A voice for the victim
The PCC job is not just about policing.
My Crime Plan's third priority is to "put victims, witnesses and communities at the heart of everything we do." And this is central to the work I do as chair of the Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board.
For too long victims of domestic abuse have not had the confidence to seek help or indeed to report and support the prosecution of perpetrators.
In 2011, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were championed in Wiltshire by the then Chief Constable. I was sitting as a magistrate at the time and heard several applications for these temporary orders, which excluded the alleged perpetrator from the family home. The issue was that although part of the problem was being addressed, little or no support was being given to the perpetrator in terms of their housing, anger management or any other support - which in turn increased the blame the perpetrator felt should be placed on the partner; but I say that with the benefit of hindsight.
In my first Police and Crime Plan (2013/2017) I committed to supporting victims of domestic violence and encouraging the use of DVPOs and application under Clare's Law - which allows people to find out if a partner has an abusive past.
I am pleased to say that my office still continues to provide funds to Swindon Women's Aid and Splitz - the Wiltshire domestic abuse service.
My recent visit to the courts in Swindon was to hear of the launch of the pilot "Family Court Domestic Abuse Support Service" - Swindon is just one of 12 courts in the country to take part.
The service, which is run by Citizens' Advice, gives practical and emotional support to those attending court with priority for those who are unrepresented by a legal team or those involved in disputes over child access and protective orders.
Witnesses will be supported by an explanation of the court process, advised over special measures, and one to one support on the day in court. This is additional support to what may be given by Horizon - the victim and witness care service - which is run from police HQ and supported by my office.
Court can seem a daunting place to be and for that reason I have recently commissioned two videos - one for Salisbury Crown Court and one for Swindon Crown Court to explain what happens when a person attends.
They can be viewed here, via my website: https://www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk/article/1642/Support-Victims
Let's hope that with the support of the judiciary, the courts, Citizen Advice, Horizon and my office we can, together, make a real difference to those suffering from domestic abuse.
Published on Monday 9 September 2019.