THE BLOG

Britain's Not More Peaceful for the Victims

24/04/2013 16:39 BST | Updated 24/06/2013 10:12 BST

We've heard today that new research suggests Britain is becoming a "more peaceful" place with violent crime falling by a quarter over the last decade.

The European Institute for Peace thinks violent crime is falling faster here than anywhere else in Europe - though it still costs us £124billion.

If that's right it's obviously good news - but each individual case is one too many and at my charity we know the human cost is often incalculable.

We know that being a victim of violent crime is traumatic and can leave long lasting physical and emotional scars. Some victims tell us they are scared to walk down the street in daylight. Others say they can't even leave the house.

I remember a young woman we helped a few years ago who found herself in this very situation. Jacqueline had told her ex-partner that she wanted a separation. Tragically, he reacted with anger, physically assaulted her before killing their three year old son.

Victim Support was there to help her cope and recover. Our Witness Service supported her through the court case and she still sometimes call her Victim Support case worker if she has a bad day.

Her ex-partner was convicted of murder and given a sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum of 20 years. But Jacqueline lived with the aftermath of this every single day. For her this wasn't just two cases of violence. It was her whole life.

Whilst the EIP found the murder rate has dropped significantly over the last decade too we know how long people's lives can be blighted by losing a loved one in a violent incident.

Three years ago we set up the world's first National Homicide Service to support people whose loved ones were murdered or victims of manslaughter. Our specially-trained case workers are currently helping more than 2,000 people cope in practical ways such as arranging a funeral and getting counselling.

This has a much wider benefit too because if victims have a positive experience of the criminal justice system, however awful the circumstances, they are more likely to report future crimes to the police. They will also encourage their friends and family to as well. Of course, if they have a bad experience the opposite may be the case.

As ever, police, prosecutors and the courts must show they are geared towards victims and will ensure they get the support they need as well as the justice they deserve.