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Thursday, 08 May 2014

New Northern Ireland Unit to support victims of crime

Written by The Editorial Team

A single point of contact for victims of crime in Northern Ireland has been launched.

The Victim and Witness Care Unit (VWCU) will help 160,000 people a year using 57 case officers and will provide information about the progress of cases and referrals to other services for further support.

A case officer will tell them when police have completed an investigation and notify them when a decision is taken whether to prosecute and when court hearings are concluded.

Around 23,000 victims a year will be dealt with from bases in Belfast and Derry.

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC (pictured) said: "It creates a single point of contact within the criminal justice system, providing a clear focus for and on victims and witnesses."

"The establishment of the VWCU is a joint initiative between PPS (Public Prosecution Service) and PSNI to ensure victims and witnesses receive a first class service and recognises the significant role they play in the justice system."

Its primary function is to keep victims and witnesses fully informed of progress in their case. Mr McGrory added: "The unit will communicate with them by their preferred means of contact, providing timely and relevant information."

It will also assess their individual needs and, where appropriate, offer access to additional services.

Justice minister David Ford said: "The new unit is a major part of our response to feedback from victims and is already making a real, practical difference to people's lives."

It has been running in pilot form since November 2012.

Mr Ford added: "It is an excellent example of the value of working in partnership with effective collaboration working between the PPS and the police service, supported by staff from Victim Support NI."