Report praises Thames Valley Police’s approach to domestic abuse
A new report has praised a pilot scheme aiming to improve the outcomes for domestic abuse victims in the Thames Valley.
Thames Valley Police has been working closely with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service to decrease the time in which domestic abuse cases are listed to be heard at Aylesbury Crown Court.
The report aimed to examine the effectiveness of the pilot in improving the efficiency with which domestic abuse cases are managed in the crown court. It also looked at identifying areas of potential improvement and to explore the merits of rolling out this initiative nationally. Both victims and offenders were interviewed to seek their views on the scheme.
During the trial period the report examined, from October 2016 to November 2018, a total of 153 cases of domestic abuse were subject to the protocol. Fifty nine of the 153 cases met the criteria for fast tracking and of these cases more than 83 per cent resulted in a guilty plea. On average it took eight days between a person being charged and their first court hearing.
For more information visit my website www.matthewbarber.co.uk
Victims First Celebrates One Year Anniversary
Victims First, a service which supports victims of crime across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, celebrated its one year anniversary in March.
Victims First was launched by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley. The service offers free emotional and practical support to all victims and witnesses of crime or abuse across the Thames Valley as well as family members of victims. Victims can receive support regardless of when the crime took place or whether they have chosen to report the crime to the police.
Within its first year Victims First has dealt with over 18,000 referrals into its service for victims of all crime types including theft, burglary, fraud, rape and sexual assault, criminal damage and domestic abuse. Referrals were received across all age groups with over 6,000 referrals for victims aged under 25 and nearly 3,500 referrals for victims aged over 60.
The type of assistance available to victims includes telephone and face to face support, advocacy including help to access other services such as sexual health clinics, drug and alcohol services and legal services, support through the criminal justice system (if victims have reported the crime to the police) and therapeutic counselling.
Almost 2,000 victims referred to Victims First went on to receive additional support. Over half received support from the Victims First Emotional Support Service, with others referred to other services including services for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, a young victims service which works with anyone under the age of 18 and a service supporting victims of exploitation and complex needs.
Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner said “I am delighted to celebrate Victims First’s one year anniversary.
“We know the effects of crime can be devastating with some victims struggling to move on with their lives, so when we launched Victims First we wanted to improve services for victims and remove the barriers and confusion experienced in accessing support. One year on I believe we are doing that. Victims suffering from the effects of any crime can contact Victims First and speak to a Victims First Officer who will listen to them and offer support to meet their individual needs.
“I am pleased at the number of people we have been able to support in this first year and I look forward to the year ahead where the service will continue to evolve and improve.”
Anyone affected by crime who needs support can contact Victims First on 0300 1234 148 or make an online referral at www.victims-first.org.uk.
Voluntary organisations awarded over £100,000 to support policing and crime priorities
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld and Chief Constable Francis Habgood have awarded voluntary and community organisations £100,700 from the Police Property Act Fund.
The fund, which is jointly managed by the PCC and the Chief Constable, is created from money recovered by the police and the proceeds from the sale of items that cannot be returned to identified owners, including seizures from criminals.
There were 116 applications to the current funding round with 32 organisations successful in receiving funding of between £1000 – £6,000 to support the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan strategic priorities of Vulnerability, Prevention and Early Intervention.
The successful projects receiving funding support a range of issues including mental health, youth crime prevention work, homelessness, and hidden harm, such as elder abuse, hate crime and peer on peer abuse. 10 of the successful projects cover the whole of the Thames Valley, 10 are focused in Berkshire and 6 in both Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley said “The voluntary sector play a valuable role across the Thames Valley and I am pleased to be able to provide funding from the Police Property Act Fund to support a range of projects working to prevent crime and support some of the most vulnerable groups within our communities. This is an excellent way of using this funding and I look forward to seeing the outcomes.”
Francis Habgood, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police said “I am delighted that we have been able to support voluntary groups across our three counties with additional funding. Using money seized from criminals and from the sale of items that cannot be returned to owners in this way can make a real difference to our communities. The projects will all help to support the most vulnerable people in society and to reduce the risk of future harm.”
