On Saturday Emma spoke at the annual National Victim’s Association (NVA) Conference held at the Little Haven Hotel in South Shields.
This is the third year in a row Emma has attended the NVA conference to support the hard work and dedication of the charity. This year she was joined by other speakers including the Victim’s Commissioner, Baroness Newlove; Tony Rafter from the Ministry of Justice, representatives from the police and parole service and David Hines, who founded the NVA following the murder of his daughter by her partner. The theme for this year was Putting Victims First.
After the speech Emma took questions from the floor where it was made clear how frustrated victims are after a years of inaction from Government; how let down they feel by repeated broken promises and how tired they are of repeating themselves in the everlasting cycle of consultation which they have to pay their own money to contribute to without any results at the end.
Repeated requests over years to meet with the Secretary of State have fallen on deaf ears and even dealing with a Minister who’s very brief is to represent victims, has been problematic. Victims have complaint fatigue from the chronic instability of the current government and the frequent changes of Minister in charge of Victims where each change of staff means having to cover the same ground again and again – without gratitude or results.
You can read Emma’s speech below:
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your annual conference. This is the 3rdyear I have addressed you and I’d like to say how proud I am to continue to support David and the Victim’s Association for your remarkable and tireless work.
As we have seen from the Hillsborough families who spent nearly 30 years fighting for justice for their loved ones, it is so often the love of a parent or grandparent, a brother or a sister that drives through the changes that will one day benefit all of us.
I want to pay tribute to David and to every family member here today who has turned the tragic loss of their loved one, often in the most traumatic circumstances, into a force for good, a force for change.
Just two days before I came to speak to you last year I received the dreadful news that my friend and colleague, Jo Cox had been murdered in a brutal attack. Her family have channelled their grief into making sure we all celebrate what Jo stood for, peace, tolerance and community -this weekend.
Horrific attacks, including terror attacks have claimed for too many lives this year, tragically including our very own Liam and Chloe whose funerals took place a few days ago. The numbers of victims of these terrible crimes are rising and we need to put their rights first.
As you all know it’s hard enough to cope when you lose someone you care for but it can be unbearable, even impossible, to come to terms with the shock of losing someone you care for in violent, senseless circumstances or because of the negligence of others such as we are witnessing in the awful scenes from Grenfell Tower.
When a traumatic experience is made even worse by a justice system that is failing the victims of crime – well that is truly shameful. And you are most definitely still being failed.
You asked me at conference last year if a Victims Law was needed and it’s abundantly clear that of course better legislation is needed in this area.
I agreed with you last year and still do. I hear your frustrations. I know enforceable rights for victims have been ignored by successive governments. I know you are weary from the broken promises, that you’re tired of hearing about policies that don’t make it to the statute books.
We saw the last Tory Government make promises about introducing a victim’s law in the 2015 manifesto which again failed to materialise. In their latest manifesto, they have pledged to ensure that victims of crime are supported at every stage of the criminal justice system and have pledged to enshrine victims’ entitlements in law, making clear what level of service they should expect from the police, courts and criminal justice system. The key question is whether the government, having put a commitment to a victims’ law in its manifesto, is now going to actually deliver.
For those of us campaigning for change, having those commitments written down in black and white makes it just that much easier to hold the Government to account.
Which I will continue to do, to the best of my ability on your behalf.
There is no turning back.
I too hope that we can reach cross-party consensus on this issue because it’s so important and I do think there is a lot of political will out there.
Keir Starmer for Labour made great progress. He forced as many amendments as he was able to in Opposition to strengthen Victims Law into the Policing and Crime Bill following his own Victims and Crime Bill;
Andy Burnham has done great work with the victims of Orgreave in calling for a public inquiry and for new Hillsborough laws.
Labour also committed in their recent manifesto to ensure appropriate support is provided to victims of crime and to introduce legislation for minimum standard entitlements to service from criminal justice agencies. Labour will immediately re-establish early advice entitlements in the Family Courts. The shameful consequences of this withdrawal have included a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to pay doctors for certification of their injuries.
Labour’s plans will remove that requirement. At the same time, we will legislate to prohibit the cross examination of victims of domestic violence by their abuser in certain circumstances.
We will also reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases.
And we will review the legal aid means tests, including the capital test for those on income-related benefits.
But we have to be in Government to implement these. It seems to me to be a fruitless task to talk about what Governments haven’t done in the past but to focus on the now and the progress that has been made and to fiercely hold them to account on what they, have promised in the manifestos campaigned we all campaigned on just a few weeks ago.
I know it must feel sometimes that you are banging your heads against a brick wall but It’s is not a hopeless cause. In fact I am very hopeful that with organisation like yours piling on the pressure, and with MPs across the parties lobbying for new laws for Victims – we will knock down that wall. It will happen. It has to. I believe it can.
Speaking after the conference Emma said,
“Each year I am struck by the resolve and determination of the victims and families present at this conference. Many, often at their own expense, are campaigning to change the law so all victims of crime get a better deal. What they are asking for – to put victims at the heart of the justice system – to get a fair deal, is a really straight forward request but they feel despite years of campaigning, they are still not being listened to’’