Double ordeal

THE sentencing of evil killer Levi Bellfield to an unprecedented second whole-life jail term for the murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler should have brought some measure of relief to the family.

But they made clear yesterday that they have also become victims themselves as her father Bob stood on the steps of the Old Bailey to say the family had paid “too high a price” for his conviction, while her sister Gemma said the way her parents were questioned in court made them seem like criminals.

Nine years on, they have paid a double price for the murder of the teenager after first losing their daughter and then reliving their grief during the trial and having their personal lives picked over by Bellfield’s defence team amid futher suggestions Milly had been deeply unhappy at home.

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Their ordeal was indeed appalling – and it must raise serious issues for the justice system.

For years, politicians of all colours have said they want to give more weight to victims in a system which appears to put the rights of criminals first - and yet nothing changes.

It would be a shocking indictment if the cruel treatment faced by the Dowlers discouraged victims or witnesses from giving evidence themselves or even reporting crimes in the first place.

Police, prosecutors and the trial judge yesterday paid tribute to the family’s courage during the case but many will feel they have suffered far too much.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, was right when he said the trial had raised “fundamental questions” about the treatment of victims and witnesses in the court process.

The Ministry of Justice is carrying out a review into all aspects of victim support.

It would be a national disgrace if justice was denied, not because of the evidence, but due to the legal system itself.