LAST week Robert Buckland and I had the pleasure of welcoming the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to Swindon.

This was a formal visit to meet the County Court staff, and the Probation Team, both on the frontline dealing with criminals.

Whilst we have seen a welcome 9 per cent fall in crime in Swindon since 2010, there remains a real challenge with repeat offenders so it was fascinating to look at ways we are seeking to break the cycle of criminal dependency.

This will rely on a robust, challenging and supportive system for which the frontline staff can make a real difference. Swindon’s probation workers do a tough job and I know how impressed the Justice Secretary, Robert and I were with their dedication.

Understandably the focus in this area is on the criminal, but it is vital we don’t forget the victims and witnesses. For them the legal and court system often feels complex and bewildering.

Thankfully Victim Support is a national charity that works to offer support to those who have been affected by crime and are forced to go through the court process. They are a friendly and importantly independent ear.

The fantastic volunteers who help to run Victim Support are often key to ensuring that victims of crime feel that they can seek justice without fear.

This week I visited the Swindon branch to get a better understanding of how the group provides their vital support. Manager, Layla Allen and her team of twenty volunteers work tirelessly.

I was surprised that the volunteers cannot discuss the specific court case, but this would potentially prejudice the case. However they are able to focus on providing emotional support and explaining the process of the court system, days and weeks before they are due into court. This is particularly vital for vulnerable people and is often done in conjunction with other local support organisations such as the Women’s Refuge.

Victim Support receives much of its funding from the Ministry of Justice and I am delighted that the Government has committed to continue its support for Layla’s team until 2015. However the charity’s work also relies on the generosity of members of the public.

They are keen to raise their profile, recruit volunteers and fundraise; ensuring that it can reach everyone affected by crime. This year, Victim Support celebrates its 40th birthday and I can think of no better present than for the people of Swindon to back this fantastic and vital public service. We have a fantastic Swindon team and myself and Robert have offered our full support.