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Government places North East in Tier 4

Today the North East has been placed into Tier 4 restrictions by government, alongside many other parts of the country.

We understand this may be disappointing for our residents and businesses who have worked so hard with us to try and slow the spread of the virus, but we ask again for everyone’s support so that these Tier 4 restrictions have the impact they need to.

We thank everyone who has been doing their bit for so long, and we know everyone desperately wishes we could see an end to the restrictions.

We understand people are tired and frustrated but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it has been uplifting to see vaccinations being delivered across the region every day which can give us hope for 2021. Today’s news that the Astra Zeneca vaccine has been approved makes this light shine a little brighter and will be a welcome boost for the vaccine programme.

As our Directors of Public Health stated last week, the new  variant of the deadly virus is being transmitted almost 70% faster than other strains and vulnerable communities, NHS services and social care facilities have been quickly consumed by it in the south of the country so it is vital we act now to avoid our local services being overwhelmed.

Our view is that the Government should consider a national lockdown now to ensure the spread of the new variant is slowed and efforts can be focussed on the crucial roll out of the vaccine. This is a national problem and a national solution is required now.

After a disrupted Christmas the last thing any of us wanted was further restrictions as we enter 2021 but sadly we feel this is the only sensible option to protect our health and care services and the most vulnerable in our communities.

One in three people have Covid-19 without symptoms and so are spreading it without realising, so we need to be even more vigilant around social distancing, social contacts and maintain strong hand hygiene – washing our hands regularly and wearing face coverings everywhere the law requires us to.

Under Tier 4 there should be no household mixing inside, apart from within a support bubble, only meeting with a maximum of one person from another household outdoors, while non-essential shops, personal care, indoor gyms must close alongside our hospitality industry which has been forced to stay closed for the last two months.

We will continue to press government for fair decisionsand continue to seek strengthened business support to help businesses potentially affected by further measures and continue work with ministers on how best to deploy targeted community testing to open our economy, while seeking localisation of the national test and trace programme. Government decisions regarding schools are communicated directly to education establishments, without consultation with Local Authorities, however continue to provide strong support to all our schools and education settings throughout these times.

In the meantime, anyone with symptoms should also book a test as soon as possible and follow the guidance around self-isolation until the result is known and thereafter if it comes back positive.

We all need to put in that extra effort to keep ourselves, our friends, our families and our communities as safe as possible in the coming weeks. Thank You.

Cllr Simon Henig, CBE, Leader, Durham County Council
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader, Gateshead Council
Cllr Nick Forbes, CBE, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Norma Redfearn CBE, Elected Mayor, North Tyneside Council
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader, Northumberland County Council
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader, South Tyneside Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader, Sunderland City Council
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

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The North East’s leaders have reacted to the government’s decision to keep the region under the very high Tier 3 restrictions.

“Today the government has made the decision to keep the North East under the very high Tier 3 restrictions.

While we accept this decision on public health grounds, we still need a greater understanding of how moving out of Tier 3 will be determined in the New Year.

We will continue to press government for fair decisions and the right level of economic support – especially for the hospitality sector which has been so heavily impacted by the restrictions.

We will also work with ministers on how best to deploy targeted community testing to open up our economy, while seeking localisation of the national test and trace programme.

As leaders, we are incredibly proud of and grateful to the people of the North East for their efforts in following the rules, laws and guidance throughout the pandemic.

Their efforts have seen infection rates come down but sadly the virus continues to be a potent threat, putting pressure on NHS services, and we need to keep doing our bit to protect the most vulnerable in society.

We recently launched our Thank You communications campaign, fronted by ordinary folk from across the LA7. These are people representative of our communities, talking about the impact Covid has had on their lives and the efforts and sacrifices we have all made as well as looking forward to when we can once again do the things we love.

It is also a reminder that we can’t afford to throw away all the hard work when the chance of getting back to normal is within our grasp.
The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine is being rolled out into communities and this week we have seen some of our residents, aged over 80, invited to be vaccinated in GP surgeries, which is tremendous progress.

But this will be a long process and we all need to be patient. That is why we are asking everyone to carefully consider their plans and actions over the festive period. Just because the law says we can all meet three households over five days, doesn’t mean we should to choose to do so.

