‘Victims should be at the heart of our system’

The county’s victims’ commissioner has urged people to engage with her consultation as she seeks to get the justice system to put victims first.

Angela Sarkis was appointed last month by police commissioner Adam Simmonds. The 58-year-old has a wealth of experience at the helm of voluntary organisations specialising in vulnerable people.

Police Victims' Commissioner Angela Sarkis

Police Victims' Commissioner Angela Sarkis

She said: “We are really trying to put victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system. They often feel they are not respected or listened to. It’s a question of trying to reverse all that.

“If they want support they should know where they can go to get that.

“I would love to think in five years’ time a restorative justice programme was part and parcel of sentences given to offenders.

“If it all works, wouldn’t it be great if Northamptonshire is recognised as a county which takes victims seriously?

She said victims of crime often felt abandoned, with long delays in the legal process often adding to their distress. She added: “A six-month wait is not normal for a victim.

“It’s all part of changing the culture of how we perceive crime and offenders. At the end of all this victims will feel they are at the heart of the criminal justice system and not an afterthought.”

Mrs Sarkis insisted her role would lead to meaningful change, saying: “It’s really important the commission has the clout to make recommendations. As an independent person coming in, I feel able to present the findings as I see them.”

But she also said people had to make their voices heard in order to ensure the recommendations she will present to Mr Simmonds in September are appropriate.

“They need to get involved and contact us,” she said. “I want to hear from people who don’t have much confidence that things can change.

“The public will, in my view, sign up to this and engage with it. If they don’t feel engaged I will think I have failed. I want to feel what I have done has made a difference.”

Take part

You can take part in the consultation by filling in the survey at www.victims-voice.org.uk.

You can also request a postal survey by emailing contact@victims-voice.org.uk or by writing to Freepost RTCH-XSCX-XSAH, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission, Wootton Hall, Northampton, NN4 0JQ.

Victim Support will also be collecting feedback.

You can call the charity on 0300 303 1947.

The consultation is running until Friday, July 5.