We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Indirect victims of online offending no longer 'left in the dark'

Lincolnshire PC Tom Scott works with those indirectly affected by online offending as 'the first, and currently only' support officer for such victims in the country.

Lincolnshire Police is "seizing" the opportunity to fill a gap in support provisions for indirect victims of online offending by creating the first role dedicated solely to supporting this group.

Leading on this is PC Tom Scott, who is the only Indirect Victim Support Officer in the country. His role is to work with the families of those prosecuted in relation to online offending. 

He said: “For a long time it’s been recognised that not enough is being done to support the indirect victims of online offending, and this was a great opportunity to lead the way and change the way we do things."

PC Scott told the 'PIER23: Tackling online harms conference' on Wednesday that these individuals aren't treated in the same way as a traditional victim, yet "they were severely impacted by the fallout of the investigation".

His role is designed to change that, at least in Lincolnshire.

PC Scott admitted that development of the role was difficult in the beginning because "researching other examples when there aren’t any is quite hard".

Now the position is clearly defined, thanks in part to discussions held with those whom the role is intended to help.

He continued: “I also spoke with families who had been through the ordeal prior to the introduction of my role, and it was clear that there was a theme in what they wanted – they wanted to be informed.”

“They needed to be kept up-to-date on bail extensions, charges and court dates, so that they could make the informed decisions on the best way to safeguard their family, and not just rely on the suspect to give them one side of the story."

In terms of the substance of the role, PC Scott first contacts the relevant person at the outset - offering his direct number to avoid police switchboards - and ensures they know what other support is available.

He then informs them about bail extensions, charges and court dates - “so they’re not left wondering what’s going on" - and will attend any proceedings requested.

“If they want I will go to court for them, or I will go with them…and get them the answers they might have waited a year, two years to get."

Key to this relationship is trust, something PC Scott says is more easily built because of his distinct role. 

“I found that being independent from the investigation and not being there when officers initially go into the house gives me a certain degree of separation from the intrusion. 

"Families view me as different…without the connection to the officers who have just been searching their house and seizing their devices."

While this is PC Scott's role, the idea was actually pitched by DC Gemma Oxby back in summer 2022 as part of a programme run by the force.

Her pitch impressed Assistant Chief Constable Chris Davison, who gave it the green light. 

Addressing delegates, ACC Davison said it's abundantly clear that this group have historically been left to fend for themselves. 

“If you are a family member of an offender there’s no help for you, there’s nobody telling you where to go, there’s no information, you’re left very much to try and negotiate the shame, the fear, the trauma that you’re left with...and that’s before they get to court.

“Once they get to court, then you’ve got to try and negotiate what happens next. We have a responsibility as a service in my view to make sure we minimise that harm because we know it’s coming."

Crediting PC Scott for his work, ACC Davison said this example epitomises Lincolnshire's desire to innovate and maximise resources - despite being a "very-poorly funded force".

Leave a Comment
View Comments 8
In Other News
Online Safety Bill a game-changer in fight against CSA 'pandemic'
Ethnicity, care experience and involvement in the justice system
Interview: Lincolnshire’s Indirect Victim Support Officer
More News