David Sidwick: What I plan to do as Police & Crime Commissioner

By David Sidwick, newly elected PCC for Dorset

I am humbled and grateful to the people of Dorset for electing me as their Police and Crime Commissioner.

I’ve lived in this county all my life, my children were brought up here and my family goes back generations. It is therefore a great honour to represent all of you – and that of course includes those who voted for me in the recent PCC elections, as well as those who voted for one of the other candidates and those who didn’t cast a vote at all.

It’s also an honour for me to work with Dorset Police, which I know is a great organisation full of dedicated, hard working people.

Many of you will already have heard about my vision, which is to make Dorset the safest county in the UK.

I know this is a place we can get to. Over the next few weeks I will be working on a new Police and Crime Plan for Dorset, which will be the roadmap setting out how we can get there.

The plan will be at the heart of all activity carried out by Dorset Police, as well as my own office, over the next three years.

It will have a major impact on how we make our communities safer, so later in the summer I will be asking the people of Dorset about what matters to you and what you think should be included in the plan.

Please keep an eye on our website for more information about how you can make a contribution and have your voice heard.

But first, let me tell you more about some of my own priorities – and what I want to focus on to make Dorset safer.

Focus on cutting crime 

Number one on my list is for the police to robustly focus on cutting crime, from the violent crime – which is thankfully rarer here than in our big cities – to the constant grind of anti-social behaviour which blights communities and makes people’s lives miserable. I want people to see a clear difference and to feel safer.

I also want to bring back community-focused policing to the streets of Dorset. We should increase the number of officers across our neighbourhood teams and make them far more visible, so they play a role in preventing crimes against individuals and businesses. Members of our communities should know who their local officers are and should be able to contact them easily when needed.

We need to fight organised crime, particularly the county lines drugs gangs who have brought violence into some of our towns, but we also need to tackle hidden problems such as domestic abuse, child abuse, hate crime, modern slavery and cyber crime.

Dorset is a proudly rural county, and so we need to deal with those crimes which have a terrible impact on our farmers and people who live in small isolated villages, but which often take place away from the media spotlight.

I want to significantly increase the rural crime team and their capabilities, and I want to develop specific strategies to tackle problems affecting our rural communities such as burglary, anti-social behaviour and farm theft.

Putting victims first

But above all, we’ll put victims and communities at the heart of everything we do, because it is for these people that we need to bring about change. We need to support all our victims, particularly older and more vulnerable people, but we also need to help build up strong and resourceful communities. 

There’s also a huge resource of talented and passionate volunteers across our county – from Neighbourhood Watch and Community Speedwatch teams to our inspirational Police Cadets – and we need to do more to tap into that.    

Finally, we need to make sure every penny counts when it comes to police funding.

This is your money, which you pay through your council tax year in year out. We need to make sure we properly resource the front line and reduce unnecessary expenses so police teams can spend more time engaging with our communities, gathering intelligence and making people feel safer.

And if we get all that right, we’ll make our police crime fighters again, and Dorset will be well on the way to becoming the safest county in the UK.

For more information on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s work, visit the Dorset Police website.

Friendship, Respect and Difference: Stephen Lawrence Day

Stephen Lawrence Day was established in 2019 by the then Prime Minister Theresa May, on the 25th anniversary of Stephen’s death. It is a day dedicated to Stephen’s memory that also allows us to reflect upon the part we all play in creating a society in which everyone can flourish.

Members of Prejudice Free Dorset recognise that it is increasingly important that our Dorset communities are protected and people can live, work and visit free from discrimination and harassment.  

Stephen Lawrence was a black British teenager who was murdered in an unprovoked racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Eltham on the evening of 22 April 1993.

His death and the subsequent police investigation raised serious issues about police practice, highlighting institutional racism within the police, and wider attitudes in this country.

In the wake of Stephen’s murder, activists drove forward anti-racism and equality reforms, changing the law, practice and attitudes. That is Stephen’s legacy.

We know there is further yet to go. Racial prejudice still exists in this country and everyday discrimination and harassment are still happening in our workplaces.

