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Victim Support

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

5. What steps his Department is taking to provide support for victims; and if he will make a statement. (78956)

In the current financial year the Ministry of Justice is providing funding of approximately £50 million to voluntary sector organisations that support victims of crime. Before Christmas we intend to launch a consultation on proposals that will ensure that victims of crime are supported in the best way possible.

Too many victims of crime in my constituency feel that their rights are put behind those of criminals. Will my right hon. and learned Friend please share with me what measures he proposes to take to correct that sense of injustice?

Apart from continuing to give support to victims organisations, as I said, we are about to implement the Prisoners Earnings Act 1996, which will see up to £1 million taken from prisoners’ wages going into victims’ services. We have given Victim Support its three-year grant for the first time. It has never had such assured support—£38 million a year. We have honoured our coalition commitment to place rape support centres on a secure financial footing, giving them long-term funding, and we are about to open four more.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the most important thing for victims is the prevention of further offences and reoffending, since what victims want is to know that they are not going to become a victim a further time after a bad experience?

I entirely agree with that. It is a point on which we are putting very heavy emphasis in all our policies on crime, punishment and rehabilitation.

Does the Secretary of State agree that restorative justice can be key in helping victims, both in their hearing an apology from the offender, and in some cases hearing an explanation as to why the crime was committed?

Again, I agree entirely. We find that of the victims who agree to take part—they must agree to take part—about 85% express satisfaction with the process. It gives victims some feeling that someone has apologised and that they are getting some redress.

Can the Lord Chancellor imagine a more needy victim than a child brain-damaged at birth whose parents are unable to sue for its financial security?

It is not true that they are unable to sue. We have a dispute about how much the lawyers should be paid in the event of a successful claim, which is an important matter, but I do not accept the assertion that none of these actions will be brought unless we leave the present no win, no fee arrangements completely untouched.

On 12 October the Prime Minister announced that he had appointed Louise Casey to a new job. The Secretary of State has had at least a month to arrange for a new victims commissioner to take up his or her role. A month on, not only is no one in post, but the position has not been advertised and the Government have not said what plans they have. Victims charities and organisations and the Opposition have urged the Government to move swiftly, so who is it to be? Sadly, we have seen empty words on victims’ rights, and in this case we also have an empty post.

I am extremely grateful to Louise Casey for the work she did and the discussions I had with her while she was in office. I find the hon. Gentleman’s question amazing. The post of victims commissioner was created by Act of Parliament in 2004, but the previous Government failed to appoint anyone for five years and a fresh statute was introduced to revise the post in 2009. Louise Casey was appointed in early 2010. We are reconsidering—again—the basis on which we make the appointment, but to be accused of tardiness by someone who was in the last Parliament is positively farcical.