When the first PCCs were sworn into office back in 2012, there were manywho were less than optimistic about the role. Early media coverage of PCCs focused on some high profile personalities rather than on the substantial changes to policegovernance, accountabilityand thetangiblebenefits of devolved funding arrangements for commissioning victims’ services.
Four years and another election laterand PCCs are here tostay, many with increased majorities and growing public support for the model and,according to the HomeAffairs Select Committee, recognition of the improvement totransparency it provides.
That shift in public opinion has been hard won. To truly represent one’s constituents requires year-round public engagement, listening to residents’ viewsand managing expectations to match what can be achieved within challenged budgets and rising demand on police services.
One of the constant conversations I have with many members of the public is around confidence in policing.When people see a lot of police activity in their community they can become concerned that criminals are living in their midst, but, if they don’t see or noticepolice on patrol, they can similarly feel under-policed.
It can often seem counter-intuitivewhenpolice chiefs and PCCs welcome rises in reported crime. Webelieve that probably demonstrates increased public confidenceto report crime but higher crime figures can increase some communities’ fear of crime.
Over the past four years, I have sought to understand better how people feel about policing and crime which is why I set up the Sussex Youth Commission and the Sussex Elders’ Commission, and whyI continue to engage with local communities on a weekly basis.
Starting in 2013 and still running today, my Youth Commission members (agedbetween 15-25 years)have held over 4,000 individual conversations with their peers about policing, crime, community and personal safety issues. They looked at reducing re-offending, hate crime, drug and alcohol abuse, relationships with the police and antisocial behaviour.
Their ideas and recommendations have been warmly welcomed by Sussex Police and some have already been adopted, including around stop and search and policing the night time economy.
Ialsowantedto reach out to our older residents and help them avoid becoming victims and not to be disproportionately fearful of crime either.Drawing on the successful model of my Youth Commission, I established the Sussex Elders’ Commission (SEC) in March 2015 and, overthe following year, SEC membersheldtheir ‘Big Conversation’ with over 2,000 family members, friends and peers to hear older residents’ ideas and concerns about policing, crime and community safety.
The SEC report listed recommendations and potential solutions to address issues such as nuisance calls and scams, financial abuse and coercion and older peoples’ fear of crime.
I have been pushing for greater recognition of the acute vulnerability of older residents,not just in Sussex but nationally too, because criminals are deliberately targeting this particular demographic. I believe that the availability of stiffer, deterrent sentencing has a part to play, and I think there is more that financial institutions could do to help detect unusual money transfers and withdrawalsand recognise potential crimes.
Access to justice
For those people who need to engage with the criminal justice system as witnesses, victims and police officers,Iwantto improve theirexperienceand help modernise justice so that it is swifter and more accessible.
I identified the need to improve the justice experience of victims and witnesses of crime, while delivering value formoney and responding to the challenge ofreduced public sector funding. MyVideo Enabled Justice (VEJ) programme offered an opportunity to progress that ambition.
In order tomake the most ofthis opportunity, I obtained a grant from the Police Innovation Fund. To date, this has involved developing a high-level target operating model together with equipping the Sussex justice estate to commence Video Enabled Justice.
Previous attempts to deliver significant change and savings to the criminal justice system through the use of video have failed to truly deliver the return on investment sought. This is chiefly because attempts to increase and improve video provision have not had the levels of cross-agency and geographic collaboration required to succeed.To address this, my office is working with criminal justice partners across London, Kent and Surrey and we are all committed to maximising the benefits of video in the criminal justice system
My mission, along with our strategic partners, is to unite and deliver a VEJ solution which embeds a practical, useful, video solution within the many constituent justice agencies, to deliver a transformed, modern justice experience for all users to the benefit of the taxpayer.
Putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system in Sussex is one of the key priorities inmy Sussex Police andCrime Plan and we are fortunate to have many organisations providing victims’ services across Sussex.
When I came into office I found that Restorative Justice (RJ) already had strong foundations in Sussex and several partners were involved in delivering RJ locally. However,for RJ to work effectively it must be a victim-led process and expanding local support services to include an RJ element will go a long waytohelping victims during their recovery.
In orderto strengthen service provision and using the convening and commissioning powers of my role, we designed a victim-led, partnership model to inform future commissioned services. The Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership (SRJP) has now been formed, which brings together more than 25 agencies and authorities with an interest in RJ. The work of this group is being delivered through the Sussex Criminal Justice Boardwhich I chair.
Restorative Justice has also been proven to have a greater impact on an offender than a prison sentence or a court punishment alone. With RJ, the offender has to face the consequences of their actions and, in the majority ofcases,this will contribute to positive changes in their future behaviour and prevent re-offending.
Iwanted to exploit the greater buying power ofpooled budgets and give more security of service with contract longevity. I entered into co-commissioning arrangements with local authorities for example, a £253,000 per year contribution to the Brighton & Hove and East Sussex joint Domestic and Sexual Violence services contract. For the first time ever, the contract was awarded to a VCSE partnership andthe combinedbudget sharehasenabled the partnership to attract further outside funding by having a longer-term and sustainable financial arrangement.
Looking ahead, I will be introducing a consistent methodology for measuring victim outcomes for all providers of support services in Sussex. Thiswill help demonstrate clear value and success for commissioned services and generate an evidence-base for what really helps victims to cope and recover.
The evidence and legacy of my first PCC term and the progress in my second, shows that there is much more to the role than justholding Sussex Police to account.
The PCC model has allowed me tocommission initiativesthat are changing people’s lives. I have engaged with previously disengaged members of society through myYouth and Elders’ Commissions andI havedriven the use of video to speed up the justice system. My team has set the higheststandards and won awards for the positive use of RJ andwe havestreamlinedand quality-assuredvictims’services that reflect local needs.
Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex