Sussex Police is helping lead the way nationally in its approach to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG). A range of initiatives proven to be effective were showcased on 24 February during a meeting at the office of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (SPCC) Katy Bourne, with Home Office Minister for Safeguarding Rachel Maclean, Hampshire Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, newly-appointed lead for the national police VAWG strategy.

The picture shows, left to right, Katy Bourne, Rachel Maclean, Maggie Blyth, and Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Tanya Jones. “With the help of our partners across the criminal justice system we are committed to listening to the lived experiences of women and girls in Sussex and making long-lasting change,’ said Tanya Jones. 

‘We acknowledge many women have experienced violence, abuse or harassment, and this is not acceptable. Protecting our communities is a top priority for Sussex Police, and we will do what it takes to ensure you feel safe wherever you are.” 

At the meeting Tanya Jones and Superintendents Miles Ockwell and Adele Tucknott set out the force’s comprehensive plan to tackle violence against women and girls in Sussex, working together in partnership with local authorities, victim services and charities. Sussex Police initiatives include:

• Specialist investigative teams focussing on investigating the highest risk sexual offences, domestic abuse and stalking cases, including specially trained officers supporting victims using innovative techniques such as discreet video calls:
• Using the Streetsafe app to focus Police patrols where it is most effective to reduce risk, harm, and offences:
• A new team focusing on stalking and harassment, including Stalking Protection Orders, in which Sussex Police lead nationally, alongside dedicated police offender managers in a multiagency stalking perpetrator project to manage high risk stalking perpetrators, focussing on the most dangerous to reduce harm and offending.

The meeting included specialist independent stalking support service Veritas Justice, perpetrator projects managers Interventions Alliance, and sexual offence support service Survivors Network.As PCC, Mrs Bourne has commissioned a countywide Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Framework and accompanying action plan, which included the appointment and funding Supt Tucknott’s new role as VAWG lead in Sussex Police. 

Mrs Bourne has shown that Police and Crime Commissioners can, very quickly, make significant changes and improvements through listening to residents, crime victims and experts to identify where resources need to be deployed.  

She said: “We can be very agile and more effective by understanding local needs and designing the most appropriate measures to address them.”  

The Minister heard that in the last year, Sussex has successfully bid for monies from the Government’s Safer Streets funds along with extra cash from the Safety of Women at Night (SWAN) fund. Combined, the funds have secured CCTV cameras, better street lighting and physical security measures whilst also enabling innovative programmes such as bystander training and a ground-breaking scheme to re-educate perpetrators of stalking.  Service providers funded by PCC Bourne spoke about the ways in which they assist victims locally, how they help to prevent violence before it happens and how they offer tailored support and advice to survivors of these crimes.  

The Minister was impressed with the hard hitting Do The Right Thing campaign supported by well-known Sussex men including musician Norman Cook, actor John Simm, author Peter James and cricketer Tymal Mills. The campaign aims to highlight the role of men and boys in tackling VAWG by raising awareness and focusing on the positive actions they can take.  PCC Katy Bourne demonstrated the brand new Safe Space Sussex App which works in partnership with many national businesses to identify and provide safe spaces across Sussex for people who find themselves in an unsafe situation.  

Mrs Bourne said: “We were delighted to have the Minister for Safeguarding visit us to hear about the fantastic work we are delivering in Sussex to tackle violence against women and girls. “The room was filled with people who are totally committed to making our county a safer place. We will all continue to strive for real change leading to improved outcomes for victims, reduced offending, increased education and prevention before it’s too late.  

“After all, we can’t keep doing the same thing over again and expect a different outcome so I really welcome the innovative methods adopted by Sussex Police and our partners and their collective determination to change things for the better.”