Victim 'louder voice' strategy welcomed in South West

A support group in South West of England has welcomed a government initiative to give victims of crime - and witnesses to it - a "louder voice".

The £1m funding will be spent on setting up a network of advocates, who will hear victims' experiences and look at what support is available.

Victim Support South West said it would help victims and witnesses feel less marginalized in the legal process.

Home Secretary Theresa May said victims would get better representation.

The commissioner for victims and witnesses, Louise Casey, is to work in partnership with Victim Support to listen to victims and identify their needs and priorities.

Victims of crime in the South West said work was needed because they believed they got a raw deal in the criminal justice system.

Stella, from Devon, was involved in a collision with a drink-driver 10 years ago.

She said justice was not done when the driver was sentenced to five months in prison and released after four weeks, whereas she had to live with her physical injuries and emotional pain for life.

She said: "It's all weighted towards the offender - the whole court process, the way everything works, the human rights, the right of the offender."

She added: "I'm the lucky one. I could have died that night but I didn't. There are lots of families out there that can't say that. I know that makes me lucky and I realise that.

"But no, the price hasn't been paid. Justice wasn't done. Not at all.'

Victim Support regional manager Russell Kent said victims often felt let down by the criminal justice system.

"Most of them say that we just want to be more informed about the process. We want to be more involved in the process," he said.

"A lot of victims and witnesses that go to court feel that they're marginalized and that they're not at the centre of it all and they feel strongly that it's all balanced in favour of the offender."

He said that Victim Support has some sympathy with that view. He said offenders should of course have rights but "there should be more of a balance of the playing field".

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