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Victims Rights group meets at courthouse

   As an elected official, I am often asked to help with things that have nothing to do with my constitutional responsibility of acting as a representative.
    Thus I, along with Senator Stuart, Sheriff Balderson and others, were recently asked to speak at a candlelight vigil at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.  The vigil was in recognition of the victims of crime and was in direct response to recent unsolved violent crimes – including a murder.
    The event was organized by Katherine Cross, whose son died after complications from a shooting and botched home invasion.  Clearly, Ms. Cross is carrying the burden of a lost child, and she is channeling that sorrow into positive action by organizing the whole community.
    Those who were at the vigil were young and old, male and female, black and white.  Indeed, the cross section of the crowd represented a cross section of the county – proof that crime has no boundaries.
    Indeed, to me, the effect of a violent crime is like that of a rock thrown into a pond.  The initial splash might be the crime, but the waves and wake coming from that impact reverberate much farther than the splash itself.  The larger the rock, the worse the waves.  Similarly, the smoother the water – from smaller communities – means the wake has a disproportionate impact.
    In my opinion, Virginia does a pretty good job of helping victims of crime and actually has a Victims Bill of Rights.
   But that begs the question, who is the victim?  Virginia’s Victims Bill of Rights and most other victims’ rights laws recognize the following individuals as crime victims: anyone – spouses, children, parents and guardians -- suffering emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors. (The included misdemeanors are: assault and battery, assault and battery against a family or household member, stalking, sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, and driving while intoxicated.)
    To help to ensure that crime victims are informed of their rights, Virginia law actually requires that investigating law enforcement agencies provide victims with written information about their rights. Victims are given a telephone number to call in order to receive more information and assistance regarding their rights.
   Crime victims, and certain witnesses, have the right to request that certain information remain confidential. For example, a crime victim may request that courts, police departments, sheriff’s offices, commonwealth’s attorneys and defense attorneys not disclose, except among themselves their home address, telephone number, or place of employment.  This might be common sense but is not a rule that has always been followed.
   Similarly, in Virginia, victims have opportunities to make the courts aware of the full impact of the crime, are informed of their rights, receive authorized services, and are heard at all critical stages of the criminal justice process.  They are also informed of when the perpetrator of a crime is set to be released.
    And while all of this is worthy, it can never undue the crime that is done.  And, for that reason, I am always willing to travel to events like the one held at the courthouse – official duty or not.
   Delegate Albert Pollard, Jr., represents the 99th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates.  You may contact his office in Lancaster Courthouse at (804) 462-5940 or visit his website at www.albertpollard.com.

Delegate Albert C. Pollard, Jr.

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