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NATIONAL VICTIMS’ ASSOCIATION Formerly North of England Victims’ Association Reg Charity No 1040883

P O Box 111 Jarrow Tyne & Wear NE32 5TE United Kingdom Tel & Fax : 0191 423 2210 Website: www.victimsfirst.co.uk Email : info@victimsfirst.co.uk

Vernon Coaker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London. SW1P 4DF. Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Dear Vernon, At our annual conference on 21st June 2008 you promised to follow up the Prime Minister's refusal to acknowledge the letter from the bereaved families of 38 homicide victims. On 8th July 2008, at the News of the World event in Newcastle, you admitted that you had done nothing about the issue but promised to follow it up with the Prime Minister "first thing tomorrow morning" and get back to us with a response. Needless to say, we are very disappointed not to have heard anything from you on this issue, nor on the other issue you promised to pursue for us in June, funding for our 2009 conference. You said repeatedly at both events "judge me by what I do" and the scores of bereaved families who listened to you say those words are asking us for updates. As a matter of urgency, can you please confirm what the position is with both of these issues? I must inform you that several national media are also waiting for your response and that out of courtesy to you, we are not releasing details. However, the survival of our charity and the welfare of our members is of paramount importance to us and if you and/or the Prime Minister cannot or will not help these families, we will use the media to demonstrate our plight. Neil Atkinson and I met Maria Eagle on 29th July 2009 in London and were told that you controlled the finances which could be drawn for the benefit of our charity and it would be really appreciated if you could confirm how much money is available for such victim-related work and the criteria for awarding it. Yours sincerely,

David Hines Chairman

Patrons Lord Charles Falconer of Thoroton QC; Commander Dave Johnston (Metropolitan Police Retired); Rt Rev Bishop Ambrose Griffiths OSB (Retired) Past Patrons Rt Rev Bishop Kevin Dunn, Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle (Deceased); Lady Barbara Chapman OBE (Deceased)


NATIONAL VICTIMS’ ASSOCIATION Formerly North of England Victims’ Association Reg Charity No 1040883

P O Box 111 Jarrow Tyne & Wear NE32 5TE United Kingdom Tel & Fax : 0191 423 2210 Website: www.victimsfirst.co.uk Email : info@victimsfirst.co.uk

Vernon Coaker MP, Minister of State, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London. SW1P 4DF. Tuesday, 17 March 2009 Dear Vernon Thank you for your letter of 12th March 2009. It is sad that you have ignored the majority of our emails, letters and telephone messages over the past eight months or so, finally responding with this letter only after we posted onto You Tube, a video of you breaking your promises to all the bereaved families at our 2008 conference. You might remember saying to me, at the conference and later at a News of the World event in Newcastle, "call me any time David, keep in touch, I want to help." Well, I tried - countless times - and you didn't want to know. If the issues at stake weren't so tragic, it would be very funny but I have to tell you that I am knee-deep in letters from bereaved families, all demanding to know why you have reneged on your conference promises. Please remember that the people concerned are isolated, vulnerable, frightened and desperate for someone in the Government to take their concerns seriously. Every time they hear a Minister insult their intelligence by regurgitating the "we are putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system" propaganda, they feel even more disengaged. The really worrying thing, from the point of view of someone who has experienced the murder of a child, is that all those Ministers who spout this meaningless spin, actually believe it. May I please say that by personalising your letter, talking about me feeling the way I do, you insult all those bereaved families upon whose instructions I act. This is not about my feelings alone; it is about the feelings of hundreds of bereaved people who were led to believe that you were going to help their charity by attending and funding a conference in 2009. It is not David Hines taking a stand against you - it is all these families asking David Hines to communicate their feelings of betrayal and disgust to you. Your letter is a crude attempt to rewrite the history of your conference speech. For the record, you did NOT talk about the Homicide Victims Fund or encourage us to apply to the Fund. Had you done so, we would have pointed out that we were already fully aware of this paltry funding channel, having been the recipients of £25,000 towards the cost of a £48,000 respite programme the previous year. We would also have told you that we had already started to put together a bid for the next round of HVF funding for another respite programme. The meagre £30,985 (from our application for £48,725) awarded to us for respite work this year, had NOTHING whatsoever to do with you and it is outrageous that you seek to claim some credit for its award. The words "Homicide Victims Fund" were never mentioned at the conference and we believe that you know that. You may have been contemplating diverting a tiny proportion of the £164,000 a year "to help sex offenders reintegrate into society" which was announced in the same month as the conference, but that may be just wishful thinking on our part. What you did say, repeatedly - and there are more film clips ready for You Tube publication if this is disputed - was that there WOULD be another conference in 2009 and that you were Patrons Lord Charles Falconer of Thoroton QC; Commander Dave Johnston (Metropolitan Police Retired); Rt Rev Bishop Ambrose Griffiths OSB (Retired) Past Patrons Rt Rev Bishop Kevin Dunn, Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle (Deceased); Lady Barbara Chapman OBE (Deceased)


