In any community, there are people who pose a risk to others because of their offending history, or those people who are considered to have the potential to offend in a serious way.
From a public perspective, people see the `front-line` officers, those who are responding in patrol cars, or the PC`s and PCSO`s who are visible in the community. However, there are officers who are not seen by the public but have a vital role in safeguarding victims and managing high risk offenders.
This week I will write about the changes that have been made to the safeguarding units who formally looked after victims of domestic violence.
Until the end of September 2019, there were safeguarding units who worked across the county whose role it was to visit victims of domestic abuse.
These police officers would work in plain clothes and see victims within 24 hours of any incident.
They would establish what the victim wanted in the future, which might be to continue the relationship or to move on from it.
Depending what the victim wanted, would depend on the help and advice they would be given; for example, someone who has ended a relationship would want protection from their former partner, so home security and ways of preventing future contact would be explored. Whereas someone who wants to stay in a relationship would be seeking support in how to remain safe, so different advice is given.
These victims would be offered the support of an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) who are people from charities with specialist domestic abuse training, who could work with them.
These safeguarding units have been dissolved and there are four charities in Hampshire whose staff now fulfil the function, meaning that the police officers who worked in the safeguarding units have now moved to other roles.
There are two distinct benefits to this change: Firstly, the charities have enough staff to respond more quickly, meaning that victims receive specialist help when it is most needed, whereas the police could not always respond so quickly. Secondly, it puts police officers back into either much needed front-line roles, or into other specialist roles, where their skills and experience in safeguarding can be used.
Hampshire Constabulary have not taken away officers from specialist domestic abuse roles entirely and since 1st October 2019 a specialist safeguarding team have been established who are based in Southampton.
This unit will deal with the most high-risk cases involving honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The officers working in this specialist role will be a point of contact for front-line officers who attend reports of this nature and they will work closely with the victims to ensure their safety.
They have other responsibilities too, such as assisting in the monitoring and adherence of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) and providing relevant background information for MARAC meetings.
DVPO`s are the orders granted by a magistrate court to prevent a perpetrator of domestic violence from returning to a home or having contact with the victim, which last up to 28 days and are designed to provide a protective period for a victim to make decisions, or obtain a civil order, which effectively will do the same, but it will last for one year.
MARAC meetings are Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences, where information is shared about the highest risk domestic abuse cases.
They comprise of representatives from the police, probation service, child protection, housing providers, health, IDVA`s and other specialist, from both statutory and voluntary sector.
Once the information has been shared, the attendee of the meeting will decide on the options for increasing the safety of the victim, which become part of an action plan.
This will give you an insight into some of the behind the scene work which goes on, however, there are a lot of other officers who re engaged in the management of offenders, which I will write about next week.