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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 16 April 2007

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VICTIM Support Merseyside says falling volunteer numbers could soon lead to a reduced service for victims and witnesses of crime in Merseyside.

Our Team Leaders based in Anfield, Allerton, Bootle, St. Helen’s, Kirkby, Southport and on the Wirral, who all lead a team of staff and volunteers as well as the local Central Office, based in the West Everton Community Centre, are launching an appeal and we must recruit as many volunteers as we can to continue to provide help and information to local people.

“We’re faced with a real shortage, and we’re concerned that this could seriously affect our service for victims and witnesses. Our work is very important, so we want to get more people involved at Victim Support. Last year alone, our staff and volunteers have helped over 50,000 people cope with the effects of crime.”
says Deputy Chief Executive, Gillian McKinnon.

Volunteers offer emotional support, information and practical help to victims of crime, whether or not they have reported the crime to the police and regardless of when it happened. Nationally, Victim Support’s local branches in England and Wales offer their free and confidential services to around 1.4 million people every year.

“Training is provided and the work is very varied, rewarding and sometimes stressful, so we want to hear from people who are non-judgmental, patient and understanding. We’re very keen to hear from people of all ages and backgrounds who would like to join the team.”
says Deputy Chief Executive, Gillian McKinnon.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Victim Support Merseyside is asked to call Central Administration on 0151 298 2848 for more information.

Letters to editor:- "The public interest should have no price tag"

"ON 11 April 2007, the servicemen who told rather than sold the story of their incarceration in Iran have more integrity than Defence Minister Des Browne, now desperately trying to hold back the floodgates against Fleet Street can't.

If Vice-Admiral Adrian John was prepared to capitulate at the mere sight of a sea of Fleet Street cheque books, and the Defence Minister lacked the courage to intervene, it is small wonder that pundits from Teesside to Tehran are having a field day at their expense.

The public interest may be served by allowing service personnel to tell their story outside the confines of stage-managed media events (in Iran and the UK) but when they do it for money their motive become as suspect as those of their superiors. If information is genuinely in the public interest it should have no price-tag. Buying an ‘exclusive’ is the antithesis of press freedom.

The motives of the media are transparent at least: milking the most of every opportunity to make money – even if that does include turning on anyone willing to pocket their offers of cash for confessions, or firing off salvos against anyone who challenges their hypocrisy.

Murdoch’s Times (10/4/07) rails against this ‘sanctioning (of) sensationalism’, for example, while its sister paper The Sun titillates readers with a tawdry front page splash: ‘Faye: My Ordeal - I feared being raped by Iranians… stripped to knickers in a dingy cell’.

This may be just another PR fiasco among many that have littered the Bush/Blair adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also signals abroad the extent to which the media in the UK now exert an influence over public polity. Political leaders have demonstrated a craven willingness to pander to the media for cheap electoral advantage, so their criticisms are scorned.

And at the heart of the matter is the dominance of the cheque-book. In the media marketplace, anyone and everyone now has their price – from disgraced Cabinet Ministers to captured marines. A precedent has been set from which it will be hard to pull back. Having once bought into such Mephistophelian deals, a new breed of military PR minders will be needed to ‘control’ the stories that are allowed out. However you can rest assured that the Official Secrets Act will still be used as a weapon against journalists who prefer to delve without the aid of a cash dispenser.

As the marines have quickly learned to their cost, cheque-book journalism leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Inevitably the highest bids were to the only woman and the youngest man, and some cash offers have been withdrawn. Now watch for rubbishing stories in rival newspapers from colleagues and acquaintances. Meanwhile the proprietors are laughing all the way to the bank."
Mike Jempson, Director, The MediaWise Trust

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