We play an essential role in enhancing support – Commissioner Lisa Townsend speaks at national conference on criminal justice

Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey Lisa Townsend has called for more to be done to support women and girls who experience gender-based violence during a panel discussion at this year’s Modernising Criminal Justice conference.

The discussion chaired by Reader in Criminal Law at King’s College Dr Hannah Quirk coincided with domestic abuse awareness week in Surrey and included questions on the progress made since the launch of the Government’s ‘Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy’ in 2021 and how Safer Streets funding provided by Police and Crime Commissioners is making a difference to the lives of women and girls locally.

The conference at the QEII Centre in London featured speakers from across the criminal justice sector, including the Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, fellow Police and Crime Commissioners and the Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird.

Reducing violence against women and girls, including victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, is a key priority in Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan for Surrey.

Speaking alongside the Chief Executive of AVA (Against Violence and Abuse), Donna Covey CBE, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey Lisa Townsend welcomed a significant increase in funding from the Government in the last two years to tackle the violence women experience every day, adding Commissioners played an essential role in ensuring services on the ground are able to provide the best possible support and care to those who need it.

She said more work was needed to ensure that justice was achieved for victims, requiring the whole criminal justice system to work together to hear survivors’ voices and do more to recognise the impact of trauma on individuals and their families: “I’m pleased to take part in this national conference with a really important aim of collaborating across the criminal justice sector to prevent offending and reduce harm in our communities.

“I’m passionate about reducing violence against women and girls and this is a key area in which I am dedicating my full attention to as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey.

“It is essential in our efforts to drive change that we continue to act on what survivors are telling us needs to be different. I am really proud of the enormous amount of work being led by my team, Surrey Police and with our partners, which includes early intervention to address behaviours that lead to violence, and ensuring there is specialist support that recognises the deep and lasting impact all forms of violence against women and girls can have on the mental health of both adult and child survivors.

“Recent developments including the Domestic Abuse Act offer new opportunities to strengthen this response and we are grasping these with both hands.”

In 2021/22, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner provided more support to individuals affected by sexual violence, rape, stalking and domestic abuse than ever before, with £1.3m in funding provided to local organisations to support the survivors of domestic abuse and a new Safer Streets project aimed at improving the safety of women and girls in Woking. A dedicated service to challenge the behaviour of both stalking and domestic abuse perpetrators across Surrey was also launched and is the first of its kind to be launched in the UK.

The Commissioner’s office continues to play a key role in significantly increasing the number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors in Surrey, who provide direct advice and guidance in the community to help victims rebuild trust, access support and navigate the criminal justice system.

Confidential advice and support is available from Surrey’s independent specialist domestic abuse services by contacting the Your Sanctuary helpline 01483 776822 (9am-9pm every day) or by visiting the Healthy Surrey website.

To report a crime or seek advice please call Surrey Police via 101, online or using social media. Always dial 999 in an emergency.

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