Crime victims' chance to tell story

RESIDENTS living in areas blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour like parts of the Gainsborough estate in Ipswich could be given the chance to tell courts about their experiences, a government minister pledged today.

RESIDENTS living in areas blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour like parts of the Gainsborough estate in Ipswich could be given the chance to tell courts about their experiences, a government minister pledged today.

Harriet Harman, who is number two in the Department of Constitutional Affairs, was speaking after sitting in on cases at Ipswich County Court.

She said the government was determined that courts should take into account the impact of crimes whether on an individual or on an area.

She said: “If there are a series of incidents on an estate or in a village that makes life more uncomfortable for the residents, then we would like to introduce the idea of an area impact statement that magistrates or judges could hear before dealing with the case.


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“We have already introduced victim impact statements - which gives an individual the chance to explain to the court the impact of the offence - but there is at present no mechanism for the community as a whole to have any input to cases.

“In the future it might be possible for the parish council or residents' association to explain to the court the impact of this kind of behaviour.”

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Ms Harman said the Government would like to see more continuity between court hearings to avoid situations such as that with repeat offender Mark Stagg who was repeatedly given a “last chance” after breaching an ASBO before finally being caged earlier this month.

She said: “If we had the same magistrates in the court who know the impact people like this are having on the area he might have been locked up earlier - we want to avoid the situation where those on the bench do not really understand the impact of the behaviour they are dealing with.”

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LEADING Labour MP Harriet Harman visited party members in Ipswich to give them a boost before next May's local government elections.

But the legal affairs' minister was refusing to be drawn on her own plans to stand for the deputy leadership of the party.

She visited the town for a private fund-raising dinner with party members at the Maharani restaurant in Norwich Road, and then met party members at the Foxhall Road Day Centre.

Ms Harman was reluctant to discuss her bid for the Labour deputy leadership when John Prescott stands down at the same time as Prime Minister Tony Blair.

She said: “I am here to support the local party in the elections we know are happening in May next year.

“I am not going to talk about the deputy leadership which will fall vacant at some time in the future - but the date is still not known.”

She said Labour would be seeking to consolidate its position in next year's borough elections. It is currently in opposition having lost its majority at the Town Hall back in 2004.

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