Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Sara Payne new Victims' Champion

Sara Payne, Victims' Champion: 'Let's find out where things are failing'

Child protection campaigner Sara Payne has been appointed to the new post of Victims' Champion.

The one-year post will provide an independent voice to the more than 1.5m yearly victims and witnesses of crime.

Mrs Payne's daughter Sarah, eight, was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting. Mrs Payne, from Surrey, was appointed an MBE in the New Year's Honours.

Parliament is currently reviewing proposals for the intended longer-term appointment of a Victims' Commissioner.

'Voice of victims'

Mrs Payne told the BBC: "The one thing I want to achieve is that victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system... I was treated very, very well and I would like to see other people treated in the same way.

"We are not looking at masses and masses of changes, but I am here to challenge the government when they are doing something wrong."

Mrs Payne said her role would also be to acknowledge positive work by the government and that she hoped to prepare the ground for the Victims' Commissioner next year.

Mrs Payne said that for the past eight years she had been campaigning for victims to have a louder voice, and for the government to listen more closely to what they have to say.

Listen to concerns of victims and witnesses
Represent their views to government officials and in the media
Challenge criminal justice agencies further to reform practices for victims and witnesses
Prepare foundations for appointment of Victims' Commissioner in 2010

"I am proud I will now be their champion, and welcome my appointment to this very important role. I look forward to bringing the voice of victims and witnesses to the heart of government," she said.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: "Victims are the most important people in the criminal justice system. We must always ensure that their voice is heard loud and clear by policy-makers and campaigners.

"I know that Sara will be an excellent advocate for them. Her job will be to bring the concerns of victims of crime into sharp focus, making sure their views are heard when big decisions about policing or the criminal justice system are made."

The appointment was made by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Attorney General Baroness Scotland.

Baroness Scotland said the role would "help put the spotlight upon the complexities" of crime and "better equip prosecutors to provide a better service to individual victims, their families".

'Sarah's Law'

Parliament is currently reviewing the government's proposals for the intended appointment of a Victims' Commissioner, outlined in the recent Coroners and Justice Bill.

Subject to enactment of this element of the Bill, the government said it expects to be able to begin a full recruitment process for the post of Victims' Commissioner within one year.

Mrs Payne joined forces with the News of the World newspaper to launch the For Sarah campaign, which called for parents to be given the right to know about convicted sex offenders living near them.

The so-called "Sarah's Law" was partly inspired by Megan's Law in the United States, which was introduced after the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994.

The campaign has resulted in pilot schemes in four police forces that allow parents or guardians to check whether people who have access to their children are convicted sex offenders.

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