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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Victims of crime launch petition
Denise Fergus and Sara Payne
Crime victims Sara Payne (left) and Denise Fergus (right)
The families of high-profile British victims of serious crimes have launched a nationwide fundraising petition.

More than 60 relatives of victims of homicide gathered in central London with the aim of attracting one million telephone donations.

Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered toddler James Bulger, is one of the victims who helped to launch the petition.

She was joined by Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah.

Victims of Crime Trust, the charity which has organised the petition, claims that just 18.66 is spent helping each victim, while about 30,000 is spent each year keeping a prisoner behind bars.

'Shamefully neglected'

Mrs Fergus said: "The paltry amount of money spent on victims clearly demonstrates how they are shamefully neglected by the criminal justice system."

If we don't take action now, victims of crime will continue to be forgotten
Pc Norman Brennan
Mrs Payne, who is also a patron of the trust, was accompanied by her husband, Michael, and their new baby daughter, five-month-old Ellie.

Urging people to call the line, she said: "By ringing this number, when Ellie is that bit older and she needs someone to turn to, I hope that the Victims of Crime Trust is still going and that she will have somebody to talk to because this does not stop with us, it goes on for generations."

Pc Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, claims the figure of 18.66 is based on the annual government grant to the charity Victim Support divided by their number of clients.

"If we don't take action now, victims of crime will continue to be forgotten," he said.

"The average life sentence for a convicted murderer is now under 13 years.

"The families begin their own life sentences the day the crime is committed. They are never the same again.

"Every anniversary, every birthday and every Christmas is a painful reminder."

Law and order

He handed a letter addressed to the Queen, which criticised the current state of the criminal justice system, to Buckingham Palace on Monday morning.

"It is clear that the government have lost their way on law and order," he wrote.

Richard Taylor, whose son Damilola died on a North Peckham estate in November 2000 after being stabbed with a piece of broken glass, and Malcolm Sentence, whose girlfriend Jane Longhurst was murdered last year, were also among the campaigners.

The charity is planning to send a representative from each the 641 Parliamentary constituencies to Downing Street later this year to lobby Tony Blair.

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