David Stewart MSP

Plea for Commissioner for victims of crime in Scotland

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has made a impassioned speech in support of his Bill to establish a Commissioner for victims of crime in Scotland.
Speaking on the opening day of the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Oban today (Friday October 29) Mr Stewart reiterated the shocking statistic that one in five Scots are victims of or witnesses to, a crime.
“One million people who have been exposed to criminal behaviour, ranging from the extreme trauma of crimes like murder and rape to the upset and anxiety caused by petty theft and anti-social behaviour,” said the MSP.
“And make no mistake, the indirect impact on witnesses can be just as devastating as the direct impact on victims.”
Mr Stewart explained that that he had spoken to many people who have suffered as a consequence of crime, and the tales they told were often heartbreaking.
He said he had spoken to a woman recently whose family went through an unthinkable tragedy when her mother died in an act of brutal murder at the hands of her father.
The MSP said: “The family’s experience of the Scottish Criminal Justice System left them hurt, confused and angry. They described the way they were dealt with as “thoughtless” and they could not understand the delays and difficulties placed in their way as they tried to cope with the aftermath of the crime.
“Perhaps worst of all, they had to return to the scene of the crime in their family home and literally – quite literally – clean up the mess left behind.
“That is not acceptable. That is not the way a civilised society should deal with people who have been through that kind of trauma, but too often that degree of thoughtlessness is how victims describe the justice system, as a remote and uncaring bureaucracy.”
Mr Stewart said that was why he had launched a Member’s Bill last year calling for the creation of a Victims Commissioner.
Victim Support Scotland and other organisations like Children’s 1st at the front -line of victim support in the aftermath of a crime supported his call.
England , Wales and Northern Ireland had a Victims Commissioner, and so do Spain and Australia, so one for Scotland was long overdue.
The Commissioner would be responsible for championing the rights of victims, raising awareness of their plight and for working with politicians, police, civil servants and voluntary organisations to build a fairer and just system that puts victims’ needs first.
Mr Stewart said that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had suggested that the SNP might investigate the idea, but not until after the next election.
This was too late because the SNP administration should not have sidelined this issue for the last four years.
“Too late, Kenny, because after next May, you won’t be in a position to do anything about it,” concluded Mr Stewart.

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Written by davidstewart

November 2, 2010 at 8:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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