The need to review sentencing
In 2018 two Thames Valley Police Officers were hit by a drunk driver. Both were seriously injured and PC Tom Dorman ended up having his leg amputated. Last year that man was sentenced to five years in prison. It has now emerged that after serving just 10 months he has been moved to an open prison and will be eligible for release on temporary licence. As a result I have written to the Lord Chancellor asking him to look at this particular case and the wider questions it raises about our criminal justice system.
Violence Reduction Units in focus
In 2019 the Home Office announced that 18 Police and Crime Commissioners in areas worst affected by violent crime would share £35 million to establish Violence Reduction Units (VRUs), with a further £35 million provided for 2020/21.
The work of the VRUs is part of the Government’s drive to tackle crime and make communities safer. The units provide a multi-agency public health approach – bringing different organisations together – including police, local government, health, education, community leaders and other key partners to understand the root causes of serious violence and provide a co-ordinated strategic response to help drive it down.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), with Home Office support, has published ‘VRUs In Focus’ demonstrating how VRUs, including the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, are progressing and their achievements to date despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matthew Barber said:
“The impact of serious violence is felt by communities across the Thames Valley. As well as prioritising the policing response to tackle the immediate challenge, the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit also seeks to make long term, sustained changes to reduce violence. In Thames Valley the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner is well placed to bring together agencies from across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to make a real difference.”
Support for Family Drug and Alcohol Courts
Parents affected by domestic abuse will be supported through the Family Drug & Alcohol Courts, thanks to £48,500 funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley.
The funding will be used to employ a full-time key worker and costs associated with forensic work at the Family Drug & Alcohol Courts (FDAC) for Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.
Domestic abuse is a major factor in a significant number of cases referred to FDAC and this funding will allow them to provide one-to-one support for parents.
Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, said: “We are impressed with the work that has been taking place in the Family Drug & Alcohol Courts and were delighted to be able to support them with this funding.
“It will pay for a specialist key worker who will support families where domestic abuse has been a factor in their case. This role will work across all cases held by FDAC in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.
“Domestic abuse should never be tolerated and we appreciate that quite often these sort of cases are complex. We hope that by giving this funding we can stop domestic abuse happening and support families thereby enabling children to live safely and not in fear.
“We are passionate about helping victims which is why we run our Victims First service. Victims of domestic abuse, or any other crime for that matter, are encouraged to get in touch with us for help. More information on how to refer into Victims First can be found on our website victims-first.org.uk.”
Jenny Swift, Team Manager – Milton Keynes and Bucks FDAC, said: “Previously we have been entirely funded by Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire councils but this year we have OPCC funding to expand the team which is brilliant news. This new role will include work with those who have experienced domestic abuse and those who perpetrate it.
“There are occasionally cases where a more specialist assessment is needed by a forensic psychologist to help make decisions and understand risks. The funding will also cover these assessments as well as the key worker.
“FDAC runs in a very different way to the usual family court proceedings and we aim for a less adversarial and more problem solving approach to resolve issues of child safety. Intensive support is offered to parents whose use of drugs and/or alcohol has significantly impacted their ability to care for their children.
“Parents usually have a variety of other difficulties which also impact on their parenting, such as experience of mental health problems, domestic abuse, loss and past trauma. The team aims to offer a holistic approach to supporting parents, first to achieve abstinence and then to recognise and understand the other issues affecting them and their ability to meet their children’s needs.
“The funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley will allow us to expand the support we can give and we’re hugely grateful to be given it. It will directly have a positive effect on families across Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.”
Live Chat improves access to support for victims of crime
Victims First which supports victims of crime and abuse across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, has launched a Live Chat service to improve access to support for victims.
The Live Chat service which is now live on Victim First’s website www.victims-first.org.uk, offers a new way to access support, enabling victims to talk online with a Victims First Officer, safely and in confidence.
Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner said “Live Chat enhances our existing service, providing an additional and valuable route to support. Not everyone feels able to pick up the phone and ask for help so Live Chat will be of particular benefit to people who would prefer to make initial contact or have the whole conversation online. It also offers a discreet way for victims to access support, which is extremely important especially for victims of domestic abuse who may be living under the same roof as their abuser.
“I hope that introducing a secure online chat service will encourage victims to reach out for help. Anyone needing support can get in touch via the Live Chat button on our website www.victims-first.org.uk or by calling Victims First on 0300 1234 148 to speak to one of our trained Victims First Officers who will be able to provide free confidential emotional and practical support."
Live Chat will be staffed by trained Victims First Officers during Victims First opening hours.
Victims First is managed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. It offers free support to any victim or witness of crime in the Thames Valley regardless of the crime, when it took place or whether or not the crime has been reported to the police.
Facebook LIVE policing and crime event
Since the impact of the coronavirus pandemic I have taken been running a series of monthly online sessions to discuss the big issues affecting policing and crime across Thames Valley and the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner in delivering and effective and efficient police force. I'm now taking these events to Facebook LIVE!
Join me on Monday 19th October at 7pm for my next event and follow me on Facebook to make sure you keep up to date with the latest news.
Make your voice heard to help shape the future!
The role of the Police & Crime Commissioner includes holding to Chief Constable to account, setting the council tax precept for policing, commissioning services for victims of crime, funding community safety partnerships and setting the policing priorities for the Thames Valley.
I want to know your views about policing where you live. Please spare a few moments to complete my short survey and tell me what you think is going well and what can be done better. Click the button below or visit www.matthewbarber.co.uk/haveyoursay.
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