Scots lead way over international aid for victims

David McKenna hopes to secure a worldwide approach. Picture: Joey Kelly
David McKenna hopes to secure a worldwide approach. Picture: Joey Kelly
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VICTIMS of crime across the world will receive greater support and have a better chance of justice if a Scots initiative wins support at an international summit next month.

David McKenna, of Victim Support Scotland, will attend the US-EU meeting, where he will push for the global approach to be adopted.

The meeting is at Dublin Castle on 14 June, and Victim Support Scotland is hopeful Barack Obama, who will be in Northern Ireland for the G8, may attend.

The group is calling for a minimum standard of support for victims of crime, whichever country they are in. That could include providing a hotel for the night, food, emergency cash and medical treatment.

Victim Support also wants victims to be able to report a crime in their home country, on their return, knowing it will be investigated fully in the country where it took place.

That measure is the basis of a directive already passed in the EU, which is now being written into law by member countries, including Scotland.

Meanwhile, US politicians are trying to amend their constitution to include a nationwide standard for victims’ rights for the first time. A resolution, has been introduced into the House of Representatives

Mr McKenna, who is also president of Victim Support Europe, believes that if the US and EU can align on victims’ rights, they can put pressure on other countries to follow suit.

Speaking about next month’s meeting, he said: “My understanding is that I will have an opportunity to put some proposals to them, to say that the relationship between the US and EU could be enhanced, with greater cooperation to support victims of crime.

“We should frame this as a world council and, I will say, it should be an international priority to encourage the provision of rights and services to victims of crime.”

He cited the Irish Tourist Assistance Service, which is funded partly by government and partly by the private sector, as the support model countries should adopt.

Motivated by a desire for Ireland to be seen as a safe place to visit, it offers accommodation, meals, embassy support, transport and emotional counselling, among other services to victims of crime from abroad.

Mr McKenna has had initial discussions with the Scottish Government about starting a similar scheme here, and he believes it could be a blueprint for countries around the world.

While Mr McKenna is driving the agenda in Europe, Will Marling, executive director of the National Organisation for Victim Assistance, is doing the same in the US. He said: “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”

Both Mr McKenna and Mr Marling have been speaking at the Victim Support Europe conference in Edinburgh, which was also attended by representatives from South Korea and Canada, as well as countries from across Europe.

Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who also spoke at the event, said he supported the campaign for a global standard of support for victims.