For a full list of organisations awarded funding, please see Police Property Act Fund donations 2018-2019
PCC awards £800,000 funding to tackle youth violence and knife crime
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has awarded £800,000 to 14 organisations across the Thames Valley to deliver projects to tackle youth violence, knife crime and exploitation.
The work will be delivered in partnership with a range of organisations including Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), Youth Service providers, Local Authorities and Secondary Schools, as well as community and voluntary groups.
The programme includes a range of interventions, from raising awareness of youth violence and exploitation across secondary schools to targeted intervention with young people already involved in gangs and knife crime.
Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner said ““Given the recent increase in knife crime, we need to look at what more we can do to protect young people from violence and exploitation and how we can work even more closely in partnership with both statutory and community organisations to try to reverse this trend.
“I hope that these projects we’ve funded will help tackle this issue by working with young people at both ends of the spectrum of youth violence; from early intervention programmes to identify and support those at risk of involvement in knife crime, gangs or drug dealing to supporting those young people already involved; helping them turn their lives around through intensive support and skills training.
“I believe that projects such as these make a real difference to the lives of individuals and communities as a whole and I look forward to seeing these activities progress over the coming months.””
How Thames Valley Police are tackling knife crime
Last week I spoke at length to the BBC about the rise in knife crime in the Thames Valley, how we compare with other areas of the country that have hit the headline and what the Force and the PCC are doing to tackle the problem. Part of that effort is the Early Youth Intervention Fund as detailed above.
Increased stop and search and the recruitment of more police officers are also part of the picture. You can read more about my interview on my website.
Thames Valley Police are actively targeting knife crime and those who carry knives in the latest phase of Operation Sceptre.
As part of this national operation, a knife surrender bin are available this week at 16 police stations across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire for members of the public to dispose of knives up until Sunday 17th March.
Sign up for Thames Valley Alert
Thames Valley Alert is the community messaging system for Thames Valley Police, allowing residents to sign up to receive local information on incidents in and around their area.
You can sign up to Thames Valley Alert via email, text, or even receive voice messages about what’s happening in your local area.
The service is completely tailored to you, so you can choose what sort of alerts to receive – whether you’d like:
• news on local incidents
• community news
• to be alerted to significant or high priority messages
When you sign up to Thames Valley Alert (a free service) you'll be given login details that allow you to change your settings at any time. There's also a business watch service and a country watch service.
If you’d like to sign up to Thames Valley Alert, you can:
• join via the Thames Valley Alert website, or
• download the free Thames Valley Alert app by visiting the Apple store or Google Play store
If you already have an Alerts account, you can sign into the app with the same login details.
Thames Valley PCC is recruiting
The Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner is currently recruiting a new Communications and Engagement Officer. Details of the role and how to apply can be found on the recruitment pages of the PCC's website by clicking here.
We are also always open to expressions of interest in joining our Custody Visiting Scheme. For more information and the application from please visit Custody Visiting.
Matthew Barber selected to stand as PCC in 2020
After a series of meetings held across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, Conservative Party Members last night confirmed Matthew Barber as the Party's candidate to become the next Police & Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley.
Anthony Stansfeld has been the first ever PCC having been elected in 2012. He is standing down at next May's elections. Matthew Barber has served as Anthony's Deputy for more than two years and has now been selected by the Conservative Party to fight next year's elections.
Speaking after the final hustings meeting Matthew said:
"I am honoured and delighted to have been selected this evening as your Conservative candidate to be Police & Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley in 2020.
There is already a great deal of work underway across our three great counties to make the public safer, reduce crime and improve the criminal justice system, but there is always more to do.
I will tirelessly represent the people of the Thames Valley and deliver my vision for strong local policing and clear leadership to make our communities safer."
The PCC elections take place on 7th May 2020.
Victims First, which supports victims of crime and abuse across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, has launched a campaign to raise awareness of coercive control and emotional abuse in relationships.
The campaign is called ‘Know this isn’t Love’ and focuses on early warning signs of controlling behaviour and emotional abuse to help victims identify any potential signs within their own relationships and seek support.
