Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire | WYPCC

The first ever Victim’s Strategy for West Yorkshire launched

19th February 2020

‘The Supporting People Harmed by Crime’ strategy was officially launched by West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns Williamson OBE, and the national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC.

Joined by West Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Russ Foster, Mr Burns-Williamson outlined how the new strategy would raise awareness of what is available, including to victims who do not report to the police.

That includes to get

  • the initial response from the police and others right first time every time;
  • to increase confidence in the criminal justice system;
  • to ensure people get the support they need to cope and recover, tailored to their individual needs;
  • to address the barriers that can prevent that happening;
  • to identify the gaps there still are;
  • and ensure that the needs of children and young people are given appropriate attention.

The strategy has been developed with the full involvement of stakeholders including West Yorkshire Police, other criminal justice partners, West Yorks Councils, the NHS and the third sector.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “One of my most important roles as PCC has been to champion the interests of all victims and witnesses, and this strategy goes some way to addressing that.

“In working with victims we have learned how critical it is to get the initial response from the police and others right first time every time. That ethos has played a pivotal role in helping to inform and develop this strategy and I was delighted that Dame Vera and DCC Foster joined many colleagues from the voluntary sector and partners to ensure a successful launch.

“I feel that it is important to note that this isn’t just another a document, this is a signal of intent and I would take this opportunity to make a direct plea to any victims out there that need help to get in touch, you will be heard, you will be listened to and you will be supported. I would also urge anyone with an interest in victims and witnesses to consider what more we can do collectively to support them and to get in touch with my office if you think you can help.

Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “I welcome today’s strategy and am delighted to be at the launch to talk about my national priorities and how they link up with PCC Mark’s plan and to support his determination to give the best possible support to local victims of crime.

“Every victim of crime is affected to a lesser or greater degree by what has happened to them. Some people need little or no help and often go on to give help to other victims. Those who suffer the most serious violent or sexual crimes may need, in contrast, lifelong support. The traumatic and the hidden nature of what has happened can be deeply problematic, without the input of good quality accredited third sector services such victims will not find help.

“The police are key to linking victims to services when people have reported crime. However, many more do not report and it’s imperative that PCCs should think, as Mark has done, how it is possible to ensure that they get the victim support services they need as well.”

Deputy Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “We have a culture in West Yorkshire Police where our officers and staff put the victim at the heart of everything we do and this has been embedded for some time.

“However, we are not complacent as an organisation and are always striving to do better. We have provided an undertaking to the PCC of West Yorkshire to fully embrace his Victim and Witness Strategy and ensure it is embedded and delivered at the sharp end of policing.

“The organisation has recently commissioned a review of the Victim’s Journey and will examine in detail how West Yorkshire Police responds to their individual needs, from initial contact with the police, through to the conclusion of the Criminal Justice service. This strategy will be a touch stone throughout the review.

“We will endeavour to work effectively with our Criminal Justice partners and voluntary agencies to ensure a joined up approach to people harmed by crime and ensure they are listened to, heard and supported throughout their journey as a victim.”

The strategy is available on our website at https://www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/west-yorkshires-victims-and-witnesses-strategy or by contacting the office on 01924 294000 or [email protected]

Case study

A victim of child sexual exploitation has told how she was ‘groomed’ and urged other people to be aware of the signs of someone in a position of trust potentially exploiting the relationship.

The victim, now 18, was 15 when she was abused by a ‘father figure’ who had gained her trust and made her feel he was the only one who understood her and the difficulties she faced.

Speaking about her experiences, the teenager said: “I felt like none of my friends understood me, and he was the only person I could speak to. I thought he was a friendly old man who had been there for me.

“My mum and dad didn’t let me smoke and drink and he did and he made me feel like he was the only person in my life I could talk to.

“I grew up in a perfectly normal household and my parents brought me up perfectly.

“I didn’t know what grooming was and it was only when my social worker taught me what grooming was that I could see what happened. I didn’t know the signs of it and how it started.”

It took a long process of social workers and police officers spending time with the teenager to help her understand what she had actually experienced was not a nice old man being kind, but a sinister case of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and that she was a victim.

“I learnt about grooming in school, but this happened when I was doing my GCSE’s, so I think if schools opened up more about it and taught more about it that would be a good thing,” she added.

The perpetrator went on to be jailed for more than a decade for his offences against two victims.

His teenage victim was appointed an ISVA, and Independent Sexual Violence Adviser, from Victim Support, who received a referral from West Yorkshire Police (WYP). The ISVA still meets up with the teenager.

“I don’t want to hold onto the pain and hurt,” she said.

“That is what he caused and why should I hold onto these feelings when it is his fault?”

“The support from Victim Support and West Yorkshire Police was really good and I got to trust the officer and they let me open up in my own time.

“I had someone to speak to about stuff with Victim Support who were different to the police. And they are still there if I need to talk to them,” she said.

Victim Support supported the teenager on her journey through the courts process by taking her to visit court, talk through what would happen, and being there for her talk through any concerns that she had.

For help and support through Victim Support call 0300 303 1971 or visit https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/support-near-you/yorkshire-and-humber/west-yorkshire.

Know the Signs of CSE

Even something that seems like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign that a child is being sexually exploited. Some of the visible signs include:

  • Regularly missing from home or school and staying out all night.
  • Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn.
  • Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can’t be accounted for.
  • Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use.
  • Appearing to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Being picked up or dropped off in cars by unknown adults.
  • A significantly older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends.
  • Spending excessive amount of time online and becoming increasingly secretive about time spent online.
  • Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour or increased offending
Image of the Victims Strategy launch showing Mark speaking to attendees

Mark Burns-Williamson opening the launch event

Mark and the national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC

Mark Burns-Williamson and the national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC

the national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC

The national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC 

The Victims Strategy