Tackling hidden harms together at the PCC conference
THREE survivors of child sexual abuse bravely spoke about their experiences at the fourth annual PCC conference focusing on “hidden harms”.
The event, called “Tackling Hidden Harms Together”, was a working conference which brought the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex together with partners from Essex Police, local authorities, criminal justice agencies and the community and voluntary sectors.
The conference – which took place at the Colchester United FC Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester – aimed to bring partners together to discuss ways in which they can prevent, tackle and raise awareness of “hidden harm” offences and to support victims.
The term “hidden harm” describes those offences which are extremely serious and damaging for victims but often take place away from public view. The term includes offences such as sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, elder abuse and ‘honour’-based abuse.
The event, which took place on Tuesday January 26, 2016, heard powerful presentations starting with national Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove who spoke passionately about the need for victims to be kept at the heart of the criminal justice system and the importance of tackling the issue of hidden harm.
Det Supt Lucy Morris of Essex Police’s Public Protection Command also gave a detailed presentation on the challenges faced by police in investigating hidden harm offences and the focus the force is placing on identifying and prioritising vulnerable victims.
Andrea Williams from the South Essex Rape & Incest Crisis Centre (SERRIC) brought along three survivors of child sexual abuse who spoke about their experiences of the criminal justice system and how SERRIC has been vital in supporting their recovery. One of the compelling accounts showed how the newly introduced victim’s Right to Review a CPS decision not to charge had been successful, and led to a perpetrator receiving a lengthy prison sentence.
Nicola Beach, Braintree District Council Chief Executive, spoke of the vital work undertaken by Safer Essex, which she chairs, in ensuring joined up and multi-agency work to tackle all sorts of crime, including hidden harms.
Delegates were also given the chance to take part in workshops focusing on: modern slavery; the impact of hate crime on victims; institutional elder abuse; how restorative justice can tackle hidden harms; reducing harm in domestic abuse; and the needs of young victims of sexual violence.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Crime is changing with some of the biggest threat of harm to our communities coming from those hidden harms such as domestic abuse, elder abuse, online grooming, child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and trafficking.
“These crimes are so challenging for police and partners to tackle as by their very nature they are hidden from view but their effect on the victims who suffer them is devastating.
“I have always been and continue to be committed to bringing police and partners together to share learning and information and to work together to keep our communities safe.
“I hope the legacy from my this conference – which will be my last – will be that it helped create better understanding of these hidden harms and most importantly helped to highlight ways in which we as a community can support police to uncover and investigate these offences, bring perpetrators to justice but most importantly end the suffering for victims and support them as they try to recover their lives.
“I would like to thank all those delegates who attended, including those who ran stalls, the staff from the Essex Council for Voluntary Services who helped organise and host the event and the Colchester United Weston Homes Community Stadium for providing a fantastic venue.”