On Friday, Hertfordshire Beacon Victim Care delivered the first Hertfordshire annual Victims Awareness Conference. With over 100 guests, the day comprised talks from partners, stakeholders and people with lived experience, all of whom shared one thing in common: a determination to ensure that the journey a victim takes through the criminal justice system is one which makes them feel understood, empowered and respected.
Working in collaboration
Beacon Victim Care is Hertfordshire’s Victim Care service and has been delivered by Catch22 since 2018. Beacon’s motto, “No one victim left behind”, is its guiding principle; the service works to ensure that, regardless of when the crime was committed and whether it was reported to the police, every victim has the right to access support and advocacy when navigating the system. The service works with the Office for Police and Crime Commissioning (OPCC) to understand the needs of the local community and deliver the best possible care for victims. However, this isn’t something that Beacon can do alone.
In fact, the service takes an “ecosystem” approach, working collaboratively with local organisations to ensure that victims receive the most appropriate and specialist support that will help them recover from the impact of crime. That’s why, at the Victims Awareness Conference, we welcomed talks from a wide variety of stakeholders, partners and survivors, enabling services to share best practice, emerging trends and practical advice, as well as simply get to know one another and encourage more cohesive working in the future.
Hearing from the experts
First off, we heard from Kevin McGetrick, Head of Commissioning and Victim Services at the OPCC for Hertfordshire. Kevin informed us of the importance of engaging with those underrepresented, or “hidden”, cohorts of victims who are unlikely to come forward for support, asking us to consider how we can ensure we’re reaching all victims of crime, and not just the low hanging fruit.
We also heard from Charlotte Calkin at the Restorative Engagement Forum. Charlotte spoke on the impact that restorative justice (RJ) can have on both victims and perpetrators, if appropriate, as well as dispelling the myths that surround restorative justice and why we must work as a collective to educate the sector on the wide-ranging forms that restorative justice can take, and their respective benefits.
The conference also hosted Leanne Hemming from Citizens Advice Witness Service, which offers a wealth of practical and emotional support to those giving evidence as a witness.
We then heard from Mark Brooks OBE, the founder of ManKind charity who support and advocate for male victims of domestic abuse. Mark described the urgent need to raise awareness on the increasingly-common issue of domestic abuse / domestic violence against males.
Finally, we heard talks from Jade and Kris, both of whom are survivors of serious crime and were kind enough to share their stories with us. Both Jade and Kris perfectly encapsulated the experience of being a victim navigating the Criminal Justice system, and shone a light on the complex, and often unsupportive, channels a victim must travel through to seek justice. They eloquently expressed the need for a system which treats individuals as individuals, and not simply case files, and described how some of the best support they received, including that from Hertfordshire Beacon, came from those who understood that there is no one-size-fits-all model for helping victims.
One attendee reflected on the conference by saying:
“Thank you for one of the best conferences/trainings on the needs of the victim I have attended, it will help me to better support victims in my role.”
Hearing from Kris and Jade prompted attendees at the conference and working in the victims space to remember that, at the centre of everything we do, there are real people who have suffered real trauma, and this should be the basis upon which we build our services: an important lesson that we continually remind ourselves of as we strive to deliver ever better support for victims.