Jackie Farquharson has been appointed as the new Victims' Champion for Dorset. This role ensures that Dorset Police provides victims with the support and information they need on their journey through the criminal justice system.
Jackie said: "I'm really excited to be starting in this role. A great deal of positive work has been undertaken to improve the support of victims and witnesses but there is still a disparity between victim code compliance and reality: my appointment reflects the recognition that more can be done.
"In the next month I will be establishing a Victims' Champion Forum and inviting key officers and staff to identify problems to delivering the Victims Code and to finding solutions."
The Commissioner was the first PCC nationally to sign a contract to locally commission the services of the independent charity, Victim Support.
The Commissioner holds regular surgeries with victims of crime in Dorset. Being a victim or witness of crime can be distressing and traumatic.
Through these surgeries, it became clear to Commissioner that improving support for victims was a priority. Since October 2014, the Commissioner has funded Victim Support services in Dorset. This facilitated the doubling of the size of the Victim Support team to ensure that the charity could be more effective than ever before.
From inception to the beginning of April 2017, the service received 36,750 referrals from Dorset Police, of which 25,857 identified needs. 1,462 children and young people received support from specially trained case workers, alongside 1,222 victims of domestic abuse and 4,171 families following burglaries.
In total, 9,140 hours of face to face and telephone support has been provided.
The service aims to increase victim satisfaction and importantly, the support offered now extends to businesses experiencing crime as well as individual victims.
If you’ve been affected by crime, call the Victim Support team in Dorset on 0300 3030 163.
The Chair of the Out of Court Disposals Scrutiny Panel has published an annual report summarising the work of the Panel in 2017.
Out of court disposals (OoCD) allow the police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offending which could more appropriately be resolved without a prosecution at court.
These cases are dealt with without the involvement of the courts. As such there is a public expectation that the police, who in such cases act as ‘judge and jury’, have some checks and balances in exercising that power and follow set guidelines and policies.
The OoCD Scrutiny Panel was set up to scrutinise Dorset Police’s use of such disposals, to ensure they are appropriate, proportionate, consistent with national and local policy, and consider the victims’ wishes where appropriate. It is one of several scrutiny panels administered by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to support the Police and Crime Commissioner in fulfilling his statutory responsibility to hold Dorset Police to account.
Dorset Police has seen multiple successes from a scheme funded by the OPCC, where high risk offenders voluntarily wear tags in a bid to stop re-offending.
The voluntary offender tagging scheme provides offenders with the opportunity to be fitted with a GPS tag for an agreed period while they are on probation or following their release from prison.
The tagging initiative is generally provided to offenders who have a disproportionately negative impact on communities from committing crimes such as theft and burglary. As well as deterring offending, in a few cases where bail conditions have been breached, evidence from the tags can help in court, saving the criminal justice system time and money.
It allows repeat offenders to build trust and prove their commitment to breaking the cycle of re-offending. The tag itself acts as a deterrent to stop temptation or to prevent their previous associates from trying to persuade them back into crime.
Imposing a tag as a condition of bail is currently not permitted. The early evidence indicates that this is an area worthy of further consideration.
Restorative Dorset is a new Dorset-wide service to enable victims of crimes, committed by adult offenders, to access restorative justice.
It focuses on the needs of victims, offenders and the involved community, as opposed to simply punishing the offender.
Restorative justice holds offenders directly accountable to their victims and can bring them together in a facilitated meeting. This gives victims an opportunity to inform offenders of the real impact of their crime.
Before the meeting, the offender must have accepted responsibility, and all participation is voluntary. Restorative justice can be used at any stage of a crime and for any type of crime, on a case-by-case’ basis.
5-9 February 2018 was national Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill marked the week with a visit to the Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre (DRCSC). The centre provides a range of services for victims of sexual violence and abuse. It has been running for almost 30 years and is part-funded by the PCC’s office.
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).
Helen Stevens, Service Manager at DRCSC, said: “It has been great to have the support of our PCC, Martyn Underhill in his visit to the centre during the national awareness week. He met staff and volunteers during his time with us. It has been a busy week for us as we have been involved in a number of different events across Dorset. We have been delighted to have so many different community groups and businesses want to partner with us this year, with the message ITSNOTOK.”
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 Police and Crime Commissioner visited Her Majesty’s Prison Portland.
The visit included a tour of the training and employment workshops aimed at rehabilitating offenders and helping them integrate back into society when they leave the prison.
He also viewed the Violence Reduction Hub and visited the security and evidence processing section.
The possibility of using the Collingwood Wing as a dedicated Veterans Hub is currently being explored.
The Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has awarded funding to Acts Fast, a Dorset-based charity.
At present, there are gaps in services and a lack of statutory support in place for non-abusive parents, carers and families following a disclosure of child sexual abuse. Acts Fast aims to fill this void, by providing a dedicated counselling service, as well as drop-in sessions run at locations in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorchester.
PCC Martyn Underhill said: “With OPCC funding, I am delighted that Acts Fast will continue to provide much-needed counselling and support services across Dorset. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than learning that your child has been sexually abused.
“Acts Fast is a unique charity that aims to alleviate the isolation and distress experienced by the non-abusive family, who should not be left feeling lost, struggling with the trauma while also trying to meet the needs of the victim/s. Acts Fast has stepped in many times, helping families in Dorset to pick up the pieces.”
The funding for Acts Fast has been awarded through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Victims’ Fund - a grant allocated to OPCCs to specifically be used to support organisations providing a service to victims of child sexual abuse.
The funding will support Acts Fast’s future sustainability, enabling the charity to employ an additional member of support staff to maximise service delivery and provide further resilience to meet demand.
Baroness Newlove visited domestic abuse victims and practitioners to use their knowledge and experience to provide feedback to the Government on the Domestic Abuse Bill Consultation.
Baroness Newlove said, “Its vital that the Victim’s voice is represented in the Consultation and I intend to do just that. I have been visiting Police and Crime Commissioners and Forces all over the country to find out about how they support victims of crime and with the Consultation happening, my particular focus for my recent visits has been on the victims of Domestic Abuse. Too many victims are suffering in silence. We need to give them the confidence to come forward and report and then be sure that we are able to support them in re-building their lives.”
PCC Martyn Underhill said, ‘ I would like to thank Baroness Newlove for coming to Dorset to find out more about what we are doing for victims of Domestic Abuse and I am proud and humbled by the work that’s being done across the county to provide that support. Its vital that we find new ways to focus attention on this issue and I think we have done just that with the ‘Cut Your Strings’ campaign, which raises awareness of controlling and coercive behaviour being a form of domestic abuse and I would encourage everyone to find out more about the campaign.”