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Victims Surcharge

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th April 2007.

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Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East 10:30 am, 26th April 2007

What assessment he has made of the likely impact of the victims surcharge on prosecutions.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

It is expected that the victims surcharge will generate up to £16 million to provide better services for the victims of crime, including £3 million for witness care units to encourage and support victims and witnesses in giving evidence, £3 million to provide independent domestic violence advisers, and other funding to help victims organisations. Supporting and helping victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system is an important aspect of getting more successful prosecutions.

Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East

It has of course been extremely difficult to secure prosecutions in certain areas of criminality, especially domestic violence and rape. I welcome the implementation of the victims surcharge. Does the Solicitor-General agree that we will be able to expand the network of voluntary organisations that support victims and encourage them to come forward, given that fear and the possibility of stigma sometimes prevent people from bringing cases to trial?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

My hon. Friend is right. The proper long-term funding of witness care units will help witnesses and victims to come forward, especially regarding cases of rape. The extra funding for independent domestic violence advisers, who we hope to have in place in 64 sites where we have established specialist domestic violence courts, will help victims of domestic violence. Securing funding for victims organisations is an important step that I hope will enable those who support victims to know that funding will be in place in the longer term. Those who offend will be in a position where they will make a contribution to supporting victims.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Will the Solicitor-General explain why the victims surcharge is being levied on people who commit offences that often have no victims, such as motorists, yet not on those who commit offences that always have a victim, such as rapists?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

I do not accept that there is never a victim in motoring offences. Motoring offences are not victimless crimes. Some 3,201 people were killed on Britain's roads in 2005, while 28,954 people were seriously injured and the total number of casualties was 271,000. Other so-called victimless crimes cause harm and create a cost to society through bringing the offender to justice and enforcing the sentence imposed. Money from the surcharge is going directly to help victims services—I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to be supporting that.