SURE you could help us with its funding. Over 100 people heard you say these words and it is insulting to suggest that your recollection is correct and that everyone else's is wrong. You followed up by saying "judge me by what I do, not by what I say...you can be the judge of whether I put my money where my mouth is." Unfortunately, you have now been judged and those bereaved families represented at the conference have concluded that you said whatever was required to get a few rounds of applause, then left without any intention of providing the help you had promised. Your letter states that you did not give a specific commitment to the issue of a 2009 conference and this is simply untrue. You will recall that there were three cameras shooting every word of everyone's speeches plus additional sound recording devices in front of each top table speaker. Please be assured that you did make specific assurances including the words, and I quote from the video tape: "There will be a conference." You mention Alan Campbell MP, your successor, but your promises to attend and fund a conference were not conditional upon your job title and, once again, I quote from the video tape: "Whether I'm promoted or sacked, I will definitely be here next year." You also mention "other examples of progress more generally" and I would be grateful if you could reveal what these are, because bereaved families feel that matters are now worse than ever. The Victims Champion is also mentioned but the overwhelming feeling amongst the families at our 2008 conference and 2009 memorial service is that Sara, a beneficiary of substantial NVA support over some years, no longer speaks either to or for the majority of families bereaved through homicide. Since her Government appointment, there have been countless photo opportunities with all the Ministers she previously bitterly criticised, plus mind-numbingly shallow media stories of entertaining teenagers to pizza in her office - whilst those bereaved through murder and manslaughter are quite literally screaming out for help. Having originally pledged our love and support for Sara in her new job, we have now abandoned her as a resource for bereaved families. With the exception of one meaningless email, she has turned her back on her former friends in grief, even blocking emails from some fellow victims. Despite her brief to "listen to victims", when emails are sent to her official email address, automated responses are generated informing senders that "Sara will not be taking on individual cases." If she is not listening to individual victims or the UK's largest and longest established specialist homicide support charity, and is deliberately blocking emails from individuals who may be asking questions deemed to be inconvenient, who on earth IS she listening to? Two of her twelve months in post have already elapsed and all those bereaved families we represent have not heard one word of support from her. As we cannot have a conference this year, we are to hold a special meeting on Saturday 11 July 2009 at The Little Haven Hotel in South Shields. We would like to take you up on your offer of attending and we have also invited Alan Campbell and Sara Payne amongst others. We anticipate that all those members present at last year's conference will attend and it will be an ideal opportunity for you to explain why they were wrong to completely misinterpret your promises. For the record, the contents of this letter are the results of a telephone and email consultation with several bereaved families today and NVA now has signed authorisations to speak on behalf of 121 bereaved families. Yours sincerely

David Hines Chairman cc Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Alan Campbell MP, Maria Eagle MP, Lord Falconer, Sara Payne, Stephen Hepburn MP

Coaker letters  

Correspondence between NVA and Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker MP on the subject of his broken promises to the bereaved families at the 2...

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