23rd May 2014
Mental Health Awareness week is an ideal opportunity to highlight the work that we are doing in Dorset, to help those with mental health issues. In late June, we launch the street triage pilot which will see mental health nurses join police officers on emergency call outs. This twelve month scheme will ensure that people suffering from mental distress receive the most appropriate care. It will also help to reduce demands on valuable police time. You can read more about the scheme HERE.
As Chair of the PCC Mental Health Working Party, I am also keen to help change the culture nationally in terms of the policing response to mental health and I have accepted an invite to speak at Cambridgeshire’s Mental Health Roundtable on 1 July. It is important for local areas across the country to work together across services to improve care. The Mental Health Concordat which can be viewed HERE aims to half the number of occasions that police cells are used as places of safety for people in mental health crisis, compared to 2011/12.
Another key event this week, which I fully support, is International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). It is important that we continue to support our LGBT communities in Dorset and encourage those who are being bullied to speak out. Dorset Police takes hate crime seriously and I welcome the recent launch of the new hate crime app, which I encourage people to use. It means those suffering from the traumatic effects of hate crimes can report it and find out where to seek help and support.
The rainbow flag will be flying at Dorset Police HQ, Winfrith this weekend to mark support from The Office of the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Dorset Police for LGBT communities across Dorset. As trustee to Bourne Free , I also look forward to marking the charity’s 10th anniversary LGBT parade in Bournemouth this July. It is important that Dorset is a county where everyone feels safe, and feels secure in being themselves.
Posted by Martyn Underhill at 10:39am
6th May 2014
We are facing unprecedented times in policing. The budgetary challenges that we and every Force across the country are facing are huge. We are expected to deliver more for less. We need to think creatively in order to protect frontline services. Police and Crime Commissioners are the new blood in a new world, operating in a less than forgiving landscape which I agree, needs further definition. I would echo the words of Kent PCC Ann Barnes in that ‘we are all trying to do things in different ways’. This makes our work harder to judge, but then our agendas and the communities we serve, vary significantly. What is fundamentally clear is that we are effectively engaging with our communities. I hold 25 forums a year and have direct contact with thousands through public meetings, surgeries and correspondence. We want to engage, and are engaging.
We are further narrowing the gap between the police and the public by boosting volunteer numbers and using innovative solutions such as multi-agency software platforms to enhance communication. Working together with partners has always been my philosophy and in difficult economic times, it is essential.
This leads me to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s recommendation to strengthen the role of the Police and Crime Panels. In Dorset, I would argue that we have taken huge steps to involve our panel in our decision making processes. For example, last Friday the Dorset Police and Crime Panel received an update from my Chief Executive, who is involving the panel in our discussions on whether or not a Strategic Alliance with Devon and Cornwall is the right approach. They have a role in helping us to shape future policy. Whether to go ahead with a Strategic Alliance is the biggest decision in my term of office and it is only right that the panel are involved in that process.
I would also agree that the process of appointing a deputy Police and Crime Commissioner must be transparent. I support the Committee’s recommendations for the 2016 election prospective Commissioner candidates to be required to name their intended deputy, so that they are elected on the same ticket. I believe that deputy PCCs can play an important role in supporting this very busy and full role but that is something the public should be aware of in their selection.
The concept of Police and Crime Commissioners is still in its infancy. However, I do believe that we are changing the landscape for the better. PCCs across the country are giving victims a voice and working hard to improve their journey. Last year I opened the Dorset Victims Bureau. Next year, it will become the first multi-agency victims bureau in the country. I am still learning, defining and developing my role in serving the people of Dorset but I am determined to listen and innovate to the best of my ability over the rest of my term in office. I welcome the debate which this report will generate. As always, I welcome your views. E.mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner
Posted by Martyn Underhill at 10:06am
1st May 2014
After weeks of campaigning with other PCCs, I welcome news that the government has reversed its decision to cut support to families of people murdered before 2010.
This issue has received widespread support from the public and the Government was right to reconsider this decision. It is incomprehensible to think that funding could have been taken away from these bereaved families. As I mentioned in my blog last month, I wrote to the Policing Minister, Rt Hon Damian Green on March 19th, asking him to rethink the withdrawal of funding. A copy of that letter can be seen here. It is essential that those bereaved through homicide should be supported to help them come to terms with their loss and to move on with their lives. I thank the charities Support After Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) and Mothers Against Murder And Aggression (MAMAA) for their support in helping us to reverse this decision
I would also like to thank the 2100 people who have signed my petition, asking for a change in the law to stop abusers retaining images of their victims. I am striving for 10,000 signatures to secure a Government response, followed by a desire to achieve 100,000 in the next few months. Dorset Police have made strides in this area, by confirming that they will remove images of victims from a sex offender’s laptop, ensuring that victims needs come first. The Force believes that to return images of the victims to the offender would be incompatible with the victims’ right to respect for their private lives under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I applaud their decision. The Chief Constable and I share the view that victims must come first.
That leads me to today’s report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate which highlights significant issues in the CPS unit in Dorset. As a gatekeeper of victim care, I am ‘seriously concerned’ by this report which has identified significantly more ‘unsuccessful outcomes’ in magistrates courts in the Dorset area than the national average. I will be exploring those issues with CPS Wessex Chief Crown Prosecutor Kate Brown next week.
Since taking office, I have seen poorly performing court statistics, especially in Weymouth. The difficult question to answer is why? The Criminal Justice System is a complicated web of agencies. Locating the origin of the problem is like knitting fog. We can only hold an agency to account, be it police, courts CPS or whoever, if the blockage is properly identified, and the failing agency correctly highlighted. This led to my blog earlier this month, where I called on the Home Secretary to change the system and make the courts and the CPS more accountable to the public and to me, in my role as a Police and Crime Commissioner. This would allow us to take a closer look at the way in which the Criminal Justice System connects and better understand how failings occur. We cannot have offenders or victims slipping through the net. I will be working closely with the Criminal Justice Board to focus on these issues as a matter of urgency and to help put right what is obviously going wrong.
What we do know is that each poor performance statistic equals a failed victim. That is unacceptable.
I would love to know your thoughts. E.mail your views to email@example.com
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner
Posted by Martyn Underhill at 5:30am
15th April 2014
Abusers choose to abuse. They make conscious decisions, they make choices. Victims don’t choose to be victims, it happens to them, they don’t have a say. They don’t get a choice.
As Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, I am very aware that we have a choice to help protect our victims. It is my top priority.
That’s why I have launched my first government e-petition.
Last week I came across a concerning case here in Dorset, which I believe highlights how victims are being let down. This particular case involves a man convicted for sexual abuse. When he was arrested, his laptop was seized by the Police. Now the man is convicted and the case is over, the man is asking for his laptop back.
The laptop contains images of his victims which were not deemed indecent. The law states that the police have to return the equipment in its original condition.
So here is the catch.
Should an abuser, a person who has sexually assaulted victims, be allowed to retain images of his victims? Think of the trauma this causes to the victims. And think of the control and power this gives the abuser. I think this story is repugnant.
I am now working with the Victims Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, to lobby for a change in the law and a national charity is helping the victims fight the return of the images on the computer through the courts.
My question to Government is this – How can we protect victims of sexual abuse if current legislation allows perpetrators to keep images of them?
This is not the fault of the police. The legislation is wrong. It is double jeopardy for victim’s photos to be viewed by their abuser – it opens old wounds.
A victim cannot start the healing process, knowing that the person who abused them has images of them on a device. It is a continuation of the trauma. These victims need better protection and I will lobby Government to change a fundamental error in the law.
What do you think? Please let me know?
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner
Posted by Martyn Underhill at 11:20am
26th March 2014
Murder, or homicide, remains a shocking crime to all of us and one that has devastating consequences for the family and friends for those bereaved in such circumstances.
I am sure that we would all agree that it is vital that those bereaved through homicide should be adequately and appropriately supported to help them come to terms with their loss and to move forward with their lives. National charities such as Support After Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) - http://www.samm.org.uk/ - and Mothers Against Murder And Aggression (MAMAA) - http://www.mamaa.org/ - do valuable work in this area.
It was therefore extremely concerning to learn recently that the Government is planning to withdraw the funding provided to agencies currently providing support to families that have suffered bereavement by homicide before 2010. To my mind it is absolutely essential that the on-going support needs of these families are met.
Following a meeting with the Policing Minister on Tuesday, the indication was that PCCs would now be expected to assess and meet the needs of these bereaved families. This is extremely problematic, not least because it will require 41 separate PCCs to assess local need and to commission services for what will be a relatively small (albeit extremely important) cohort of families.
Given my understanding that to provide this service nationally would only cost an additional £250,000 more than is currently allocated I am calling on the Government to rethink this withdrawal of funding and have written to the Policing Minister accordingly – a copy of my letter to the Rt Hon Damian Green MP is attached below:
Letter to Rt Hon Damian Green MP re Homicide Victim Funding
Existing national charities must be allowed to continue with their excellent work in this area without fragmenting services and PCC’s should not be burdened with this responsibility which can be co-ordinated much more effectively at a national level and at relatively low cost in the grand scheme of victim support funding.
Posted by Martyn Underhill at 1:02pm