Guest blog: Help is on hand - Julia Gay, Horizon Manager
'Will I be seen' 'do I have to go' 'how will I be safe' 'what if I have changed my mind' 'what will happen if....'
These are just some of the questions that we are often asked by a victim of domestic violence who has just received their letter to attend court. An understandable reaction from someone, who like all that are called to court, are nervous and apprehensive about the process, however - may also have additional reluctance due to the nature of the evidence and managing the possibility that they may face their perpetrator.
As I walk around the Horizon team office there is always a feeling of purpose and determination in the air, the large team of liaison officers are either on the phone talking to victims, offering support and providing updates and reassurance or talking with agencies or colleagues about trials, endeavouring to seek responses to witness queries, providing guidance or arranging support, it is non-stop from the moment the day starts until its end. The liaison officers are working individually as a single point of contact for a victim or witness, which could be from the point of the report or from the point of trial, from whatever starting point, is able to offer a consistent level of support for the victim. It is clear that the team are driven, endeavouring to ensure that all of their conversations and actions are providing support to victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system.
It is apparent that the skills, knowledge and tools available to the team enable them to offer this level of service, and for a victim of domestic violence, conversations about available support and what will happen next can begin following the report of crime.
Whilst working closely with all of our partner agencies: Wiltshire's Splitz Support Service, Swindon Women's Aid, Witness Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Her Majesty's Court Tribunal Service and colleagues - the liaison officers are able to discuss and facilitate a number of possible options with a victim to address any particular fears about court, giving evidence and facing their perpetrator. They will offer special measures which can include visiting the court in advance of trial to assist with court familiarity, giving evidence either behind a screen or via a video link outside of the courtroom to name a few as well as discuss the benefits of making a Victim Personal Statement, if the victim has not already.
For the Horizon team this is business as usual, to ensure that victim and witness needs are at the heart of their service at all times.
More information regarding Horizon's services can be found on the Horizon website.