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Durham PCC: “I want everyone to become a victim champion”

Victims’ champions were first recommended by Victims' Commissioner Dame Vera Baird in February last year.

In January, three new “champions” took up posts with Durham PCC to support victims of crime; a domestic abuse champion, an anti-social behaviour champion and a victim’s champion. 

They provide victims with the chance to voice opinions or concerns and ensure that they are heard by PCC Joy Allen. 

Durham’s 2021 PEEL inspection rated the force “adequate” for supporting victims, which PCC Allen says gave her the focus through recommendations to help ensure they are at the centre of everything that is done. 

Last month she also brought all victims services “in house” following a pilot with an external provider Victim Care and Services. 

This week, PCC Joy Allen spoke with Police Oracle about why she thinks the work and investment is important. 

“The victim’s champion comes from the recommendations from the victim’s commissioner, I very much want to support the national work, as well as the local work and focus on the crime element of that,” she explained. 

“I've been really, really lucky to have three, I would like to have 33. But I think ultimately, I just want everybody to be so victim focused that we don't need victims champions anymore.” 

“The service delivered is like an overarching triage assessment and support service […] for victims and witnesses,” said PCC Allen.

“There's also clear financial gains to bringing the service in house due to the loss of the additional management phase which is over and above what is being delivered as a service.”

It means that victims will receive a more cohesive service, but also that ideas are shared and gaps are picked up on. 

“My ultimate success outcome is that we have victims at the heart of what everybody does so that it becomes part and parcel of our everyday work.”

The role of the victims’ champion includes not only listening to victims and engaging with victims’ charities, but further engaging with local CJS agencies, monitoring HMICFRS reports for good practice and conducting research and targeted surveys with victims. 

All three champions are on a pro-rata salary of £31,719 to £34,700 and all three answer to the OPCC, although they are funded by different organisations. 

The victims’ champion is funded by the Ministry of Justice and is currently on a 12-month fixed term contract working two days a week. 

Durham’s domestic abuse champion has been externally funded by Durham County Council, although hosted by the OPCC. On a two year fixed term contract, they work three days per week with the same pro-rata salary. 

The role is similar to that of the victims’ champion but has specific tasks including encouraging multi-agency action and producing a report on how the PCC will meet the Public Sector Equalities Duty in respect of victims. 

The OPCC Commissioning budget has funded the ASB champion for a 12 month contract, working five days a week. 

One area of work that is underway within this role is on the Community Trigger Process. 

The community trigger is an option for ASB victims who have reported to a main responsible agency (police, council, housing provider) to request a multi-agency case review where a local threshold is met. 

PCC Allen told Police Oracle she has asked Dame Baird to make the community trigger “a level playing field” where all forces use the same terms to push it through. 

“For example, if you’re a housing provider, you could straddle Northumbria, you could straddle North Yorkshire or you could straddle Cleveland, and their determination might be different to ours,” she said. 

“If you've got a series of victims of anti-social behavior, seven days a week, it's very traumatic for the victim of antisocial behavior - there's no respite if you live where the anti-social behavior is occurring. 

“I’d like to make sure that it isn't just treated as low level crime [but that the] high harm, that mental health and wellbeing [is acknowledged] depending on the severity of the antisocial behavior has been experienced as well.” 

The ASB champion has already undertaken a review of the current process and threshold against National Guidelines across all providers. This work is due to continue with the Force lead. 

An independent ASB scrutiny panel is also currently being established. 

Last month, the Home Office published updated guidance on the use of new powers to tackle ASB - clarifying updates to the Community Trigger scheme and saying that PCCs should be involved within the process, PCC Allen has welcomed the changes. 

Fraud is a further crime type where the PCC would like to see more efforts established for the victim, explaining that it’s not always visible as people can be reticent in coming forward. 

As with all crime, she says prevention and engagement with the public are important. Durham OPCC has recently started working with the North East Business Resilience Centre on providing some “ethical cyber hacking” classes in secondary schools and colleges. 

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