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Putting victims at the heart of policing

For this newsletter, I would like to handover to Becky Chaplain, area manager for Victim Support across Dorset, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. Within her role at Victim Support, a service my office commission in Dorset, Becky has also joined our new VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Improvement Panel, bringing a wealth of experience to the table in a bid to provide vital learning opportunities and feedback for Dorset Police.

The Panel will be reviewing the work of Dorset Police’s VAWG agenda, helping my office to scrutinise the work of the force. They will help to ensure Dorset Police deliver the most effective and compassionate service for victims of VAWG-related incidents, through reviewing samples of police contacts with VAWG victims. The panel will then provide feedback to ensure learning takes place and best practice is implemented.

In this blog, Becky will detail the importance of putting victims at the heart of criminal justice and has a vital message for women and girls during the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

"At Victim Support we offer tailored 1-2-1 support led by the needs of each victim who has been affected by crime. We support victims of all crimes, including gender-based offences like violence, sexual assault, and harassment. Our core value is to be the voice of the victim. We are on their side.

If victims don’t feel part of the justice process, it goes without saying they’re not going to feel like the process works for them. But really, they should be at the heart of everything. That is why an initiative like the VAWG Improvement Panel will go some way towards helping people to understand what’s important to victims, as well as what needs to be considered when dealing with them. I’m pleased to see the PCC pushing this focus, it’s a step in the right direction.

One thing I hope the VAWG Improvement Panel will help to bring about is meaningful change. Feedback to all parties involved will be key, but from the perspective of victims, it will help them to feel their voices have been heard. That’s one of the things we know victims really struggle with, feeling like they don’t have a voice in the justice process.

The VAWG Improvement Panel looks at policing practices to ensure they are considering the needs of victims in their decision making. The meetings offer a chance to review calls and will provide an opportunity for expert voices from the sector to inform practice with the police. It will allow us to look at issues in more depth and feedback what works and what doesn’t.

The key component with any VAWG offence is that fear of not believed. Sadly, that’s often compounded by some of the people that victims deal with within the justice process. This impact is felt further if criminal charges are not taken forward or proper information not passed onto the victim about why this is. That’s why during this campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, I would like to reiterate to any victims that they can talk to us confidentially and independently of the police. And I would reassure them they will be believed. No-one at Victim Support is here to judge you or question your story, you can tell us in confidence what has happened to you, and we’ll try and work with you to find ways to help you cope and move on.

We’re always on the side of victims. When they feel they’re not supported by the justice system, or targeted on social media or otherwise, we’re always there for them. We know the amount of people we reach just scratches the surface. There are so many people who haven’t found a way to breakthrough. So, please if you need help, just get in touch. We’re here for you."

Thank you to Becky for highlighting the importance of putting victims at the heart of policing. Since I came to office, I have pledged to tackle violence against women and girls as part of my Police and Crime Plan priority to fight violent crime and high harm. This includes ensuring that victims of rape and serious sexual assaults are provided with the care and support they need, but also that all victims have the confidence to report these crimes to the police. I am determined to ensure that victims are at the centre of policing in Dorset and are given the support that works best for them.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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