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Victim Support is a non-governmental national charity that helps victims of crime cope with their trauma. Victim Support has offices scattered across the length and breadth of United Kingdom. Volunteers form the core of the organization. They assume a varied range of roles – from being confidants to victims, informing them about their rights, advising victims on the ideal legal course of action, acting as liaisons for related organizations, etc.
Over the years, Victim Support has grown in stature and reputation. So much so that its services are recognized by police departments, in spite of the fact that it does not a government agency. Victim Support extends its help to all people residing in the United Kingdom, irrespective of their race, ethnicity or place of origin. More importantly, in spite of its popular recognition, the organization maintains its independence from executive and judicial branches of governance.
In recent years, this national charity has come to the aid of nearly 250,000 primary and secondary victims across the UK (Newburn, 2006).
Victim Support provides comprehensive guidance to victims of crime; right from the time of the incident to after court situations. Many people have apprehensions in speaking openly to police officers about the trauma they were subject to. There could be many reasons for this, including the perception that police personnel are apathetic and businesslike in their approach to domestic violence.
Also, police officers are caught up with more serious criminal offences that they tend to treat domestic violence as trivial and insignificant. Nevertheless, the severity and significance of any episode of crime and abuse is only known to the victims themselves. Victim Support recognizes this fact and dedicates a lot of its resources in providing personal support in the form of post trauma counselling, etc (Shepherd, 1998).
Victim Support volunteers make it easy for the victims (both primary and secondary) by assuring them of confidential and non-judgmental support. Victim Support primes the victims as to what to expect from the criminal justice system and various courses of actions that they can take legally. Most victims of crime are not in a condition to report of domestic violence immediately after the incident. Understanding this limitation on part of the victims, Victim Support provides counselling services irrespective of the elapsed time. It also gives help-seekers the option not to disclose their identity. For example, victims of hate crimes like racial incidents and crimes against lesbians and gays are of a sensitive nature. Taking this into account, Victim Support provides its services for anonymous reporters of incidents of violence. In this respect, Victim Support has played a stellar role so far (Mawby, 1991).
Victim Support understands the importance of pecuniary compensation for victims of crime. Although such compensation will not negate the difficulties subsequent to a traumatic event, they at least give financial support to the recovering victim at a much needed time. Compensation can essentially be warranted for personal injuries and damage to properties. Victim Support volunteers are well-versed in legislations pertaining to compensations and instruct the victims as to the ideal course of legal action that would fetch them fair, just and much needed financial support. The organization does a commendable work in helping the victims sue their offenders (Schafer, 2006).
The most admirable thing about this charitable organization is its endeavours toward preventing domestic crimes in the first place. For example, people who were victims of crime are more likely to be subject to similar crimes in the near future. Victim Support works alongside local agencies and the police department in providing crime prevention advice and may even run specialist services such as lock fitting. Local Neighbourhood Watch Schemes are drawn as well, to nip potential crimes in their initial stages (Temkin, 1990).
Of all the services that Victim Support provides, its role as a public lobby with the Home Office is the most important. Recognizing the fact that sound legislation goes a long way toward curbing violent tendencies, the organization is always on the look out for changes, amendments and revocations of laws pertaining to domestic crime and violence. In this way, Victim Support plays a broader role, influencing the lawmakers and public representatives alike. Hence, Victim Support is just a passive outfit, but a proactive advocacy organization that is always pushing for reforms in legal and judicial spheres (Whitehouse, 2001).
Victim Support’s role in reforming the criminal justice system is a very commendable one. It has been a pioneer in setting standards for the treatment of primary and secondary victims and in campaigning for the implementation of those new standards. Volunteers working with Victim Support come from a broad range of professional and socio-economic backgrounds. Yet, all its operations are seamlessly integrated. For example, “The organization works closely with professionals in the criminal justice system and beyond, and with a wide range of government departments, statutory and voluntary organizations. They put to use their professional contacts to represent the interests of victims and witnesses and to influence national policy.” (Corbett, 2001)
In effect, the national charity plays a proactive role in participating and working alongside “victim-related committees” in addition to working with other government agencies. At times, the organization’s volunteers try helping the judicial process by acting as witnesses themselves. Over the years, it has “responded to government and other organizations’ consultation documents and draft legislation” (Corbett, 2001). A team of dedicated researchers prepare statistics reports and other scholarly documents in order to keep all stakeholders informed about the prevailing conditions. Volunteers also conduct seminars and conferences to educate the general public about their rights. So, overall, the national charity in question has done impeccable work toward achieving its stated objectives and helps reduce crime related victimization across the United Kingdom (Smith, 2007).
Victim Support has an impressive array of achievements to its credit over the years. Its role in the conception and implementation of Victims’ Charter is a remarkable one. The organization has been instrumental in enacting the Protection from Harassment Act, Family Law Act, Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act and the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act. Victim Support’s lobby activities have also influenced Lord Justice Auld’s Review of the Criminal Courts. The national charity has also contributed to the framing of domestic violence Safety and Justice, a Home Office initiative. Furthermore, it played a decisive role in the enacting of Criminal Justice Act and the Sexual Offences Act (Smith, 2007).
Victim Support has also had success in bringing about changes in social policies. For example, “In February 2002 Victim Support launched a major new policy document as the focus for Victim Support Week. The new report, Criminal neglect: no justice beyond criminal justice, recognised that a lot had been achieved for victims of crime within the criminal justice system, but that victims’ special needs are hardly recognised in most other areas of social provision, such as health, housing and education.” (Corbett, 2001)
Also, when the government put forth its proposal to appoint an independent Commissioner for primary and secondary victims, Victim Support brought attention to a few deficiencies in the proposal. Subsequently, its suggestions have been incorporated in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill. The independent charity has also played a pivotal role in the government’s strategy for primary and secondary victims. The culmination of this cooperative effort was the publication of a new deal for victims and witnesses in 2003. So, in the final analysis, Victim Support’s role in public policy reform as well as its role in assisting victims of crime has been an invaluable one and deserving of merit.