I do this in a variety of ways and in October two major projects have taken place in helping to achieve such aims. The first being the creation of the Help for Victims website and the other being the latest round of the Safer Communities Fund, both significant in their own right.
Victims deserve to be listened to and have a voice in the criminal justice system.
When I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012, I made five pledges to victims.
They were to be open and accountable to witnesses and victims, seeking out and acting on their views, making sure they get the high quality help they need, when they need it, in the way they need it, from the right agency.
Support the police to be even more victim focused and giving victims and witnesses an effective voice in the wider criminal justice system.
Within that context, as your Police and Crime Commissioner I have created a website solely dedicated to helping victims and witnesses.
Launched on October 24 www.helpforvictims.co.uk, Help for Victims is the only website that provides clear and concise advice to victims and witnesses who want to understand the criminal justice process.
More importantly, Help for Victims will inform witnesses and victims of their Code of Rights and as well as questions and answers, disseminated from the Victims’ Code and Witnesses Charter, those using the website can inquire and ask for further information.
There will be individual pages for 400 local supporting organisations which can help with concerns such as cyber bullying or hate crime with trained advisers on hand to answer questions or concerns.
The Victim Support charity has worked with us on developing the website and informed the decisions we have taken, because it is important to all that the most vulnerable know they have the support and advice they need and know where to turn.
But that is not all. I created Help for Victims to ensure victims and witnesses have all the knowledge they need to empower them to make informed decisions. It is the only website with all these facilities in one place for West Yorkshire.
It is important that people realise if they feel they are a victim or witness to a crime, this website is for them as a new and important facility in addition to other victim and witness pathways.
Underlining my commitment to victims I have already made £3.5million available to police for increased capacity to deal with child sexual exploitation (CSE), human trafficking and cyber crime. I have also provided funding for more staff dedicated to dealing with rape and sexual offences and protected as far as possible front-line Neighbourhood Policing Teams as well, including Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) for this and next year.
I have recently met safeguarding experts from around West Yorkshire to discuss how CSE and safeguarding generally is being tackled locally and will ensure that victims and witnesses always come first and want them to trust that their voices will be heard.
I also recently held the third awards evening for my Safer Communities Fund. I have now given more than £500,000 to deserving organisations across West Yorkshire who are helping keep communities safe and feeling safe.
The money has come from the Proceeds of Crime Act and means ill gotten gains are being ploughed back into the very communities affected by such crime. The Fund was set up at the start of this year and we have now awarded £567,000 to charities, voluntary groups, and other organisations across the county. It was heart-warming to hear from the some of the groups and the real impact they are having on people’s lives.
The demand for money under my Safer Communities Fund is considerable with 165 applications totalling £885,892 in this round and I am continually impressed by the amount of worthy causes and organisations applying for money from the fund.
This fund is crucial and I would like more POCA money to fund more groups in order to meet the clear demand out there, as well as ensuring that 50% of the money that is clawed back locally is spent on policing operations in agreement with the Chief Constable…this would be a win win all round.
The fourth grant round has now opened and I would encourage anyone who believes they are eligible for funding to visit my website at www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk to apply for funding.
All applicants need to demonstrate with their bids can support the outcomes and priorities of the Police and Crime Plan and groups and organisations can make bids at any time throughout the year.