Victim Lincs service, run by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones, giving more victims a voice
“You can’t know how you will react to being a victim of crime until it happens.”
In an ideal world, Victim Lincs would not need to exist, but today the award-winning countywide service is in demand.
As a gateway to specialist support in the county, its aim is to ensure victims get the targeted help they need to get through the immediate aftermath of an offence and potentially, investigation and trial, as well as the long term.
Its website provides a directory of support services, and a comprehensive range of practical information to help those going through a difficult and, often, completely foreign experience.
From explaining what different crimes are to what can be expected after reporting cases to police and the court process.
Its team of case managers are also a phone call away to advise and guide. All confidential, all free of charge.
On average, the small team of eight receives around 1,200 referrals per month to support victims of all types of crime.
“The workload has changed, the complexity has grown and it’s now one of the, if not the, best services of its kind in the country, so we are really proud of it,” said Marc Jones, the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
Victim Lincs was set up in September 2015 as a Lincolnshire Police unit to help officers comply with the Victims Code of Practice, but to get support, the victims would have to report it to the force.
Marc felt that was something needed to change and three years later, Victim Lincs became the responsibility of the commissioner’s office and independent of the force.
“I changed that because you couldn’t access the service without having reported the incident to the police and for all kinds of reasons, that might not be possible,” he said.
“People might not feel strong enough emotionally or able to go through the criminal justice system at that point when they need to access support services.
“If they do access support services, maybe, later on, they will feel strong enough to report it officially to the police.
“So for me it was really important to disaggregate the VL service from policing and the reporting of crime so that was quite a significant change.”
The service evolved again in September 2022 when a sexual violence co-ordinator joined the six strong team of contact and case management officers and team leader, to improve help for victims and survivors of sexual offences.
And since last March, working in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council, Victim Lincs now also deals with domestic abuse referrals from the police.
A high volume of those 1,200 monthly referrals are victims of serious and acquisitive crime, such as robbery or burglary, as well as sexual offences and domestic abuse.
They include Lottie and Megan, two 15-year old girls who received help from the Victim Support charity after a referral from Victim Lincs.
Megan was sexually assaulted and Lottie was raped by the same man who eventually went to jail.
But as important as his punishment was the support for the two teenagers after their ordeal.
Both received supported and guidance throughout the investigation and subsequent criminal trial which can be a harrowing experience.
Another to be helped by Victim Lincs was Paul, a 59 year-old man with a learning disability who had money and bank books stolen by a woman he knew during several visits to his home.
He lived alone in an assisted living facility and had no other support at the time, but Victim Support charity helped Paul get accepted for support from Lincolnshire Adult Social Care.
Emilia also turned to Victim Lincs after she suffered substantial financial loss through an online romance fraud which also left her with mental health scars, particularly anxiety.
Once more, Victim Support arranged a raft of help, practical and emotional, which ultimately saw her money returned in full and her mental health improve.
(All names have been changed to protect the identity of the victims).
Such testimonies helped earn the Victims Choice Quality Mark two years ago from community interest company Supporting Justice for ‘high standards of victim care work’.
“To offer a quality service, not just Victim Lincs, but all of it across the county requires a lot of careful management and plate-spinning so VL is a really important element to getting it all right,” said Marc.
“They are the first port of call so we are very proud of that team and all it achieves.
“They are incredible people supporting residents often at their very lowest ebb.”
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Marc is also mindful of the potential impact on his team of hearing details of what can be upsetting and traumatic events, and is keen they in turn get the support they need.
“Working for Victim Lincs has its tough moments,” said one team member.
“People can open up about some very difficult experiences, and sometimes they stay with you. I find the work extremely rewarding for the same reason, though.
“Being trusted to share those moments with people, and being the one to give someone the opportunity to access the support they need, is an absolute privilege.”
Another team member echoed how the difficult parts of the job are balanced by rewarding outcomes:
“It’s tough when you read about what’s happened and the nature of the crime,” they said.
“I also feel for the survivors when it takes them years to come forward and that strength needed to report the crime.
“For them to be listened to means they are being believed.
“I’ve worked for the service from the beginning, and it’s gone from strength to strength putting the victims first. That makes me smile.”
There are other ways in which the service adapts to victims, ensuring their needs are not forgotten in the web of legal proceedings.
No time limit is placed on when support can be accessed, so victims can start the ball rolling when they feel ready.
Victims are also encouraged to know their rights and have a say in what support they receive.
Marc believes the service must continue to adapt as the criminal map changes, particularly in online crime.
“The methodology and the way crime is happening is changing,” he said.
“If you have your phone stolen in the street you are likely to report it to the police, most people will, and they will also feel pretty cross about it.
“But if you are defrauded online of £500 from your bank account, a different amount of people would consider reporting that to the police. They would feel very differently about that kind of crime.
“People tend to feel more personally culpable for certain online crimes, so the support we need to offer to people will change.
“We need them to understand that it’s not their fault, that support is still for them and our team will adapt and evolve to meet that need.”
If you think Victim Lincs can help you, visit https://victimlincs.co.uk/ or call their new helpline for advice on 01522 212333 from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
The victim’s names have been changed to protect their identities.