In his capacity as chair of the Independent Custody Visiting Association, the Commissioner wrote to the Home Office, the Home Affairs Select Committee and local MPs to call for further scrutiny, research and guidance before the further roll out of spit guards to frontline officers.
Having served as a police officer, the Commissioner has experienced the vile act of spitting and biting first hand. The principle that police officers and staff should not be spat at is beyond dispute; but what remains open to question is whether spit guards are the best method through which to ensure that this is effectively and safely achieved.
Questions raised included:
•What alternatives are available?
•What measures are in place to ensure appropriate use with regards to vulnerable detainees?
•How should officers alter tactics between a detainee spitting at the point of arrest and a person spitting in custody?
•Why are different forces using different equipment?
•Could tougher sentencing be considered to act as a stronger deterrent to spitting?
•What do other organisations that face such a threat do?
•Why are spit guards not also used in the NHS, Prison Service or Europe?
The Commissioner backed the campaign for legislative change to make sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools in England.
Acting upon the advice of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and others, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening confirmed in March 2017 that this education will be put on a statutory footing by 2018.
Previously, schools that are not under local authority control - academies, free schools and private schools, of which Dorset has many - have not been obligated to teach sex and relationship education. Children attending schools that are under local authority control need only receive biology lessons to tick the box.
What this means in practice is that children’s conceptions of ‘normal’ relationships are being shaped, or perhaps misshaped, by what they experience at home, what they see online and what their peers deem to be acceptable.
This leaves children in a vulnerable position. Where child sexual abuse occurs, the perpetrators in 90% of cases are known to the victim and over half are family members.
The evidence demonstrates that pupils that receive PSHE lessons are more likely to report abuse and have consenting relationships. This is why we must do all we can to ensure children recognise inappropriate relationships as soon as they begin to develop and get the support and early intervention they need.
The Home Office launched a new #knifefree campaign to reduce knife crime among young people on 23 March 2018.
We’re seeing an upward trend in offences involving a knife or sharp instrument being recorded by police nationally. While overall numbers locally are low, we must get to grips with the issue.
PCC Martyn Underhill, who has previously supported local charities to educate young people around the risks of carrying bladed weapons, issued a blog explaining his views on the matter.
He said: "While we are fortunate to live in a county infrequently affected by knife crime, a significant proportion of the incidents we do see are related to domestic abuse.
"We need to change mind-sets on a number of levels and learn from the successes seen in Scotland where knife crime is viewed through a public health lens, which recognises that we must change attitudes towards violence more generally."
For the Commissioner's full views, click to read his blog piece.
In February 2018, the PCC marked National Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week with a visit to the Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre (DRCSC).
DRCSC began in the late eighties as a helpline for women and girls, but has evolved into a centre providing services to men, women, children and young people. It has had to develop in order to meet increasing demand, and OPCC funding has recently been secured for another Children and Young Person’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA).
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors offer practical and emotional support to individuals who have been affected by sexual violence, and their families. They offer advice on issues such as criminal justice procedures, witness statements, accessing special measures and informing victims about the progress of their case. They will assist in building a support network for individuals, including signposting family members to appropriate services and attending meetings with other agencies including GPs or housing.
PCC Martyn Underhill continued: “I am passionate about this area, so I was pleased when DRCSC approached my office to fund this post as the need is clearly there. Demand is increasing, particularly as we work to educate young people on healthy relationships and consent while also raising awareness of the support services available.”
If you have experienced sexual violence, or if you know someone who has, there are many organisations that can help. Visit www.dorsetforyou.com/dvahelp for details, or call Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre on 01202 308855 or The Shores on 01202 552056. In an emergency – if a crime is in progress or life is in danger – please dial 999.
The Department for Transport issued Maritime 2025, a consultation on the long term strategy for the maritime sector.
Security and resilience was one theme of the call for evidence and presented the opportunity for the Police and Crime Commissioner to share his views on what can be done to improve maritime security.
Martyn Underhill took the opportunity to lobby further for enhanced small port security and highlight innovations such as underwater drones, Capitainerie schemes and a National Coastal Network.
The Police and Crime Commissioner's commissioning of the You First Stalking Clinic has been identified as best practice in a report by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust published a report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Two Years On, on the local response to stalking and harassment. It highlighted Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner as an example of best practice for commissioning a specialist service for victims of stalking.
The Police and Crime Commissioner funded the You First Stalking Clinic to deliver a coordinated response to stalking across Dorset by working with police, probation, mental health and other services.
Figures also show Dorset Police as well above average in thier group for the number of recorded cases. This indicates good awareness and accurate crime recording for these types of crimes in Dorset.
Working with the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) to better understand domestic abuse issues in rural areas.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Domestic abuse can affect anyone – whether they live in the smallest village or the biggest city – but sadly not enough is known nationally about the experiences of those living in rural areas. The National Rural Crime Network is now running the biggest ever survey which gives residents the chance to have their say and influence national policy.
“I would encourage anyone to take part in the survey as it is vital we continue to work hard to find out more about how services can be improved to help people who have been affected by this damaging crime.”
PCC blogs on the issue of knife crime and how to respond to it.
Stories about knife crime have become a depressingly frequent fixture in the national media.
It seems like it has become impossible to turn on the national news without hearing about a young life cut tragically short.
Families are ripped apart, friends and communities left devastated, often seemingly over some petty squabble that has escalated beyond all reasonable measure...
County lines is a national issue that affects forces across England and Wales, including our own. The term ‘county lines’ refers to gangs in major cities supplying drugs to other parts of the UK, usually using dedicated phone lines to facilitate it.
The gangs target and exploit some of the most vulnerable in our communities: those who are young; those who are suffering from poor mental health or addiction; those who have already suffered some form of abuse in the past.
It can have a devastating impact on the victims. Those who are coerced into helping the gangs move drugs around the country might be subjected to extreme violence or blackmail. They may feel that they have lost control of their lives and their homes. Gangs will sometimes move into a victim’s home to use it as a local base for dealing drugs. This is known as cuckooing. County lines ruins lives...
The PCC and Dorset Police raise awareness about how public transport staff and other members of the public can help spot the signs of criminal exploitation in our communities.
Martyn Underhill said: “County lines is a problem which ruins lives. Not only does it bring the scourge of drug dealing into our towns, but the gangs who operate these networks are absolutely ruthless in the way they exploit young and vulnerable people.
“It’s a growing problem, and one the police simply cannot tackle on their own. We need the support of everyone who cares about our communities, and that’s why we’re asking members of the public to be our eyes and ears and to contact the police if they see anything that doesn’t look right.
“The information they provide could help bring gang members to justice and turn around the lives of those young people they have coerced into working for them.”
Former rough sleepers are learning skills needed to get into work by creating pieces of garden furniture thanks to a new project funded by the OPCC.
The Safer Dorset Fund has funded two projects. The Second Half scheme, organised by Bournemouth Christians Alongside Rough Sleepers, trains former rough sleepers in skills such as woodwork and catering.
Meanwhile, the web-based Street Support system, launched by the Bournemouth Homelessness Action Collaborative, contains information for people who need to find help, as well for those who want to volunteer, donate, or who have spotted rough sleepers but are not sure what to tell them.