Following International Women’s Day (Sunday 8 March), we reflect on the important work Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens has undertaken for women during her two terms in office.
Since 2012, PCC Sue Mountstevens has been an advocate for victims - especially women and children - and ‘protecting the most vulnerable from harm’ has been her number one policing priority. She has been a pioneer for the victims’ journey and has ensured there has been a real culture shift in the force; the victim’s experience is now at the heart of all decision making.
Avon and Somerset Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: “Sue’s commitment, dedication and passion for helping the most vulnerable at their most vulnerable moments is inspirational. As PCC, she has achieved so much in pursuit of this mission. Lighthouse and the services that work with it are just some of the many tangible examples of her achievement.
“But it goes much farther than this; she has had a significant impact upon the way the Constabulary prioritises vulnerability in everything we do and in every decision we make. I am very confident that this will be her legacy and a very long lasting one.”
In 2017, the PCC supported the decision that Avon and Somerset Police became the third force in the country to officially recognise gender-based hate crime. Such a decision was made to encourage victims to come forward, speak out and send the message that discrimination will not be tolerated. PCC Sue Mountstevens wanted to reassure women that no form of abuse would be tolerated because of their gender and our communities should be free from prejudice.
Over the last two terms, the PCC has commissioned victim services that support survivors of crime and anti-social behaviour including sexual assault, child sexual exploitation and assault and domestic abuse.
The services were recommissioned in April 2019 and, since then, the providers have supported nearly 2,000 victims of crime. The PCC and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has worked closely with victims and providers to launch #BeHeard, a campaign encouraging more victims to come forward and ask for help. Victims, survivors and support workers contributed artwork as part of a #BeHeard exhibition to show their experience and understanding of the recovery journey.
Carol Metters, Chief Executive of Safe Link, Missing Link and Next Link, said: “You cannot underestimate the impact Sue has had on victims lives. She has put them centre stage, valued their feedback and experience, and implemented changes that have enabled them to access support and get justice. Her support for our advice has meant we have been able to support over 1,000 victims a year to recover and rebuild their lives.”
Reducing reoffending has been a huge focus during PCC Sue Mountstevens’ last term and part of such work has included dedicated support for women. The PCC understands the causes of women’s offending is complex for many reasons including trauma from past experiences, being caregivers for family and high levels of vulnerability.
PCC Sue Mountstevens has set up Resolve and chairs the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership board. Both projects encourage partners across the South West to work together to tackle reoffending, explore alternatives to short custodial sentences and ensure services for female offenders offer consistency and certainty. She has also worked with local partners such as The Nelson Trust on projects to divert women from the path of prison and deal with the root causes of their offending.
Christina Line, Head of Service Development at Nelson Trust, said: “PCC Sue Mountstevens and her office have been an integral part of the development of Women’s Services, which focuses on reducing reoffending across Avon and Somerset.
“Without the support of the PCC, the Nelson Trust would not have been able to achieve what we have achieved over the past few years. Innovative services that have had the full backing of the PCC such as Project SHE: Support – Help – Engage has diverted over 500 female offenders from point of arrest into gender responsive support where the root causes of offending can be addressed. Both the Resolve and South West Reducing Reoffending Partnerships board set up by the PCC have enabled partners across the South West to work together to tackle reoffending, share best practice and innovative ideas.”
Posted on Monday 9th March 2020