Putting victims and witnesses first and tackling reoffending

Agencies from across Dorset came together to discuss the third pillar of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill’s Police & Crime Plan, supporting witnesses, victims and reducing reoffending, at the latest ‘ask the experts’ event. 

Supported by more than 91% of those surveyed, this Plan priority focuses on ensuring that victims and witnesses are provided with the best possible service, increasing their confidence in reporting and offering long term support solutions. In addition, work under this theme aims to address ongoing patterns of reoffending, breaking the cycle through robust and evidence-based rehabilitation. 

PCC Martyn Underhill said: “Nobody deserves to be a victim of crime. Going through that experience can change a person’s life, and the support they receive from agencies such as the police can have a fundamental impact on the lasting effects of the trauma. 

“It will never be an easy recovery, but agencies must work together to empower victims, identify vulnerability and protect those at risk from further harm and distress.”

Responsibility for commissioning local victim services was handed to PCCs in October 2014. In Dorset, independent charity Victim Support provides emotional and practical help to those who have been affected by crime in Dorset. The organisation is co-located with the Dorset Police Victims’ Bureau, which was launched by the PCC in 2013. The Bureau is responsible for ensuring the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime is upheld and that victims are kept informed about the progress of crime investigations. 

A similar service is provided by the Dorset Police Witness Care Unit, for those who have witnessed crime. The PCC continued: “Without the valuable intelligence and testimonies provided by witnesses in Dorset every day, we would be limited in our ability to protect the public and bring offenders to justice. 

“I am committed to ensuring that the process is made as easy as possible for witnesses and that no witness is deterred from coming forward. As part of the plan, I’ll be working with other criminal justice partners to improve court video streaming facilities, so that witnesses are able to testify in a convenient location close to their homes.”

During the event, an input was delivered on restorative justice (RJ) and the new Restorative Dorset programme. RJ focuses on the needs of victims, the future for offenders and the impact of crime on the involved communities. Provided the victim is supportive and the offender accepts responsibility, they will be brought together in a facilitated meeting to discuss the true consequences of the offender’s actions, offer opportunity for reconciliation and to find a positive way forward. 

RJ can therefore offer victims closure while also contributing to the rehabilitation of repeat offenders using innovative solutions. In a similar vein, the voluntary tagging scheme has produced multiple successes since the pilot was launched and funded by the PCC. 

Not only does evidence from the tag help in court in cases where bail conditions have been breached, saving the criminal justice system time and money, the tag itself can act as a deterrent. Participants in the initiative have explained that the tag reminds them of the consequences of their previous behaviour and prevents former associates from trying to persuade them back into crime. 

PCC Martyn Underhill commented: “Like RJ, voluntary tagging is part of a more sustainable approach to dealing with repeat offenders. 

“If we want to keep our communities safe, the police and other agencies must take a holistic approach where victims and witnesses have confidence in reporting and are supported through the process, offenders are held to account for their crimes within the affected area and opportunities for rehabilitation are accessible.”

Visit www.dorsetpoliceplan.com for updates on progress being made under the pillar of ‘supporting victims, witnesses and reducing reoffending.’

The panellists for this event are pictured at the front of the audience. They are (from left to right): Anthi Minhinnick, Community Safety Partnership Manager, Safer Poole Partnership; Pauline Rousseau, Practice Manager at Circles Southwest; Karen Bader, Victims’ Bureau Manager; Kerry McGeachy, Victim Support Manager; Jackie Farquharson, Dorset Police Victims’ Champion; Ali Rogers, Dorset Police Integrated Offender Management Unit