Page last updated at 00:06 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Crime victims' champion proposed

Hand holding a knife
Labour wants a commissioner to support victims of crime

A dedicated commissioner should be appointed to look after the needs of crime victims, Scottish Labour has demanded.

David Stewart, the party's chief whip, is to launch a consultation on his proposals for a new victims' commissioner.

The Highlands and Islands MSP has been backed by Victim Support Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland.

The Scottish Government said it was reviewing a "range of options."

Mr Stewart said he planned to launch the consultation on his proposed Victims' Commissioner (Scotland) Bill in the next fortnight.

He said he was hopeful it would gain support from across the country, and from across the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Stewart added: "The idea of having a victims' commissioner was proposed by Labour last year but received no support from the SNP.

"I hope the victims' commissioner will have the ability to investigate, challenge and raise awareness of issues affecting victims of crime.

"Let's face it, there is already a prison complaints commissioner. It's time that victims of crime had their own champion."

Survivors of rape often feel there is an imbalance in the criminal justice system
Sandy Brindley
Rape Crisis Scotland

Susan Gallagher, director of development for Victim Support Scotland, said the charity had been at the forefront of calls to establish a commissioner to champion the rights of victims.

She said: "As the leading voluntary organisation in Scotland dealing with victim issues we have long identified this need to build on the significant developments that have already taken place.

"We believe that such a post would help advance the rights of victims and witnesses of crime in Scotland."

Sandy Brindley from Rape Crisis Scotland said: "Survivors of rape often feel there is an imbalance in the criminal justice system.

"Any commissioner for victims should be given appropriate responsibilities and powers to allow them to represent victims of crime effectively and to act as a point of contact to address concerns over the kind of issues that impact on survivors of rape."

A government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is committed to putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, and is currently reviewing the Scottish Strategy for Victims, which is now eight years old.

"The review will consider a range of options for ensuring that victims' rights are safeguarded."

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