News: New Marine Corps legal program defends victims’ rights
Story by Lance Cpl. Joshua Grant
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - The Victims Legal Counsel Organization is a new program mandated by the Secretary of Defense to all military branches to provide legal representation, advice and protection of all victims’ rights.
VLCO was implemented through Department of Defense instruction 1030.2 to protect all victims of any crimes under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and took effect Nov. 1. The VLCO is comprised of military attorneys with sexual assault response training, tasked with defending the rights of victims in all stages of the legal process.
“The victims often have a misconception that because we are Marines and we work for the government, we automatically represent it, but it’s not true,” said Maj. Richard Cloninger, regional victims’ legal counsel.
“VLCO is a completely independent organization,” said Cloninger. “We are lawyers, but we represent the victim. We have separate reporting chains than the prosecutors.”
Cloninger added the mission of the VLCO is the victims, and the program is completely confidential, so victims can feel safe and assured what is discussed remains private.
“The program gives a voice to the victims,” said Cloninger. “It provides them with someone to represent them, and only them, and ensure their best interest and their opinion is heard.”
The VLCO is available to victims in every stage of their trial from investigative to interview, pre-trial, trial and post-trial, said Cloninger.
The program is also designed to supplement, but not replace, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program as well as Family Advocacy Program, sexual assault response coordinators and uniformed victim advocates and civilian victim advocates.
Cloninger added, the victim's case will remain restricted if the VLCO is contacted first, but encourages them to contact other victims programs such as their UVA.
“It’s a way for them to talk to someone who can be there for them, listen to their questions and support their needs from a legal perspective,” said Marie Brodie, sexual assault response coordinator for Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “It’s not about the case or winning or losing, it’s about what type of support and representation the victim needs.”
The VLCO is available to all active-duty service members, spouses, retired and any others qualified to receive legal assistance.
For more information on the Camp Lejeune VLCO, contact 451-8519.
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