Victims commission launched in the county

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The UK’s first victims’ commission was launched in Northamptonshire yesterday (Monday) with the aim of promoting the needs of victims of crime.

The new unit, which is to be led by Angela Sarkis, will examine the police and criminal justice system in the county, giving a louder voice to victims of crime in the police force and in courts.

It was launched by Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds, together with Chief Constable Adrian Lee and is the first of its kind in England and Wales.

The initiative, which will be called Victims’ Voice, will look across all the current services which support victims of crime to examine whether the services fully understand and meet their needs.

Mr Simmonds says it will champion restorative justice approaches while ensuring it is geared to the needs of victims of crime and to support their wishes.

As part of a review, due to be published in September, the commission will identify options for driving a faster and more victim-friendly courts system.

The review is expected to suggest new ways of listening to victims of crime.

It is expected to cost between £25,000 and £30,000, including Ms Sarkis’ salary.

Ms Sarkis, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, has contributed to Government initiatives on young offenders, urban regeneration and faith communities, serving as one of seven founding members of Tony Blair’s social exclusion unit.

She is a former BBC governor, former chief executive of the YMCA and executive director of the National Offenders Management.

She said: “I am delighted to be leading this groundbreaking work in Northamptonshire. Over the next few months we will be talking to organisations right across the county who aim to represent and speak up for victims of crime.

“And we especially want to hear from individual people who have been victims of crime who can tell us about how they have been treated and how they think the system can be improved.

“These views will be treated in confidence and the more people we hear from the more valid our conclusions are likely to be.”

Mr Simmonds added: “I have said from day one that I intend to put the victim of crime first, offering the help and support they require. Proper protection and support for victims of crime is fundamental to my vision of a reformed criminal justice system and better policing.

“No one chooses to be a victim of crime, but none of us is free from the possibility that one day, without notice, we could become victims of crime.

“Many of our citizens will have experienced the trauma of having lives turned-upside down through car crime, burglary, violence, domestic abuse, identity theft and in many more ways. But while we do not choose to be victims there are those in our society that choose to make crime a way of life. “Victims of crime must be able to rely on swift, sure justice which punishes offenders properly, and on intelligent justice which demands that offenders face up to the causes of their behaviour, protecting future victims from similar trauma.”

People who have been victims of crime can contact Victims’ Voice by writing to Angela Sarkis at the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission, Wootton Hall, Northampton NN4 OJQ, through the website www.victimsvoice.org.uk or email to contact@victims-voice.org.uk

All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.