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Sexual Violence and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week 2023

As part of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, I want to talk about all the good work that my office commissions on behalf of the people of Dorset and all the help and assistance that is provided by our commissioning partners to those who have experienced stalking, harassment, sexual violence, and domestic abuse.

I hope to raise awareness of the support available to victims across Dorset by sharing the stories of those that have accessed the services, as well as sharing more information from the service providers themselves.

You can read more about one route of support available in Dorset, Victim Services, in a previous guest blog here.

Over the next few weeks, I will be handing over this platform to allow partners to share with you the work they do. This month I have invited STARS Dorset to talk about their service and the work they do to ensure that victims across Dorset have the support they need no matter their age, gender or when the abuse occurred.

We will also hear from a survivor of sexual abuse who will share how working with Restorative Justice has helped her find closure and move on from what happened.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to reassure you of my commitment to Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). VAWG is a key theme within my Police and Crime Plan.

In Dorset we have Op Vigilant that sees uniformed and plain clothes officers out and about in the busiest areas of Weymouth and Bournemouth, ensuring that vulnerable people are not targeted on their night out.

Dorset is also now one of 14 expansion forces that are part of Op Soteria Bluestone, a national collaboration between criminal justice practitioners and a coalition of the most qualified and talented academics in their fields. The overarching aim is to develop a new operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual assault cases. As part of this operation a survey is currently being conducted to gauge the current experience of victim-survivors through the police process.

Following the launch of the Government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy last year, and in light of the revelation regarding David Carrick, I have issued a formal challenge to the Chief Constable. In Dorset we have had two very different recent cases: firstly, the misconduct hearing of a supervisor who had abused his position of trust within the organisation to pursue inappropriate relationships with those who reported directly to him. Had he not resigned he would have been dismissed.

And, secondly, the recent charging of eight sexual offences by a serving officer, which is a live case, so I will refrain from commenting on it any further. Both give rise to concerns that the public will, rightly, want reassurance on.

I have therefore issued the Chief Constable with a formal challenge letter, designed to clearly set out Dorset Police’s current position and to outline the work underway to eliminate police-perpetrated abuse and maintain the highest possible professional standards.

I firmly believe that our residents and communities should have confidence in their police service and the scrutiny provided not only by the HMICFRS, but Commissioners and the independent scrutiny panels they administer across the country, is vital if public trust and confidence is to develop and grow.

I can assure you that unprofessional or unethical behaviour will be dealt with robustly and when standards fall below expectations, the Force will take swift action.

Here in Dorset, we talk about the ‘relentless pursuit of criminals’ - that priority doesn’t just apply to the outside world – it directly applies to all officers and all staff. Let me be crystal clear - those who commit crime will be pursued, will be caught, will be charged, and will be taken to court and justice will be served.

There is absolutely no place in Dorset or any other police service for such people.

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