In January 2016, IARS hosted a two day work visit for the partners from Greece, Italy and Portugal in London. The event aimed to UK to facilitate the identification and exchange of good practices to enrich the training program that is to be developed with the necessary practical knowledge and experience of police experts whilst developing more victim focussed training for the participating police officers by sharing best practice from UK police forces and supporting agencies.
The event was opened by Lena Parmar from the Office of the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales who talked about how the commission promotes the interests of victims and witnesses, encourages good practice in their treatment, and regularly reviews the Code of Practice for Victims which sets out the service victims can expect to receive from criminal justice agencies.
Lena was followed by Nicky Phillipson (Head of Strategic Partnerships for Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner) and Steve Welby (Head of the Victim and Witness Hub in Cambridgeshire) who talked about their partnership working and presented the model used in Cambridgeshire for the individual assessment of victims. They gave an interesting talk about the challenges they had faced and how they overcame them when setting up their service. Cambridgeshire also work closely with “Women’s Aid in Peterborough” in relation to assessment and referral of victims of domestic violence. This is reflective of the multi-agency approach being increasingly adopted by innovative police forces in the UK. Tracy Foster (from Peterborough Women’s Aid) gave a presentation about how they integrate their services with the police service.
On the second day we were joined by Ben Harris from Hertfordshire Victims Services Commissioning Project. Hertfordshire are piloting a new innovative system for referrals and signposting for victims of crime needing support, which focuses on increased coordination and a wraparound approach of service delivery. The new approach is led by specially trained victim care officers and involves ensuring that all police officers are trained and skilled up to be more victim focused and make victims aware of their entitlements under the Victims Code.
We then heard from Gabrielle Browne, who gave a harrowing account of her experience as a victim in the criminal justice system. Gabrielle experienced major failings within the criminal justice process and drew on these experiences, supported by Ben Lyon (an ex-Metropolitan Police Officer) to discuss the key insights they have gathered to the key challenges are that police need to overcome in order to provide high quality assessment, referral and support to victims of crime, particularly those who have been victims of serious violent and sexual crime.
The event concluded with a presentation from DS Richard Isley from Cambridgeshire Police Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit who are a specialist investigations team of police officers and staff, which deals with domestic violence, harassment, stalking, honour based violence and female genital mutilation. Richard provided practical insights and advice about challenges the unit faces and best practices in interacting with and supporting victims.