New Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) due to open its doors in Spring

by Mark Burns Williamson

2020 is already shaping up to be even busier than 2019 with a jam packed first quarter which will see a host of community visits, consultation on the budget as well as number of major pieces of work being launched, including a new Victims Strategy.

A specific launch to note is the new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) which is due to open its doors in the Spring.

Victims of sexual violence and abuse will soon be able to access a fully integrated service for the first time in this specially purpose built facility for West Yorkshire.

The new centre will house Children and Adult Services under the same roof at the heart of West Yorkshire.

It will incorporate court live-link facilities, vulnerable victims suites for video recorded interviews (VVS/VRI), a hub/base for specialist support services as required and access or referral to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA), a service commissioned by my office.

These developments are aimed at ensuring that vulnerable victims and witnesses giving evidence are more able to achieve successful outcomes through the Criminal Justice System, which can be a traumatic experience in itself.

Partners including West Yorkshire Police, NHS England, the Courts Service (HMTCS) have all been involved in its development.

I visited the Centre late last year to see the work which has already been done in adapting the building.

This is the culmination of a shared vision I have driven between the OPCC, West Yorkshire Police, NHS England and the Courts Service to help transform and improve the experience of vulnerable victims and witnesses by having all services under one roof.

We want to involve victims and survivors, children, adults, and young people in the development and improvement of services, improving healthcare outcomes with better access to justice for everyone, and having larger dedicated premises with an increased number of specialist facilities will fundamentally enhance service delivery and improve the quality of services offered.

Putting victims and witnesses at the heart of everything we do is key and I have been determined to ensure this vision is delivered, with what I believe will be one of the best facilities of its kind in the country.

I also recently helped to launch a new campaign targeted at the perpetrators of domestic violence, urging them to seek help to change their behaviour.

The ‘It’s in your hands’ campaign is targeted at both men and women who are aware and concerned about their own behaviour, whether this is physical violence or controlling tendencies. The message is that there is still time to change and support available to do it.

Anyone who is concerned about their own behaviour should seek help. As this campaign shows, there is support out there for them to do it.

More information about the campaign and contact details for organisations across West Yorkshire offering group and individual support are available at:


I was delighted to support the Blue Lamp Foundation recently with a joint donation along with the Chief Constable John Robins.

The Blue Lamp Foundation was established in October 2010 by PC David Rathband after he was shot and blinded whilst on duty in Northumbria.

The foundation provides financial aid when members of the emergency services are injured in the line of duty and incur unexpected costs such as hospital parking, childcare, medical aids, transport to and from appointments.

Sadly PC David Rathband died in 2012 but the Foundation continues in his memory. Its role and remit has developed since then and it now supports members of the emergency services who have mental or physical injuries as a result of being injured whilst on duty.

The donation was made from the Police Property Act Fund which consists of money from the sale of property connected with crime. The Fund can only be used for charitable aims and purposes.

The health and wellbeing of police officers, staff and emergency service workers in general is absolutely paramount. They risk an awful lot to keep our communities safe and it is only right that we reciprocate and do what we can to support them when they need it.

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