Sex-crime victims will benefit from £4m fund

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Indy Politics

Victims of sexual assault will be helped by a £4m fund, made up of money seized from criminals, David Blunkett said yesterday. The Home Secretary acknowledged that fear of crime was increasing despite falls in overall levels and promised a drive to create "victim's justice".

He also admitted there was a need to "get a grip on the low-level thuggery and yobbish behaviour which can blight neighbourhoods and make a whole community into victims".

But he was criticised by victims' groups, which warned that crime and the fear of crime was rising. New figures showed violent crime in London was up 4.1 per cent, with burglary in the capital falling to a 29-year low.

Mr Blunkett told the first National Victims Conference, meeting in Westminster, that the pledge of money was the start of a new wave of finance for all victims of crime. "The £4m ... may not seem much, but it's the beginning," he said.

Ministers plan to open centres to give victims help and advice, open a helpline for people who have suffered sex crime and fund organisations which help rape victims.

Eight sexual-assault referral centres, in Preston, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Leicester, London, Swindon and Bristol, currently provide care, counselling and advice.

Mr Blunkett said £650m had been spent to improve help for victims. He said: "The chance of becoming a victim has fallen to one in four compared with one in three in 1995, the lowest in 20 years."

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "Our criminal justice system is in crisis and the true crime figures have rocketed. People are living in fear of violent crime, of gun crime and are scared to walk alone on their streets. Only when we have a royal commission on policing will the public confidence in the justice system be restored."