Victim court statements ‘a success’

A trial scheme where victims of crime tell the courts how they were affected before the defendant is sentenced have been branded a success.

The report for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) argues the victim advocate pilot scheme is successful with families welcoming having their voice heard and positive reactions to taking a more active involvement in the trial.

The process of preparing and delivering the statement proved to be therapeutic for the families according to the charity group ‘Support after Murder and Manslaughter’ (SAMM).

“SAMM has been campaigning for a long time for the voice of the bereaved to be heard in court during a homicide trial. We were delighted to support the victim advocate pilot scheme. The feedback from our members is that they really found this helpful [in] their lives,” SAMM said.

Attorney general Baroness Scotland agreed that the MoJ’s scheme has been successful.

“I am heartened that families are clearly benefiting from their closer involvement with prosecutors and a greater opportunity to have their say. Prosecutors are increasingly ensuring that the interests of victims and their families are met,” she said.

According to the report, families want to have their personal statements read in court because it gives the court a better appreciation of the victim’s character. The families also want the defendant to understand the severity of their actions.

“By giving bereaved families the chance to make a statement about the impact of violent crime on their lives we are strengthening their voice and making criminals fully realise the consequences of their actions,” said justice minister Maria Eagle.

The scheme has now operated for one year. The report shows 80 per cent of families involved in the scheme chose to make a family impact statement.