Increases in social contact and household mixing over Christmas could see infections rise steeply again in the New Year so we must act responsibly to supress the virus.

Of course, we understand people wanting to see each other but we also want families to be able to see each other and celebrate future Christmases, birthdays and family events.

For the sake of yourselves, your loved ones and the wider community please continue to follow all the guidance. Hands. Face. Space. And book a test if you have symptoms.

Once again, thank you for all your efforts.

Have a safe Christmas.

Cllr Simon Henig, CBE, Leader, Durham County Council
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader, Gateshead Council
Cllr Nick Forbes, CBE, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Norma Redfearn CBE, Elected Mayor, North Tyneside Council
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader, Northumberland County Council
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader, South Tyneside Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader, Sunderland City Council
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

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Friends and family are being urged to make domestic abuse everyone’s business this Christmas, as part of an ongoing campaign setting out how to help victims.

Support services across the region are joining Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness and are encouraging people to reach in and keep in touch at a time when survivors are being isolated by both the pandemic and their perpetrator.

People with concerns are being encouraged to take action by following a series of safe steps. Advice includes making suggestions to the victim, not demands, and sharing support information, if safe to do so.

The latest figures from Northumbria Police have revealed that domestic abuse incidents increased by 5.2 per cent (+1,931 incidents) for the 12 months to September 2020. There has also been a 10 per cent (+977 incidents) increase in the last quarter, compared to the previous year.

This increase in reporting includes victims known to the Force; however, there has been an increase in new victims and perpetrators – believed to be as a result of lockdown.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Domestic abuse is everyone’s business. We know the risk of domestic abuse increases at Christmas time – we see it year on year. And this year, Christmas will be made worse for some due to restrictions and people being cut off from the outside world – it really is a dangerous mix. I really feel for those suffering.

“Sadly, for many, lockdown has made them more vulnerable and I am expecting to see domestic abuse reports higher this Christmas than previous years. The reality in many homes is far from the picture perfect impressions we’re often led to believe on social media.”

The Commissioner, went on to explain that everyone has a role to play in helping those suffering behind closed doors: “The message is – be safe, be kind, be there. For many victims the idea of breaking free from the harm and overcoming awful experiences is not easy, but it can be done. We have some wonderful support services in the North East to help anyone who needs to do just that.”

A survey earlier this year by Wearside Women in Need, revealed 62 per cent of victims tell a friend or family member first, so it’s vital that those people who are confided in, feel equipped to raise their concerns and encourage those at harm to seek help.

Becky Rogerson, Director of Wearside Women in Need, said: “Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, which means you could have a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbour who needs support. The pandemic has increased isolation and increased the need for us all to look after one another. We’re asking everyone to try and stay connected and keep in touch with friends, family, neighbours and co-workers over the festive period. We need to ‘reach in’ to those who might not be able to reach out, and let them know we’re here for them.”

Northumbria Police’s Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson, of the Safeguarding Department, wants to reach out to send a clear message of support to those experiencing domestic abuse and living in fear this Christmas.

She said: “2020 has been a year like no other and a very lonely year for many, especially those at home with their abuser. It’s not too late to speak out and receive help and support.

“My message to anyone trapped in an abusive situation – if your home is not a safe environment then I urge you to seek support, to contact police.

“We will do everything we can do to support you which can include help to find safe accommodation for you and your children or removing abusers from homes.”

She added: “If you’re aware of domestic abuse happening in the home of a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour – please speak out.

“If you see someone suffering in silence, be the voice they wish they had and seek help from police.”

Here’s important advice for if you’re worried about someone:
• Be safe: remember – social media, phone and emails might be monitored. Don’t confront the abuser.
• Be kind: listen, make suggestions, not demands.
• Be there: be understanding and available.
• Get help: contact organisations for support and information
• Call 101 if you are concerned about a friend or loved one, or that someone’s behaviour is abusive.
• Call 999 if you think there’s an immediate danger.

Information and support: If you or someone you know needs support for issues about domestic abuse – these organisations can help.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact Northumbria Police on 101, or make a report online. In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.

 

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Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner calls on the Home Secretary to urgently agree next round of violence reduction funding.