Baroness Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, wants Stephen Lawrence Day to be about hope – as we all work together to build a fair and civilised society, free from discrimination.

We must all continue to support all our colleagues and communities, through friendship, respect and understanding difference.

#CrimeNotCompliment aims to make public sexual harassment a crime

A newly launched campaign by Plan International UK and Our Streets Now, titled #CrimeNotCompliment, aims to make public sexual harassment a crime – by requesting the government to change the law surrounding it.

Public sexual harassment is a serious public safety issue:

  • 51% of girls in the UK have experienced public sexual harassment since June 2020
  • 94% of girls in the UK think that harassment should be illegal
  • 80% of parents in the UK worry their daughter will experience public sexual harassment during her lifetime.

The Government has announced that they are reopening the consultation on violence against women and girls (deadline 26th March).

We are therefore encouraging everyone to fill in the consultation and ask the government to include making public sexual harassment a crime as part of their strategy.

To help support the campaign, fill in the survey here and for an extra push, please email your MP to ask for their support of the campaign.

You can also express your support by sharing this information, signing up for campaign updates (handraiser) or by visiting Plan International UK’s activism webpage.

For more tips on how to complete the survey, please visit the guide produced by Our Streets Now.

Violence against women: A statement from PFD

By Superintendent Gavin Dudfield, Chair of Prejudice Free Dorset

Today, at our quarterly Prejudice Free Dorset meeting ,we discussed violence against women and girls.

What is clear from the meeting – and from the large amount of media coverage – is that all PFD members want everyone to feel safe in our society. People should not have to act differently or consider extra safeguarding precautions because of their gender.

Members of PFD will be working with Community Safety Partnerships and support networks to secure funding for local initiatives, whilst developing longer-term strategies to ensure Dorset is a safe and prejudice free place to live, work and visit.

As Chair of PFD, I wanted to confirm that agencies and services are here to help prevent and respond to concerns.

We have members who advise on government policy, members who work in local government, members who have access to funding opportunities. Members who provide acute support series and members – like the Police and CPS – who investigate criminal offences and seek to bring offenders to justice.

I would also like to share that the government is asking for evidence of lived experience of violence against women and girls (VAWG) – you can find out more via this link.

Out of Court Disposal: A one-stop guide to OoCD and Scrutiny Panels in Dorset

At PFD’s ‘No Place for Hate’ conference, some of you expressed your interest in more guidance around the purpose and responsibility of Out of Court Disposal (OoCD) Scrutiny Panels in Dorset.

We’ve compiled a number of frequently asked questions. If you have any further questions, please let us know in the comments and we will continue to extend this post.

What is Out of Court Disposal (OoCD)?

OoCD is used in cases of less serious, and often first-time, offenders as an alternative to going to court. It can only be used in limited circumstances and when the suspect takes responsibility for the alleged offence.

What are the methods for dealing with suspects who are seen by OoCD?

Methods for dealing with suspects in this way include restorative justice, community resolutions, conditional cautions, cannabis warnings, penalty notices and fines, together with appropriate interventions.

Why are OoCD Scrutiny Panels needed?

OoCDs are administered without the involvement of the courts and so the public expects that the police, who in such cases act as ‘investigators, prosecutors, judge and jury’, have some checks and balances in exercising these powers.

For this reason, the Police and Crime Commissioner has adopted an OoCD Scrutiny Panel so Dorset residents can be assured that the police are making appropriate and proportionate use of this tool.

The Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel oversees how Dorset Police and the Youth Offending Service issue out of court disposals and ensures that the use of such disposals is appropriate, proportionate and consistent with national and local policy and considers the victims’ wishes where appropriate.

What does the OoCD Scrutiny Panel do?

The Scrutiny Panel reviews a random selection of cases – with the panel determining whether each instance was appropriate and consistent with Dorset Police policies, the Crown Prosecution Service Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Victim Code. Feedback and recommendations are passed on to the Force for action and consideration.

How often does the panel meet and what do they discuss?

