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Commissioner delivers keynote speech at domestic abuse conference

DA Converence (N-Som)

Sue Mountstevens delivers her speech

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens was a keynote speaker at a domestic abuse conference in North Somerset earlier today (Thursday April 23rd).

The conference brought together practitioners working with families experiencing domestic abuse to explore new ways to work and improve life for those families. Tackling domestic abuse has been one of Sue Mountstevens’ priorities since she was elected. In that time Sue has been using her influence to bring about improvements in the prevention and response to domestic abuse and the support for those who experience it.

During her speech at the conference talked about the need to support domestic abuse victims, not only through a new integrated victim care service but by partner agencies working more closely together. Sue Mountstevens told the audience:

“An important way to help victims and survivors is to have effective support services so that we can help them to cope and then recover from abuse. PCCs up and down the country have been granted the power to locally commission services for victims of crime which presents an exciting opportunity to take a fresh look at the way we work.

“When we started this project we knew that for victims, the criminal justice process is complicated and overwhelming. While some victims receive no support, others are contacted by a wide range of agencies, all trying to help. I wanted to make things simpler and more effective for both victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. So in October we launched the Avon and Somerset Lighthouse Integrated Victim Care Service.

“As an example, a male victim of domestic abuse was referred to Lighthouse by a police officer. The Lighthouse officer was able to sensitively obtain additional information about the length of the abuse and also the presence of abuse against the eldest daughter by the mother. The Lighthouse officer was a consistent point of contact for the victim, ensuring that communication was maintained. This is having a positive effect both on the investigation and the victim.

“It is still early days for Lighthouse – the real benefits will become clear with time. I am confident that this new approach will work, because in the simplest terms, it is just common sense. Identify the victim, assess support according to need, provide the right services and let them know what is happening.

“The follow-on support that this victim needs is crucial – drug and alcohol, social services, counselling and IDVAs to name but a few. My strategy simply doesn’t work without these local services. I have commissioned some Avon and Somerset-wide emotional support services, but local, specialist support, like Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are just as important. That means that I must work with others, like the Local Authority to ensure that between us, we are making best use of public resources.  I have been pleased to work so well with North Somerset Council as we embed Lighthouse and to work constructively with services such as Gemini at Chapter One to provide joined up care to victims of domestic abuse.”

Alongside Sue as a speaker at the conference, organised by North Somerset Council, was Professor Marianne Hester OBE, the Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol.

In North Somerset police received 3,000 reports of domestic abuse last year (2014/15) – an increase of 20%. This increase is partly due to greater levels of reporting amongst victims and witnesses, but has also been driven by major improvements in crime recording. The last year in particular has seen improvements in the way the police identify domestic abuse committed on-line and via mobile phones – which have resulted in a 40% increase in the level of stalking and harassment domestic abuse crime recorded.

Last year Sue convened a panel of experts to help her scrutinise Avon and Somerset Police’s approach to domestic abuse. The aim of the domestic abuse scrutiny meeting was to support the improvement of the police response to domestic abuse in Avon and Somerset, with an expert panel putting questions to the Constabulary and making recommendations. You can find out more about the panel here.

Posted on Thursday 23rd April 2015
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