A NEW programme aimed at putting victims first in the criminal justice system has been launched in Avon and Somerset.

Police, the area's police and crime commissioner, probation service and other organisations said they would be working together to transform the service.

They said victims currently often found the criminal justice system confusing, complex and daunting. Sometimes the experience was so overwhelming that they lacked the confidence to support a case in court.

Now Natalie Steadman has been appointed to help make sure victims get the support they need when they look for help.

Avon and Somerset's assistant chief constable, Dave Hayler, said: "We want to take a new look at how victims interact with the criminal justice system to make sure their experience is a seamless and supportive one.

"This will include an honest, comprehensive look at what we do now and how we can work better with our partners, both within the criminal justice services and beyond to improve what we offer victims in the future.

"Natalie Steadman already works for us in a safeguarding role and this will stand her in good stead as she gets to grips with the new role."

Mr Hayler said her role, along with a small team, was to place victims "at the heart of what we do" and implement a new victim referral system.

He said: "Fundamentally, it's about ensuring victims are properly supported and treated."

Sue Mountstevens, the Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner, said: "I am determined that we are going to make a real difference in giving victims a much better voice and appointing Natalie is only the first step in making fundamental changes to services for victims.

Ms Steadman, who will take up her new role in February, said: "The role of victims within the criminal justice process is something I feel strongly about and I'm excited to be given the chance to help shape their experience.

"My priority will be to understand the gaps in the service we currently provide and look at what we can do better.

"Our role should be to help victims cope with and recover from the effects of crime. Our supportive role should begin as soon as someone calls 101 or 999 and from there we will be with them every step of the way through the criminal justice process.

"With the probation service and other agencies, we'll be working together to make sure this happens."