Commissioning services for victims of crime in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is a big part of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s job and often this is the work that is most visible when it comes to support.
While this is clearly a vital part of criminal justice, what is often overlooked is the challenging work that is done to support those who actually commit the crimes.
This is, understandably, a slightly contentious area. There are some who think the only form of support criminals need is a hard bed in a cell at one of Her Majesty’s prisons. But how can we ever expect to break the cycle of criminality without working with offenders to help them to change their ways?
One method that can have extremely positive results for both offender and victim is Restorative Justice, a process which sets up a dialogue between the two, helping the person affected by crime understand the reasons behind an offence and giving the opportunity for a heartfelt apology. This service, which I commission in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through Make Amends, is not for everyone but I have met those who attest to its truly transformative powers, and numerous studies have shown it can reduce reoffending.
Another example of a service like this that is funded by our office is Circles South West. This charity, which this year was shortlisted for a prestigious Howard League for Penal Reform award for its work with young people, works closely with sexual offenders to provide specialist support and accountability to prevent these people reoffending.
And we know this work is effective. An independent two-year evaluation of the work carried out by Circles South West gave glowing prise to their rehabilitative prowess.
It said the charity has “provided a large and valuable service to the region” and that “the majority of core members appear to have reduced dynamic risk of reoffending at the end of their circle compared to the beginning”.
The report concluded that the charity’s work “should be considered a valuable part of a community-led, strengths-based and restorative approach to reducing the risk of future sexual abuse”.
With this in mind, I was delighted this week to learn that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has been awarded £417,395 from central Government to work with the perpetrators of domestic abuse.
This will also be topped up by £215,959 in match funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and our long-running domestic abuse partners at Cornwall Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and Devon County Council. The successful bid was entirely down to the hard work of all those partners involved.
This multi-agency project will work with perpetrators of domestic abuse as well as their families with the aim of breaking the cycle of violence and helping people identify how they can change.
As well as working with those who afflict violence, the project will also help some key workers and members of the public to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and give them the skills to help intervene when it is safe to do so.
I am proud to be involved in this and to continue working alongside such passionate partners. This additional funding will help us develop a programme of work to better understand perpetration and develop a series of interventions to prevent further harm.
We know that this is an incredibly difficult time for those affected by domestic abuse and it is more important than ever that support is available.
Intervening early and working with perpetrators and their families is crucial to helping them identify why they act in the way they do and what changes they can make to alter their behaviour.
This kind of work may be a taboo talking point, but we must get over that and recognise that if we want to create a better, safer society, breaking the cycle of criminality is an integral cog of that machine.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, support is available through any of the following channels:
- Plymouth Service – 0800 458 2558 or sanctuary-supported-living.com
- Cornwall Service – 0300 777 4777 or firstlight.org.uk
- Devon Service – 0345 155 1074 or splitz.org
- Torbay Service – 0800 916 1474 or sanctuary-supported-living.com
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247
- Victim Support 24/7 – 0808 1689 111 or live chat at victimsupport.org.uk
- Victim Care Unit - 01392 476900
Those affected by crime who would like practical and emotional support, which could include referrals to Circles South West and Make Amends should contact the Victim Care Unit on 01392 476900 or online at victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk.