will be a time-limited appointment for one year to enable focus to be given on victims' issues while Parliament considers proposals in the Coroners and Justice Bill in relation to the separate office of Victims and Witnesses Commissioner. That Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 14 January, and will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons today.

Sara Payne said:

"Over the last eight years I have been asking for victims to have a louder voice, and for the Government to listen more closely to what they have to say. I am proud I will now be their champion, and welcome my appointment to this very important role. I look forward to bringing the voice of victims and witnesses to the heart of Government."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:

"Sara's appointment is an important part of the Government's commitment to deliver a fairer and better-balanced criminal justice system - appropriately punishing criminals, offering better support to their victims.

"Victims are the most important people in the criminal justice system. We must always ensure that their voice is heard loud and clear by policy-makers and campaigners. I know that Sara will be an excellent advocate for them. Her job will be to bring the concerns of victims of crime into sharp focus, making sure their views are heard when big decisions about policing or the criminal justice system are made.

"The appointment of a Victims' Champion continues our drive to put the needs of victims at the heart of the criminal justice system."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"I am delighted that Sara has accepted the new post of Victims' Champion, giving an independent voice to victims of crime, their families and witnesses.

"Sara has worked tirelessly to help protect children from predatory sex offenders and played a key role in setting up our Child Sex Offender Review Pilot. This means that parents, carers or guardians in pilot areas can now request that an individual who has access to their child is checked for a record of child sex offences. I've no doubt she will excel in this new role and that she will be an excellent Victims' Champion."

Attorney General Baroness Scotland said:

"The appointment of a Victims' Champion will build upon how we work with, understand and address the needs of victims and witnesses.

"Sara's work will prove to be an integral link between the criminal justice system and those who are victims of crime. It will help put the spotlight upon the complexities of these crimes and better equip prosecutors to provide a better service to individual victims, their families, and society at large."

Louise Casey, National Crime and Justice Advisor said:

"I am delighted to see that, following on from the "Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime" review which recommended that there should be a much stronger public voice on behalf of victims, Ministers have decided to appoint Sara to the role of Victims' Champion.

"I look forward to working with her to ensure that victims' voices are heard loud and clear across the criminal justice system and by the Government so we have a system that puts the most important person - the victim - first."

Sara's twelve-month appointment commences today, Monday 26 January 2009.

Parliament is currently reviewing the Government's proposals for the intended longer term appointment of a Victims' Commissioner, outlined in the recent Coroners and Justice Bill.

Subject to enactment of this element of the Bill, the Government expects to be able to begin a full recruitment process for the post of Victims' Commissioner within one year.