THE BLOG

Oxford Grooming Victims Get Their Day in Court

27/06/2013 17:13 BST | Updated 27/08/2013 10:12 BST

There's often a lot of talk of victims 'having their day in court'.

Sometimes, though, it's far easier said than done.

On Thursday, six young women watched the men who subjected them to nothing short of modern day slavery go to prison for 95 years.

The victims of the Oxford grooming ring must have doubted this day would ever come.

Corrupted and abused on the streets, neglected and distrusted by the authorities, the odds of getting justice were stacked against them for far too long.

That's why, once again, I salute their courage and determination and their ability to find the strength to face their abusers one last time.

I doubt very much that it's a day for celebration, though, relief at most that a chapter of their lives, which no child should have written for them, can finally be closed.

But at last they've had the chance to say their piece.

I know how frustrating people can find giving evidence in court for the simple reason they can only answer the question someone else has chosen to ask.

When you've been raped and threatened with your life how must it feel to be told 'Just answer the question, please' ?

There can be only one thing worse - being told you've been lying about the whole thing.

That's what happened in this case.

At least we know the victims have been able to have their say because their impact statements were read out in court.

All too often this doesn't happen and giving victims the right make a statement and have it read aloud in the court is something Victim Support hopes to see in the new Victims' Code ministers will publish later this year.

The Oxford case will rightly haunt Britain for years to come - terrible abuse compounded by the failures of the system to protect vulnerable people.

That failure has become a constant theme this year and I suspect there is more to come.

Victim Support is putting the finishing touches to a major piece of research about the experiences of mentally ill victims of crime.

The findings are truly disturbing and I believe could mark a watershed moment for police, prosecutors, councils and indeed society as a whole.

I shared a few headlines with MPs and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, at the House of Commons a few days ago.

Their reaction said it all - disbelief that in a so-called civilised society we can let down so badly people who most need our help.

The victims in the Oxford case have now had their day in court, but I fear there are many more vulnerable people who as things stand have no hope of getting the justice they deserve.