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The national charity for victims and witnesses of crime - Victim Suppport - began in 1972 in Bristol to find out more about about how victims were affected by crime. A group of people, who included members of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (now NACRO) and others from the police and probation service, decided that something needed to be done to help victims as there was little or no help on offer.
The first Victim Support group was organised in Bristol in 1974. Other groups soon followed around the UK. In 1979, all the groups got together and created an ‘umbrella body’ – the National Association of Victims Support Schemes. The charity is a founding member of Victim Support Europe which was established in 1990.
The charity launched the Crown Court Witness Service, funded by the Ministry of Justice, launched in 1994. It gives help and information to people going to court. This service supports around a quarter of a million victims and witnesses per year in England and Wales.
In 2008 all local Victim Support groups merged to create one national federation covering England and Wales.
In 2010 the charity was awarded a contract funded by the Ministry of Justice to run a national service to support people bereaved by murder or manslaughter. This contract was renewed, after a competitive commissioning process, in 2014 and will continue to at least 2017.
2014 is the charity's 40th anniversary year.
To help create a safe and just society in which the member groups work to reduce the effects of crime and harmful behaviour to victims and witnesses.
People may need help, for example, applying for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, getting re-housed, or accessing medical treatment. They are also offered help dealing with their feelings and emotions through challenging and traumatic times.
They’re also there to help in every criminal court. The Witness Service supports witnesses to take the stand confidently and to give evidence that helps bring offenders to justice.
The charity’s national homicide service was launched in 2010 and supported over 1,000 newly bereaved people in its first year of operation. It gives intensive help and supports people to cope during one of the most traumatic events life can bring. The support it offers includes emotional and practical help such as making funeral arrangements, trauma counselling and supporting wider family members.
It provides Victim Supportline (0845 30 30 900), which is a telephone helpline for victims, witnesses and family and friends of victims and witnesses.
The charity received funding from the Ministry of Justice, but is now funded from the budget of the local Police and Crime Commissioner and also relies on raising money through corporate and individual donations. Its National Centre is in London.
The rights and needs of victims and witnesses, as distinct from the interests of justice or the rights of the accused have been promoted by the organisation since it was founded.
The rights and needs of victims and witnesses, as distinct from the interests of justice or the rights of the accused have, through the discipline of victimology become ever more identified over the past thirty years. Victim Support argued in its policy report, Rights for Victims of Crime (1995), that the criminal justice process treated victims insensitively and that this produced a negative impact on the victim. This process is known as re-victimisation. The report set out five basic rights for victims: the right to compensation; to provide and receive information about the case; to be respected and treated with dignity; to be free from the burden of making decisions relating to the treatment of the accused; and to be protected.
In 2002 the charity published Criminal neglect: no justice beyond criminal justice, which called for services across healthcare, housing and finance to respond more effectively to victims' and witnesses' needs. In particular, it has argued for a more sensitive approach from healthcare workers, for reform to the compensation system for victims, and also for a more effective means of relocating after a crime.
In July 2011, it published Left in the dark – why victims of crime need to be kept informed. The report highlights the importance of keeping victims informed and updated about their cases. Lack of contact and information can make victims feel uncertain and isolated – which can worsen the distress caused by the crime itself.
In October 2014, it published "At risk, yet dismissed: the criminal victimisation of people with mental health problems". This report found people with severe mental illness were more likely to be repeat victims of crime and more affected by crime than those without mental health problems. The research was a partnership between Victim Support, the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, Mind, the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Kingston University and St George's, University of London, in collaboration with UCL (University College London).