In 2019, the panel met on four occasions on 6 March, 19 June, 4 September and 18 December 2019 to review and consider 65 cases in total.

The cases discussed were on the following broad themes:

  • Burglary, theft and shoplifting cases
  • Weapon offences, violence against the person, knife crime and violence linked to weapon possession
  • Females and Black, Asian, Minority & Ethnic individuals.

The scrutiny panel has a standing agenda which covers the following areas:

  • Introductions, conflicts of interest and confidentiality
  • Minutes from previous meetings (approved between meetings to save time at main meeting)
  • Review of actions from previous meeting/s and updates
  • Review of effectiveness (from Dorset Police, if any previous recipients of previous Out of Court Disposals have re-offended)
  • Performance update
  • Cases for discussion (previously 20 cases, reduced to 15)
  • Any other business (including selection of theme for the next meeting).
Who are the members of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel?

The Scrutiny Panel comprises members of the public and experts from other agencies. The panel has a core of some 15 regular attendees at panel meetings.

These include five independent members, representatives from Dorset Bench including Dorset Youth Panel, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, Probation Services, local Youth Offending Services who regularly attend the scheduled meetings which are held four times a year.

The panel is supported by members of Dorset Police including the Adult Out of Court Disposals Manager, Youth Out of Court Disposals Manager and a representative from Restorative Justice.

The panel also invites a representative from a different charity relevant to the theme of cases being considered; these include those with specialist knowledge in areas such as victim support, domestic violence, stalking, drugs and alcohol and sexual offences.

If you want to find out more about the independent panel members, visit page 1 of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel annual report here.

What about confidentiality?

At the start of each meeting, all those in attendance declare any conflicts of interest. All members have signed a confidentiality agreement which incorporates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.

Confidential meeting papers (e.g. case summaries and performance data) are sent securely to panel members and collected after each meeting for safe disposal.

Where can I find out more about the activities of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel?

To ensure transparency and accountability, a summary of each panel meeting is published together with a full annual report on the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner’s website – this is also open to members of the public to view.

The story of Eileen – a Romani gypsy

Did you know Romani gypsy families have been living in Dorset since the 16th century? Let’s find out more about them and their fascinating lifestyle – through the remarkable story of a lady who spent most of her life on the road.

Travelling for fifty years by horse and waggon might be difficult to imagine for many.

But not for the niece of the Queen of the Gypsies, Eileen Ika Rawlings (née Hughes) – born in 1943 – who lived this lifestyle with her husband, Dave Rawlings.

Eileen had a fascinating family history. Her aunt, Caroline Hughes became famous outside the traveller world in the 1960s – not only because of her beauty, but also for her fine singing voice. After being recorded by the BBC for Ewan MacColl’s Radio Ballads, she was known by many as the ‘Queen of the Gypsies’. 

Dave was a non-Gypsy or ‘gorja’, and marrying someone outside of the community was rare in those days, but they had a love match – so the couple got married in 1961.

Discovering the highways and byways of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire might sound promising, but it certainly wasn’t an easy life to live.

Eileen and Dave would spend much of their day collecting water and firewood, making a living by the work of their hands fashioning clothes pegs and paper flowers, and helping with the elderflower and blackcurrant harvests.

Thanks to Dave’s fine baritone voice and ability to play the mandolin, additional income came through for the couple from busking.

They would travel as far north as Stow-on-the-Wold for the twice-yearly horse fair and would over winter in Chalk Valley in Wiltshire.

Eileen in particular would love to talk to locals as she sat on the steps of the waggon, while the couple journeyed around the countryside.

When they moved on, they would always leave their overnight stopping place cleaner than when they had arrived.

Since they had many relatives who had settled on sites and in houses around Dorset, at one point they decided to hang up the harness and settle in a house near Dorchester. However, just like many other travellers, Eileen couldn’t stand living in bricks and mortar.

After three weeks of feeling hemmed in, they decided to move to the council-run traveller site in Piddle Hinton – where, by keeping a small horse, Eileen could feel like back in the days when they were still travelling.

