Assistant PCC opens up about her role and why supporting vulnerable people is so important

Want to know more about our Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Anderson?

Jane is the portfolio holder for ‘Victims’ within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Surrey. She listens to vulnerable victims of crime and makes recommendations to the police, court and judiciary to ensure their voices are heard and changes are made where necessary.

Additionally, Jane can make recommendations to support the ‘Victims Fund’. This is an £1.4m Government Grant which goes towards commissioning services to support victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual offences, child abuse and funding women’s refuges.

Concentrating on the most vulnerable in society through various stages of their court process allows Jane to fully understand their wants and needs. This helps guide OPCC investment, police improvement and partner agency involvement.

With a varied and admirable career, we thought what better opportunity to chat to Jane about her commitment to support people, challenges she faces and what made her take the role in the first place.

Question: Tell us about your career background…

Answer: Most of my career has been spent in the Civil Service – after a decade with the BBC, I was a civil servant for 18 years, mostly working on policy matters including Criminal Justice policies, managing prison population and police funding. When I retired, I thought it would be interesting to look at how things worked locally and how policies affect people on the ground. That’s when I was appointed to the Surrey Police Authority where I spent four years before the system changed to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC).

Q: What does the role of ‘Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner’ involve?

A: I’m not there to support individuals per se – the PCC funds a number of excellent agencies to do that. What I’m there to do is listen and make sure victims’ voices and experiences are heard by police, the courts and the judiciary.

Q: Describe your typical working day…

A: I don’t think there is any such thing as a typical day – I never sit in an office! I’m always out talking to victims, whether this is in the courts, at domestic abuse refuges or speaking to groups of survivors. Following this, I will usually write a report on what I’ve heard with recommendations to service providers.

Q: What is and how effective is the Victims Code?

A: The Victims Code sets ground rules for treating victims. This should be followed by all criminal justice agencies and tells victims what they can expect from the system. However, with anything, when a number of agencies are involved, it’s very difficult for a victim to complain if something goes wrong because they simply don’t know where the fault is. Often the fault is not any one agency, it is just an accumulation of poor service. One police officer said to me “Victims just don’t know what service they should expect so they take whatever they’re given.” This isn’t good enough – but individuals don’t know that. The Victims Code is a useful structure but it’s not by any means the whole story.

Q: What are your main responsibilities when supporting victims?

A: As I said, I’m not there to support individuals – I don’t lead an investigation into a crime, a police officer does that. I’m not on the end of the phone for a particular rape victim, the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors will do that. I’m there to look at the collective experience and make sure that their voices are heard.

Q: What victims do you have most interaction with?

A: I concentrate on the most vulnerable – that means victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape and young people. I also do some random sampling – I often turn up at the courts and talk to whoever is there and sometimes situations you wouldn’t think make people particularly vulnerable, turn out to be.

Q: At what stage in the criminal process do you speak with victims?

A: All stages. If I go to the court, I talk to victims after they’ve given evidence or while they are waiting. When talking to a rape victim or survivors group, I’ll often be talking to them before they’ve had the courage to go to the police. Equally when I was looking at victims of anti-social behaviour (ASB), a police officer took me to victim’s houses and I’d talk to them in the middle of their case. I think if I concentrate on talking to people at just one stage then I limit my understanding.

Q: How does your interaction benefit the victim, police and OPCC?

A: As far as victims are concerned, every service does user satisfaction surveys but no one else asks them how they found the total journey. Telling their story to someone neutral, like me, helps them make sense of their experiences and gives them closure.

As for police, it’s a spur for them to improve – I act as an independent voice, an independent audit of what police do.

As for the OPCC, it helps in placing our investment as we’re in a better position to assess what support services victims really value.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect or your job?

A: It’s frustrating when things don’t go well. It’s terrible seeing someone in tears after a rape trial when they know the jury hasn’t believed them. When listening to experiences of some young people and what they’ve gone through, you think they’re just children – they’ve had all the years they should have been having fun and doing normal things like sitting exams and becoming young adults, completely poisoned by long court cases.

Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

A: I’m pleased by listening and respecting the stories victims tell me, this makes them feel better about their situations.

I’m also quite proud of the OPCC and how they’ve allocated spending from the government. I’m a great believer of spending public money appropriately and I think we have done this systematically and sensibly, enabling us to expand necessary support services.

Q: With the movement from the Police Authority to PCCs, have you experienced any noticeable changes in your role?

A: On the Police Authority, we focussed almost entirely on scrutinising and monitoring Surrey Police. One advantage of the PCC is that he can intervene and drive things forward as he takes more of an overview. This allows us to act tactically and bring agencies together.

Working for the Police Authority, I had no direct contact with victims and so certainly knew nothing about victims of domestic abuse, I’d never visited a refuge, and I didn’t really know what they did!

Q: Have you always wanted to work with and support vulnerable people?

A: The honest answer is no. When I’d finished my Civil Service career, I reflected on my own life and how fortunate I’d been. The more I speak to people that aren’t in a fortunate position, the more I want to pass on some of that ease to them. Since becoming Victims’ Champion, I’ve met people who’ve got caught up in some awful situations through no fault of their own. Therefore I want to do all I can to make their lives better and improve the service provided; it’s a privilege to be part of that.

Q: What makes it important for you to keep doing what you do?

A: It’s the ‘making a difference’ – it’s important to make life better and it’s important to concentrate on the things that really matter. I’m not interested in game playing and implementing policies just to make you look good – I’m interested in what really makes a difference.


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