Kim McGuinness said the Government must hand over the funds needed to push ahead with the successful Violence Reduction Units or risk reversing dramatic falls in violent crime.

The Police Commissioner said the progress seen in reducing violence in the North East – including the impact of the Covid lockdowns – could be undone if a third year of funding is not secured. 

The Government first announced Violence Reduction Units back in the summer of 2019, and Northumbria, one of 18 set up across England & Wales, has since received two lots of £1.6million to improve lives to prevent crime locally. Current funding runs out in March 2021.

Kim said: “Since launching my VRU in June last year we have worked with Northumbria Police to prevent serious violence and address the issues that cause violent behaviour. However, without suitable future funding, our work will largely be in vain.

“We’ve seen what impact can be made – a 17% reduction in knife crime, and 13% fall in total recorded crime from June 2019 to 2020 – but this type of work requires long term interventions, and funding to enable that.

“Worryingly, there was no mention of future funding in the recent Spending Review, and we are now left with decisions to make about important projects, funded workers, and interventions that need to continue, with no financial support to enable them to.”

Through the funding provided to date to the Commissioner, more than 40 local organisations have benefitted from investment with upwards of £2m being allocated to community based work.

Those benefitting from the funding include vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation and criminality, families suffering deprivation, low level adult offenders, and young people involved in the Criminal Justice System.

Also included the successful month long Knife Angel campaign. Composed of 100,000 knives, the sculpture was hosted on Gateshead quayside through February as the PCC, along with the Madgin family, aimed to educate and raise awareness about the devastation knife crime can have.

Praising the diverse nature of the work delivered, the Commissioner added: “We’ve shown in the past 18 months that our approach works – taking a localised view and supporting the communities that need it the most with life changing interventions.

“There is no ‘one model fits all’ in this type of work – this is reflected in the ranging interventions we have been able to provide. Whether that be a 1:1 mentoring service for young people on the cusp on violence, or investing in a community hub that brings together a range of support services and makes them more accessible for the local residents.”

“We have taken significant strides to improve lives to prevent crime across Northumbria, and now we need the Government to recognise this work and the long term approach it brings. Year on year funding doesn’t maximise value of public money, nor does it provide the stability that those we engage with often need.” 

The Spending Review further confirmed the already announced funding provided to police forces for officer recruitment, as well as providing Police & Crime Commissioners with the option of increasing funding through an increase in the police precept element of residents council tax.

 

 

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Changes that will join up and enhance the delivery of victim support services across Northumbria have today been unveiled by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness.
Following on from her commitment to putting victims at the heart of policing, the PCC is planning to move the services and staff of current provider Victims First Northumbria to Northumbria Police.
The move comes after the Commissioner requested an independent review of local victims’ support to see how the needs of victims and witnesses are being met.
The findings of the review have informed the decision which will help ensure the best possible support is reaching those who have been a target of all types of crime.
PCC McGuinness believes this change will help overcome some of the barriers Victims First Northumbria has faced in supporting victims, while ensuring the dedicated support victims get from the hardworking Victims First team continues.
Thanking the team at Victims First for their dedicated work, Kim McGuinness, said: “This is a really positive step for all involved, building on the good work already done and giving victims of crime an even better service.
“We absolutely have to put victims first and make sure we are doing things right by them. This move is about stream-lining the whole process, making things simpler and doing everything we can to ensure that all victims receive the help they need.”
She added: “Everyone involved in the criminal justice system wants the best for victims and I’m thankful to everyone who has contributed to this review. I’m confident that by making these changes, based on the valuable knowledge and experience of many involved, we can bring about some really positive changes. It’s a real opportunity to build on the great work happening everyday throughout our region and will allow us to help even more victims cope, recover and move forward with their lives.”
Peter Walls, Chair of the Victims First Northumbria Board, said: “Since 2015, Victims First Northumbria has delivered an exceptional independent cope and recovery support service to victims in the aftermath of crime. This is reflected in satisfaction rates of 98% with those
victims we work with commenting that the support given to them by the staff has improved their lives. I look forward to the new arrangements building on this legacy and successfully reaching and supporting even more victims of crime.”
Northumbria Police Chief Constable Winton Keenen welcomed the news, saying: “As a Force, protecting vulnerable victims is absolutely our number one priority.
“The collaboration brought forward by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Victims First Northumbria will further help ensure victims have access to the support they need.”

