A police boss has promised to put the welfare of victims at the heart of his action plan to tackle crime and disorder.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones was speaking during a visit to the region by Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove.
She says that, elsewhere in England and Wales, help for the victims of crime is often a postcode lottery which discourages them from coming forward.
Helen Newlove, whose husband, Gary, was murdered in Warrington in 2007 when he confronted drunken youths vandalising his wife’s car, was on her second visit to North Wales in a year.
She was returning to see the progress made since she opened North Wales Police’s first Victim Help Centre in St Asaph 12 months ago.
She visited the centre and also the Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Colwyn Bay, and spoke to victims and staff.
According to the police and crime commissioner, victim support is a major priority in his Police and Crime Plan.
He said: “It is inspirational to have people like Baroness Newlove taking such a keen interest in what we are doing here in North Wales.
“Supporting victims is one of the central planks of my Police and Crime Plan and the Victim Help Centre and the Sexual Assault Referral Centre are providing an absolutely vital service, supporting those who have been on the receiving end of a whole range of crimes.
“North Wales is a safe place to live and has a very low crime rate but we do still have victims and the impact crime has upon them can be profound.
“Looking after their needs is a major priority for me and I will be working to engage more organisations in partnership working to ensure that this service continues to develop and improve.”
Baroness Newlove, who was made a peer in 2010 for her work for public safety and with victims and appointed Victims Commissioner in 2012, said: “Victims often don’t want to bother people and they can feel it is their fault and support for victims and restorative justice is too often a postcode lottery.
“They shouldn’t feel like that but victims find it hard to speak about their experiences even though if someone has taken money from your bank it’s a crime and needs to be dealt with.
“It’s so sad when they blame themselves and they may have all this guilt for years. We’ve got to eradicate that because it is something that’s traumatising them whether the crime is a stolen bicycle or a rape.
“We do need better training, a better culture and better engagement with victims.
“It’s a postcode lottery on issues like restorative justice but it also has to be something the victim wants to do but it should be offered and explained to them and be the individual victim’s choice.”
The mother of three spoke to staff at both centres and met two victims at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre said she was struck by how passionate the staff, including a mental health worker, at the centres were.
She said: “It really looks as if they’re getting there, speaking to victims and providing support and they are bilingual which helps and is really important because victims do find it hard to speak about their experiences.
“We do need better joined up services but from what I’ve seen North Wales is going in the right direction.
“They know they’ve still got work to do but the whole point is they’re willing and passionate and can see what’s needed.
“It’s 12 months in and they’re finding other things that with better partnerships will work better.
“Listening to victims today we need these services to care for them. You’re going the right way and now have to make sure it carries on.”
The victim help service is available from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays.
The Victim Help Centre can be contacted by Freephone on 0300 3030159, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the websites www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk or www.canolfangymorthiddioddefwyrgogleddcymru.org.uk