A NEW £1.2 million service to bring together agencies in support of families bereaved by murder aims to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, the Justice Secretary has claimed.

The Support for Families Bereaved by Crime service has been developed after a report from charity The Moira Fund showed families in Scotland were being let down by a lack of provision.

Bea Jones, mother of Moira Jones, who was murdered in Queen's Park in 2008, said the service intends to make victims feel "cared for at the very worst time of their lives."

The Moira Fund was set up in Moira's memory to support families bereaved by murder or culpable homicide after Mrs Jones recognised a gap in the system following the loss of her daughter.

Mrs Jones said: "I am very pleased to be here for the launch of the new service which is now up and running - pleased for the sake of those heart-broken, traumatised Scottish families who need it now and those who will need it in the future.

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"It has been a privilege for The Moira Fund to work alongside the Scottish Government, Victim Support Scotland, the Crown Office and Police Scotland to establish this service and ensure that every aspect of necessary support has been covered.

"Strong links are in place to ensure a streamlined system of help is available to desperate families who need much support and will surely benefit from feeling cared for at the very worst time of their lives."

Families accessing the service, delivered by the charity Victim Support Scotland, will have a dedicated support worker who will provide assistance with immediate practical tasks such as going to court, accessing specialist services including counselling, arranging funerals, and handling the media and finances.

As a result of the Moira Fund report to the Scottish Government in 2017, Victim Support Scotland was awarded £1.2 million over three years until the end of March 2021 by the Government to establish the new service.

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: "I am pleased we have reached this point in the journey of delivering this much needed service to families across Scotland.

"What’s been critical in the development phase is involving people like Bea, and others, who have lived through difficult and traumatic experiences.

"This has allowed us to understand their experiences and ultimately helped us to start the process of shaping better services for the future."

The service is free and family members can access support via a Police Scotland Family Liaison Officer.

Although the service is only available to immediate family, wider family members and friends can still access Victim Support Scotland’s other support services by self-referral.

Victim Support Scotland said the new service forms part of a movement across Scotland to take on a ‘victim-centred’ approach to streamline points of contact, improve information flow and ensure victims of crime feel supported through the criminal justice system.

This will reduce the need for victims to have to retell their story to several different organisations as they seek help.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, said: "We want to ensure that victims’ interests are at the heart of our criminal justice system and that it is fair, accessible and efficient for all.

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"We listened when victims’ families told us that they had faced difficulties in accessing the support that was available to them and that is why we have provided £1.2m funding to Victim Support Scotland to deliver this free and confidential new service.

"It will ensure that all families affected by homicide have a dedicated case worker to provide support and information at every stage of the criminal justice process, helping to reduce distress and the potential for re-traumatisation."

For further details on the service see: www.victimsupport.scot/bereaved-by-crime