 

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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner is calling on the Government to roll-out an innovative Northumbria pilot scheme UK-wide – to support sexual violence and abuse victims and improve their experience of seeking justice.

Just £3.9 million annually in England and Wales is all it would cost the Government to offer free and independent legal advocacy to complainants of sexual violence and abuse.

Evidence in a report, published today revealed that the pilot substantially improved best practice in police and CPS responses, and improved the overall victim experience.

It is hoped the findings of the evaluation report, by Dr Olivia Smith, a Criminology and Social Policy expert in Loughborough University’s School of Social Sciences and Humanities, will raise awareness and lead to positive changes across England and Wales.

The evaluation report considers the support provided to complainants of rape in Northumbria by independent legal advocates over an 18 month period. Advocates predominantly supported complainants to ensure their privacy rights were protected. The pilot came about due to concerns regarding over-intrusive requests for personal material from complainants on report of a sexual offence, a practice which does not occur in any other area of crime.

The report also considers the responses to an online survey of 586 victims of sexual offences in England and Wales (233 had reported to the police and 353 had not).

The victim survey data revealed that the current situation is untenable. Most victims that reported offences said they were treated sensitively by the police at the point of reporting, but the rest of the process was insensitive and unfair.

The survey found:

  • 77% feel that victims are regularly cross-examined on their medical and sexual history (only 5% disagreed with this statement)
  • Only 1 in 5 (21%) felt the criminal justice system treats victims with dignity
  • Only 1 in 5 (21%) were satisfied with their criminal justice experience
  • The survey reveals that only 12% of victims feel that police investigations are fair and proportionate.

Victims who did not report spoke about their fear of intrusive and victim-blaming practice, and those that did report confirmed in some instances this was the case.

One victim, who reported in 2017 and whose perpetrator was acquitted at trial, said: “My sexuality was used against me, naked photos of me were shown to the court, his barrister even said to the jury he had just made a ‘mistake’ and that he could be any of their sons, or brothers.”

The survey also found that getting a conviction did not necessarily mean victims were satisfied with the process. One victim stated: “The outcome was not worth what I put myself through”.

The report was commissioned by Kim McGuinness and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “The Government needs to do the right thing by sexual violence and abuse victims and a scheme like this would be a good start. Roll this out for just £3.9m a year, treat victims with respect and improve conviction rates. This cost is just a drop in the ocean when you factor in the savings that could be made on health and employment.

“It’s clear we need a change in how our criminal justice system responds to sexual offences. Quite simply a system that doesn’t meet the needs of a victim is a system that will allow offenders to get away with their actions and walk the streets.

“Making sure victims get the right legal help is crucial and that’s where the SVCA scheme comes in. It’s there to guide and support victims through what can be such an intimidating and daunting process, addressing concerns and stepping in to challenge requests for irrelevant personal data which can be used by defence teams to unreasonably discredit victims. Such behaviour leads to many victims losing confidence in the criminal justice process. This scheme could really shake-up the system, improving lives and preventing further crime.”

As part of the research, Dr Smith examined the pilot scheme, which ran from 2018 until March this year, and found it improved victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system.

Currently, victims in England and Wales have no right to legal support and occasionally rely on charities if they need help understanding the complicated rules around their rights.

Of the report and what she hopes it will achieve, Dr Smith said: “Around one in four women will be raped in England and Wales, but only around 17% will ever tell the police, and of those who do report, less than 2% will currently end in a conviction.

“Our research shows the huge emotional cost of reporting to police, and we need to find a way to change this. The changes that are needed are wide-reaching and must tackle, for example, racism and homophobia in the criminal justice system.

“One of the many changes should be the provision of legal advocacy, as it’s shown to work, and England and Wales are in danger of falling behind the rest of the world in how we treat sexual violence and abuse victims.

“This is about more than conviction rates. It is about dignified treatment regardless of outcome.”

The full report can be found here. It will be shared with the Criminal Justice Board and key MPs and Peers.

To find out more about the research recommendations please visit needisclear.org. It features resources for anyone who wants to take action and video content needisclear.org/survivors

Full report here: SVCA Evaluation – Final Report

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