Eileen Ika Rawlings died on the 15th May 2020. Their four children, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren keep her legacy alive.

Training dates: 3rd party reporting

Prejudice Free Dorset is pleased to offer a set of free, online training sessions on third party reporting to organisations across Dorset.

The sessions, which can be booked free of charge via Eventbrite, are suitable for any organisation looking to become a third party reporting centre, as well as organisations already working with us.

Spaces are limited, so please register your interest via any of the links below if you wish to take part:

  • Wednesday 20 January, 11:00 – 12:30 – Register
  • Wednesday 17 February, 11:00 – 12:30 – Register
  • Tuesday 23 March, 11:00 – 12:30 – Register

For a current list of third party reporting centres in Dorset, visit the Dorset Police website.

If you have any further questions, please contact us here.

‘Uniting businesses to tackle hate crime’ – a letter from our Business Sub-Committee

By Dr. Ray Davies, Chair of Business Sub-Committee, PFD

Dear PFD Members and Friends,

Prejudice Free Dorset’s Business Sub-Committee was born from the 2019 ‘No Place for Hate’ Conference. Delegates felt that local businesses could play a real part in helping to reduce prejudice in our county.

We’re now into the final months of the year and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still very much affecting our personal and professional lives, with a second lockdown in place. Nevertheless, the PFD sub-committees have been busy at work in the background, looking at actions in the new year.

The Business Sub-Committee is very much doing so too, targeting actions to realise the vision of PFD, in practical terms, in the retail and SME sector.

The actions envisioned will be in three areas: communications, perceptions and supportive measures to practical responses from the retail and SME sector which care about addressing hate crime and other incidents in a working environment.

The initial pilot in the new year will be targeted at users of Poole Bus Station and integration with Dolphin Shopping Centre and the Poole Bid, to be then subsequently rolled out across Dorset.

We look forward to everyone’s participation in the pilot as Prejudice Free Dorset takes on this important leadership role within the business community in order to tackle hate crime once and for all.

Hate Crime Awareness Week 2020

During Hate Crime Awareness Week (10th – 17th October), partners in Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Dorset will continue to work together to promote awareness around tackling prejudice and hate crime.

Look out for events and activities on Prejudice Free Dorset’s website, Twitter and Facebook page.  In the meantime, there are 26 local reporting centres for victims and bystanders to contact to receive information and guidance around resilience and reporting.

Dorset Police continue to be fully committed in responding swiftly to incidents and the Wessex area still has one of the highest successive prosecution rates and to date.

Partner organisations have distributed posters, leaflets, conducted presentations in schools and community settings, produced a short film about how local systems support victims and undertaken training on how to effectively report incidents.

New working group to support BAME residents, visitors and staff

By Graham Farrant, Chief Executive at BCP Council

The recent local, national and international protests have provoked a lot of discussion amongst BCP Council members and the leadership team of the Council, who are committed to addressing the diversity and equalities agenda of our Corporate Strategy and Delivery Plan. 

An independent working group is now being set up to review how the Council will ensure effective and long term inclusivity and engagement with our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff, residents and visitors.

We expect that the group will engage with a range of council and community representatives as part of its research and that the group itself will comprise a mixture of councillors and independent people. The terms of reference for the group are currently being drafted and the process for inviting expressions of interest to join the group is underway.

The working group will be recognised as part of the Council’s Equality & Diversity Governance Framework, reporting to the Strategic Equality Leadership Group. Their findings will be used to inform how the council develops and delivers its services and be a key contributor to the Council’s wider equality & diversity action plan.

This working group will be in addition to the Community Equality Champions group which is already in place and responding to the community concerns that have arisen in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and to the concerns of the impact on COVID-19 on BAME individuals and communities.

Please be assured that the Council remains committed to connecting and empowering communities so that everyone feels safe, engaged and included and so that we genuinely create a vibrant community with outstanding quality of life where everyone can play an active role.

For more information on hate crime, visit our ‘Support for you’ pages.