Victims' Commissioner says PCCs have a key role in improving response to rape

15 Jun 2021 01:21 PM

As the Government prepares to publish the findings of its end-to-end review into how rape and sexual violence cases are handled, the Victims’ Commissioner has said Police and Crime Commissioners have a key role to play in restoring confidence in the system.

Dame Vera Baird QC said elected PCCs can harness their power over forces to ensure victims’ needs are being met, including through independent scrutiny panels. And she noted the vital role PCCs play in commissioning victims’ support services.

Dame Vera, herself a former PCC in Northumbria, was speaking at a event organised by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) discussing rape and sexual violence. More than 60 people attended including PCCs, senior police officers, MPs, Peers, and representatives of charities such as Rape Crisis, LimeCulture CIC, and The Survivors Trust.

APCC Victims Lead, London Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Sophie Linden, noted the “dire state of affairs” with too many cases resulting in no further police action, or in victims withdrawing from the process. She hopes to see suspect-focused investigations piloted in Avon and Somerset under Operation Bluestone rolled-out more widely in future.

She also pointed to work carried out in London, including work to commission support services to meet the specific needs of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic victims.

Attendees at Monday’s virtual meeting also heard examples of PCCs’ work in Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and West Yorkshire to improve the victims’ journey through the criminal justice system.

Alison Lowe, a survivor of sexual abuse expected to soon be confirmed as the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in West Yorkshire, recognised there was a need for transformational change across the whole system.

Lord Harris of Haringey agreed that changing how the system operates was more likely to see success than further legislation. And the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs agreed problem solving at a local level was key.

APCC Criminal Justice Lead David Lloyd, the PCC for Hertfordshire, reflected: “It will take time, but there is some brilliant work going on and as PCCs we can make a difference.”

This was the second of the APCC’s Spotlight On… events, following a successful discussion on racial disparity in February. Each event is designed to inform parliamentarians and other stakeholders about the role and work of PCCs in certain areas of policing and criminal justice.

The next Spotlight On… event is due to held on 13 September when the subject of discussion will be anti-social behaviour.