Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner welcomed a number of high profile guests to an event at the Aesseal New York Stadium in Rotherham on Friday 9 December.
The South Yorkshire Victims’ Showcase Event was designed to let local organisations and practitioners know about the work being done to support victims of crime in South Yorkshire.
The Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, was the morning’s guest speaker. She discussed the national picture on the provision of services for victims including victims of sexual violence, victim personal statements, restorative justice and her plans for 2017.
Speaking at the event Baroness Newlove said: “One of my priorities as Victims’ Commissioner is to see a better joining up of services for victims. I want to see victims of crime properly supported, so that they are helped to cope and recover at their pace.
“Many victims, including those who have been sexually abused or exploited, have complex needs; their needs will most likely be inter-twined with serious issues hindering their recovery. Victims’ Services in South Yorkshire have had to deal with many high profile and complex issues. I know this will have been difficult, and I know you have done all you can to help support the many victims who have come forward. By continuing to work in unison, you can really make a difference to these victims and their journey to recovery.”
Dr Alan Billings spoke to the 100 delegates present at the event about his police and crime plan and how protecting vulnerable people was one of his top priorities.
He said: “I became Commissioner in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal when a number of local agencies, including South Yorkshire Police, let down so many victims. I firmly believe we are in a very different place now.
“The moment when I realised this was when one victim of CSE was able to thank the police after the men that had groomed and abused her in the past were finally sent to gaol in November. Victims will receive help from the moment they first report a crime, through the period leading up to the trial, during the trial and then afterwards as they seek to rebuild their lives.
“Victims of crime in South Yorkshire can be assured that they will be listened to and helped if they come forward. This includes those who have been abused within the family.”
The audience also heard from Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Barber from South Yorkshire Police. ACC Barber explained the police’s obligation of meeting the Victim’s Code of Practice and what services officers in South Yorkshire are required to offer a victim and the minimum standard for these service.
Lucy Kucharik was subjected to a horrific attack, when she was followed home from work on the evening of 1 November 2015. Lucy has bravely waived her anonymity to show that such attacks can happen to anyone. Speaking through a video interview, Lucy explained to the audience her ordeal at the hands of a man who is now serving a four years and six month prison sentence.
The officer in charge of Lucy’s case talked through how such a case is dealt with by the police and what services are on offer to victims of a sexual assault. In Lucy’s case, the forensic examination was done in her own home rather than at the South Yorkshire sexual assault referral centre. But for those who are taken to the centre, often late at night, South Yorkshire now has a new facility, commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner, which is safe and comfortable.
One of the detectives involved in the recent Clover trials spoke of the excellent work by police in bringing those involved in child sexual exploitation to justice. After years of abuse at the hands of these men, victims in Rotherham have finally found justice and are able to reassure others that they will be listened to by the police and other partner agencies.
His honour Judge Julian Goose was the opening speaker in the afternoon. He took the audience on a verbal tour of the criminal justice system. The audience listened to how victims and witnesses can be supported in the most appropriate way possible throughout their criminal justice journey. He later announced the development of a remote video link for vulnerable victims in South Yorkshire, which is to be funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
District Crown Prosecutor Michael Quinn, talked through how victims, especially vulnerable victims, are supported and the services available to them in court. He explained how vulnerable victims are able to video record their cross examination before the trial.
Linda Mayhew, Business Manager for the South Yorkshire Criminal Justice Board, explained the Restorative Justice Hub provision in South Yorkshire. Restorative Justice is the process whereby a victim or harmed person can communicate with their offender or the person who has caused them harm, if both parties want to do so. This can be face to face or through letters and messages. In South Yorkshire, victims can access Restorative Justice at any point in the criminal justice process.
Delegates were also shown a video of the region’s community justice panels. The panels operate in each of the four districts in South Yorkshire – Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster – and deal with low level crime such as anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.
Sarah Champion MP was last to speak at the event. Ms Champion recently opened the South Yorkshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre and praised the facilities within the centre which she recently opened.
She said: “South Yorkshire is making significant process in the services they provide to support victims of crime. I was very impressed when I visited the Sexual Adult Referral Centre and it is encouraging to hear how they have plans for the video link and victim services over the coming year.
”What we must all do now, is take responsibility for ensuring that everyone understands the meaning of healthy relationships. We must learn from the victims and survivors, we should educate our young people early and teach them about healthy sexual relationships, and we should all take responsibility for stopping abuse in any form to any person – it is simply wrong.”
The audience also got to hear about the work of an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) and how they offer practical and emotional support to anyone who has been subject to a sexual assault. Information on Children and Young People’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (CHISVA) was provided and future plans from the Police and Crime Commissioner to award the Victims’ Services contract after a robust tender process.