Families from all over the country whose lives have been devastated by murders say they have been left “disappointed” after a Government minister declined an invitation to attend a South Tyneside-based charity’s annual conference.
Many relatives travelled to the event, organised by the National Victims’ Association, which took place at the Little Haven Hotel, South Shields on Saturday.
The event – now in its 15th year – gives families affected by murder or manslaughter the chance to put their views to policy makers on where they feel the justice system is going wrong for victims.
Neither Victims Minister Helen Grant or Victims Commissioner Helen Newlove could find space for the event in their diaries.
David Hines, head of services and development and founder of the charity, told delegates: “I don’t want to sound too critical, but it’s disappointing that those who are supposed to be representing us, aren’t here.
“We invite these people but, every year, we seem to find it difficult to get anyone to travel outside of London.”
The event was attended by representatives from Durham Constabulary and the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson.
The meeting heard from Shona Mullen from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Association and Kate Whaley - head of services and development of national group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression based in Southern England – who spoke of a new European Directive which will put in place the minimum standards of service victims should receive if they fall victim to a crime.
It is understood the EU directive will come into effect by November 2015.
Mrs Whaley said: “One of the most exciting things for us, as victims, is the move in Europe to deliver legislative victims rights.
“A series of discussions were started around four years ago with European member states.
“The directive means all member states will have to comply with legislations which sets out minimum standards but we are hoping that we will give a bit more than what Europe is telling us.”
Victims say legislation is needed to to give them more support, more information about the cases and better access to victim support services.