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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Lib Dems offer 'voice' to victims
Old Bailey
Lib Dems want crime victims to have a "proper voice"
Victims of crime would have a greater role in setting criminal sentences under new Liberal Democrat plans.

The party is calling for victims to be given the right to make a personal statement in court following a conviction in an attempt to help them "feel part of the process".


Victims of crime have long been neglected by our criminal justice system

Simon Hughes
Introducing the plans at a victims' support unit in London, home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said victims should have "a proper voice" in the punishment process.

The voluntary oral statement would be an addition to the written victim statements the government is currently introducing.

Tougher sentences

Other Lib Dem proposals include:

  • Additional information and support for victims.

  • Tougher sentences for hate crimes based on religion and sexuality.

  • Action to cut domestic attacks - the largest category of recorded violent crime.

  • Introduction of a full working week in prison - and "moderate" increases in prison wages.

    Mr Hughes said: "Victims of crime have long been neglected by our criminal justice system.

    Simon Hughes
    Simon Hughes: "victims must be listened to"
    "Victims must be listened to in court and not made to feel like helpless spectators in cases."

    He denied the policy would create a system of victim-led punishment, saying it would "ensure that victims have a proper voice".

    Judges would not be under any obligation to include the victim statement in their consideration of the sentence.

    The Lib Dems also pledged to tackle "the root causes" of crime in society, echoing the prime minister's promise to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

    "Restorative" justice

    The policy package comes in the same week as Tony Blair launched the Community Payback scheme, which seeks to make offenders face up to the impact of their actions without imprisoning them.

    Mr Hughes committed the Lib Dems to a similarly "restorative" approach to justice.

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    See also:

    25 Apr 01 | UK Politics
    Pensioners highlight crime concerns
    24 Apr 01 | UK Politics
    Yobs face 'payback' plan
    17 Feb 01 | UK Politics
    New rights for crime victims
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