Posted: Tuesday 22nd November 2016
The Lighthouse service, launched two-years ago on October 1, 2014, to support victims and witnesses of crime across Avon and Somerset. Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens commissioned the service which has supported more than 75,000 vulnerable victims of crime and anti-social behaviour since its inception.
This week the service was visited for the second time by Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Helen Newlove. Baroness Newlove first visited Lighthouse to find out more about the innovative victims’ service in November 2014. This week, the Baroness returned to see the Lighthouse team in Bristol and get an update on progress.
Following her visit the Victims’ Commissioner said: “Lighthouse provides a vital service for victims in Avon and Somerset, and my visit today has demonstrated how much this successful project has developed in the last two years. The dedicated team provide thousands of victims each month with a single point of contact - offering much-needed support and information, at a time victims need it most.”
To mark the occasion we wanted to share with you a few words written by one of Keynsham Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care Officers (VWCO) about their role:
My long held passion for victim care makes the role of VWCO my ideal job.
This role enables me to make early contact with victims, to listen to their emotional and practical needs and to place a comfort blanket of support around them. Even when no support is required I can offer reassurance that I will be a point of contact for them for any concerns or questions.
I can assist with explaining police terminology and bridge the gap when an Officer in Charge (OIC) is not contactable due to rest days. I can reassure victims that I will be available throughout the entire journey and if the case proceeds to charge I will keep them fully informed of what is happening.
I have noticed that as a case draws near to trial, anxiety levels can rise and often victims and witnesses who were previously on board with attending court can become very reluctant and offer up all manner of reasons for not being able to attend. Understanding, patience and finding solutions will now become my priority and further offers of support maybe appropriate.
During the court process victims and witnesses can often become very frustrated with adjournments and trials being vacated. I offer empathy with this frustration and try to obtain reasons and explanations which sometimes are not accepted well.
The whole journey through the criminal justice process can be extremely difficult for various reasons. I have learnt a good deal in the first two years of Lighthouse, this includes the importance of building a good rapport with victims in the early stages which is often rewarded by gaining their trust as we go through their journey together.
I have learnt that everyone's experience and needs are unique and listening is a crucial factor in tailoring support. Not much pleases me more than phoning a victim or witness and saying “hi it's Diana”, and they know who I am.
I am proud of my team, from my colleagues to the senior managers. We are growing in our knowledge, trying out new ways of working, building relationships with our partners and slowly making our mark within the police force and gaining their respect.
I believe Lighthouse is the best thing that has happened for victims in the 25 years that I have been with the force.
To find out more about Lighthouse visit www.lighthousevictimcare.org