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New code will give crime victims voice
A NEW Victim’s Code, which would allow the victims of crime to address their offender directly in court, has been welcomed by people who have felt muted by the system.
The new code will take effect in December, and will allow victims to personally explain to a defendant the impact of their crime .
Under the new rules, victims will be advised of their entitlement and be automatically referred to a victim’s service by police.
Karen Edwards, mother of murdered Becky Godden-Edwards, says the outcome of the trial of Christopher Halliwell could have been different had she been given the opportunity to speak to him in court.
After the trial she wrote him a letter begging him to confess to what he had done.
“Sitting in front of me was a man who had taken my daughter’s life, but I felt like I had no rights,” she said.
“It seems a lot of human rights law favours the criminal, and this is going some way to redressing the balance.
“At the moment you have the right to do an impact statement, but you have to keep it short. If you have a judge with a heart they would take your thoughts into consideration a bit more. It is their job to see both sides of the story.
“I think if I had had the chance to speak out it may have been a different outcome. When you think I was told I would be in contempt of court for as much as looking at Halliwell, if I had been able to speak to him directly it would have been very different.”
While not everyone will necessarily use the new code, Karen thinks having the option is essential.
“If they have written a statement that is what they should be allowed to read,” she said.
“It is like if you read a eulogy at a funeral. That comes from the heart, and there needs to be someone there to catch you if you find it difficult or can’t do it.
“The law is not black and white. It is those grey areas that need to be addressed, and this brings it a step forward.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland worked as a barrister before entering politics, and believes the move will go some way to redressing the balance between victim and offender in the justice system.
“Judges are trained to look at the range of considerations, and we can rely on them to make proper decisions based on the evidence,” he said.
“The defendant has always had an advocate in court, but for a long time the victim has not had an equivalent voice. For some victims the prospect of this will help give them a degree of closure in some very traumatic cases.
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