Coercive control became a criminal offence in 2015 and involves an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse by a perpetrator that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.
Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Controlling and emotional abusive relationships have an extremely damaging impact on victims’ health and wellbeing. Victims are unable to live their lives to the full and it can slowly erode their confidence and self-belief. Due to the psychological abuse they may be living in constant fear and uncertainty, feeling watched and controlled at all times, resulting in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
“The primary aim of the Know this isn’t Love campaign is to help people experiencing abuse, some who may be in an early stages of a relationship, to recognise controlling and abusive behaviours and encourage them to seek help.
“This type of abuse is present across society and can impact both male and females. It’s important we recognise and acknowledge it and not keep it behind closed doors.
“If anyone does feel that the behaviour they are facing in their relationship is abusive I would encourage them to contact Victims First on 0300 1234 148 for support.”
Thames Valley has seen the impact of illegal encampments across the three counties. This is an issue regularly raised with the Police & Crime Commissioner by residents and councillors. Action has already been taken and, by working alongside local authorities, the PCC has supported the police in agreeing a new protocol which came into force last year.
This documents sets out the powers and responsibilities of the police and councils in dealing with illegal encampments. As the names suggest, in most cases these sites are illegal - but they are not criminal - meaning the actions that the police can take are very limited.
The Government has now responded to the consultation it ran last year on whether changes in the law were needed to tackle the problem. Both Thames Valley Police and the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner responded and we are pleased that the Government has now announced that there will be action to change the law.
The full government response can be see here, but the headline changes include:
• Permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas;
• Increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return;
• Lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised – changing this from six or more, to two or more; and
• Enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway.
The Government is also considering a new criminal trespass offence.
Responding to the announcement, Matthew Barber commented, "These changes in the law must be welcomed. The current situation leads to frustration for the community, inaction by the authorities, and in some cases victimisation of law abiding individuals. I will continue to work with all of the Thames Valley's MPs and travellers groups to ensure an effective and fair law allows the police to take action when people are acting illegally."
Rural crime is never far from the top of the agenda in the Thames Valley and is a stated priority of the Police & Crime Commissioner. This month we have met with representatives of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) from Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire to discuss how Thames Valley Police are fighting rural crime.
The PCC has been a strong advocate of tackling rural crime, and has supported the Force in providing appropriate equipment such as quad bikes, night-vision goggles and 4x4 vehicles such as the one just delivered to the Milton Keynes Local Policing Area.
There is always room for improvement and the PCC is engaging with the Force to spread best practice to every area. Whether that is the use of WhatsApp groups to connect isolated rural communities or supporting businesses with the provision of alarms and other deterrent/detection equipment. This will continue to be a priority going into the future to ensure that every community in the Thames Valley, rural and urban gets the support and protection they need from the Police.
As Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber has taken on the Chairmanship of the Thames Valley's Local Criminal Justice Board. The Board brings together the Police, Crown Prosecution Services, Prisons, Probations Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the Courts along with other organisations involved in securing justice for victims.
At the start of the new year the Board met to consider the priorities for the coming year. Matthew Barber set out the fresh vision for the Board, "There are many organisations represented at the LCJB with competing pressures and priorities, but we all have one goal: the fair administration of justice, the protection of victims and the prosecution and rehabilitation of offenders. I want the Board to set clear achievable objectives that will make a real difference to the people of the Thames Valley but improving the way the criminal justice system works."
Following the announcement last month that the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner had decided to appoint John Campbell as the new Chief Constable the appointment received unanimous endorsement from the independent Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel.
John Campbell is the current Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, a position he has held since 2015.
John said: “I feel honoured to be have been appointed Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police. The force is made up of some amazing men and women and I look forward to leading those who work tirelessly every day, with great courage, to police the area.
“Having been a Chief Officer with the force for some nine years, I believe I have a strong understanding of the communities of the Thames Valley and the type of police force needed to best protect them from harm. I will build on the excellent work already implemented by the outgoing Chief, Francis Habgood, and will do all that I can to deliver the quality of policing that the public quite rightly expect and deserve.”