Page last updated at 00:32 GMT, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Police should visit all victims, says home secretary

Dorset's Behind Bars website
Dorset Police's website is an example of naming and shaming criminals

Police should visit every victim of crime in England and Wales no matter how minor the offence, the home secretary has said.

Alan Johnson made the call as he launched an advertising campaign on what should be expected of police.

The campaign focuses on the "Policing Pledge" which sets out what officers promise to do in their community.

The Home Office also wants police forces and councils to use websites to name key local convicted criminals.

The campaign also highlights the idea of officers being highly visible on the streets and visiting people in their homes after a crime had been reported.

"My gut reaction is that a victim of crime should be seen and should be spoken to," said Mr Johnson, launching the campaign.

"There may be practical reasons why you can't have a general commitment that covers all crime no matter how minor - there may be practical difficulties involved in that.

"But I think in general the principle and the sentiment is absolutely right."

The idea of officers committing to visiting crime victims was pioneered by the former Essex chief constable, Roger Baker. However, it has not been adopted by other forces.

The campaign involves adverts on TV, radio and websites

The TV ad campaign aims to better explain the Policing Pledge, which has now been signed by each of the 43 forces in England and Wales.

The pledge was devised as part of a long-term Home Office review on how to improve the public's trust in the criminal justice system.

Among the pledge's contents is a commitment to make it easier to contact neighbourhood police teams who, in turn, are committed to spending 80% of their time on duty in their community.

The document also promises that someone reporting a non-emergency crime can get an appointment with an officer within two days.

Name and shame plan

The Home Office says that in December forces and councils will be given new guidance from the Ministry of Justice on how best to name and shame criminals, over and above what appears in local media.

Both are being encouraged to improve the way they use their websites to publicise major convictions. Dorset Police are already running a "Behind Bars" section on their website detailing the latest significant jailings.

The Home Office's £1.9m campaign involves adverts on television, radio and websites with leaflets distributed to six million homes.

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Last month, a report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, the national policing watchdog, said that 35 out of 43 forces had fallen short of the standards set out in their pledges.

It called on senior officers to do more to keep victims up to date on the progress of investigations and support dissatisfied members of the public.

Those concerns were echoed in a separate report by Sara Payne, appointed by the government as an independent victims' champion.

She argued that the criminal justice system needed to do more to keep victims informed and help them to understand what happens to criminals who have blighted their lives.



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