VIDEO: “I don’t think I would have been able to do it without Angela”
The story of a young woman’s experience of coming to Court and why one Police & Crime Commissioner is urging colleagues to support specialist services for young victims and witnesses
Today (Tuesday 18 March) Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne will call on her PCC colleagues to support specialist services for young victims and witnesses.
Mrs Bourne is determined to improve access to these services for all young people like Demi, aged 19 from Sussex. Demi first came into contact with the Young Witness Service in Sussex when she was 14 years old and due to give evidence in Court against a man accused of raping her:
“I don’t think I would have been able to do it without my case worker Angela. Before I met her I didn’t know anything about being in Court. I did everything with Angela – the pre court visit, finding out about giving evidence via video link and it helped a lot. I didn’t want to sit in Court knowing he was in the same room as me. He was found guilty and after the court case, I had the option of further support and counselling, which was really helpful.”
Angela, who was Demi’s case worker for two years while her case was being brought to Court, said: “I’ve got children of my own so I’m always thinking “How would I feel if it was them giving evidence in Court?” I know I would want them to have the best support possible.
“I was the only case worker Demi dealt with throughout so I was able to build up a rapport with her, which was very important when she was understandably nervous. I think it was a terrifying experience but she gave a lot of herself to it. I’m very happy that she’s such a confident young woman now and I hope the young witness service has supported her to be so.”
From April 2015 Police & Crime Commissioners will take on the full range of responsibilities and funding for commissioning victims services in their Force areas. This will replace the current model where the majority of services for victims are provided at a national level by government.
In Sussex, Mrs Bourne is currently conducting a full needs analysis, engaging with victims and practitioners to discuss options for how local services should be commissioned in the future. This consultation will be vital to ensure the best support for victims, underpinned by quality services, effective referral and partnership working between the public and the voluntary and community sectors.
Commenting on the provision of support services for young victims and witnesses, Mrs Bourne said: “My Police & Crime Plan reflects the priorities that local people have told me matter to them and that includes putting the needs of victims and witnesses first. Commissioning services for victims locally will result in more targeted support for these groups, meeting the needs of the local community.
“The young witness service in Sussex is one of only seven local services of its kind in the UK. In 2013 it supported 364 young people, aged six to 17 years of age, and 40% of those referrals were for cases involving serious sexual violence and rape.
“In November last year I provided a grant, worth £90,000 over the next two years, to the Young Witness Service in Sussex (part of Victim Support – Surrey & Sussex Division). I am now calling on my PCC colleagues to back specialist services in their Force areas to ensure the best support for children and young people coming to Court as either victims of crime or witnesses to it.
“Increasing support for young people is vital in order to help them manage what can often be a harrowing and distressing experience as they pass through the criminal justice system.
“I will also be encouraging the national College of Policing to support the recruitment, training and promotion of volunteer case workers who deliver these essential services.
“As PCC I am committed to being a voice for local people. That is why I spend a lot of time meeting support groups and voluntary organisations to make sure I know what the most vulnerable people in our communities want from their public services. My vision is simple. I want to strengthen support for victims of crime, like Demi, so they can have confidence in the criminal justice system.”
To hear Demi’s story and find out more about the support her volunteer case worker, Angela, provided follow this link: http://youtu.be/-cWSLPIOrus
Newsdesk note: For interview/filming requests please contact Rosie Gooch, Communications Manager, Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner. Tel: 01273 335634 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information about the Sussex Young Witness Service please visit www.victimsupport.org.uk or call 0845 38 99 528 (Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm; Saturday 9am – 5pm).