Posted: Monday 17th February 2020
As part of the #BeHeard campaign, we spoke to Lauren Cockburn who has led the Lighthouse Safeguarding Unit (LSU) since its inception in 2017. Prior to this, Lauren was a senior manager within Lighthouse Victim Care since 2015.
What is Lighthouse Victim Care?
Following national and local engagement with victims focusing on their journey through the criminal justice system (CJS), the frustrations they experienced, the positives they had encountered and what they felt was needed from a Victim Care service; Lighthouse was born! Lighthouse was the vision of PCC Sue Mounstevens and was brought into existence due to the full commitment of the Constabulary to put victims at the heart of CJS.
The Victim and Witness Care element of the LSU provides a single point of contact for victims throughout their journey through the CJS, pre and post charge.
Pre charge, people who are classed as entitled to an enhanced service in accordance with Victims Code of Practice are referred to my team by the officer attending or dealing with the case. We operate a seven day a week service to maximise opportunities for victims and witnesses to engage with us. Our contact is telephone based and we work with victims to understand their needs and the impact of the offence they have experienced. Our service is completely victim-led which is so important in enabling people to feel they are in control of at least some part of an overall situation that they did not chose to be involved in. We understand the importance of enabling people to understand where they can access support and what support is available so that they can make an informed decision about what is right for them; we then coordinate the access to it. The ability to say no to support at the time but to have information and the name of someone to contact and their direct telephone number to call if they change their mind, is all part of our aim to support people to cope and recover from what they have experienced.
We work successfully with our fellow PCC Commissioned services, a host of Council Commissioned services and local and national charities to ensure that people are supported in the way they wish to be. In the last 12 months we have offered our service to over 48,000 victims of crime.
We appreciate that not everyone wishes to report to the police, so it is so important that if that is the case, people can still access support. To address this we created www.lighthousevictimcare.org.uk. This can be accessed by anyone and has information about the CJS and LSU, alongside the ability to easily search for support services in A&S.
Supporting victims in court
Going to court can be a daunting and confusing process. Our staff are there to help all witnesses involved in criminal proceedings to navigate and cope with this, and where needed advocate on their behalf for the best outcome. Our aim is to ensure:
- People know where they need to be and when
- That victims and witnesses are updated after each court hearing
- Have the opportunity to access support to attend court
- That vulnerable victims have the best opportunity to give evidence through requests for special measures
- Offer the opportunity to victims to complete or update a Victim Personal Statement so that their voice and the impact the offence has had on their lives can be heard in court.
We work closely with our colleagues in CPS, Courts and Witness Service to achieve this. In the last 12 months we have helped over 17,500 witnesses engage in the court process.
Sometimes the outcome of a case isn’t what was hoped for by the victim. Our role is to help people to understand the outcome of hearings, access onward support to continue their journey of recovery and, where appropriate, seek a possible review of the outcome under the Victims Right to Review Process.
One of our successes involved application to the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme. The case involved a sexual assault case whereby the defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge at trial and was given a Community Order. The VWCO didn’t feel that the sentence was reflective of the harm caused to the victim so they discussed the scheme with the victim and supported an application. The outcome was an increase to a Suspended Sentence, unpaid work and placement on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.
Recently, Lighthouse Victim Care merged with our Safeguarding Coordination Units to create LSU. One of the many benefits of this approach is that we can work collectively to address safeguarding support alongside victim care. We have a wider picture of the lived experience of people we contact so that we can remove duplication of contact by professionals and ensure the right level of support is provided. It’s strengthened our work with health colleagues and social care teams.
Being a victim of crime can be life changing. It isn’t something any of us wishes to experience. My hope is that involvement with LSU enables people to recover from their experiences and have a more positive experience of the criminal justice system.