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PCC praises victim’s bravery and the work of Northumbria Police

11th August 2016

South Shields teenager Belinda Nolan suffered in silence for years at the hands of her abuser, Richard Phillip Watkins, 29, of Winskill Road, South Shields who sexually assaulted her from the age of 8 years old.

After having the confidence to come forward to police, Watkins was jailed for six years, Belinda not only had justice for the crimes committed against her but was so impressed with the officer who dealt with her case, she wrote to Detective Constable Michelle Gregory to thank her for the excellent support she had received throughout the investigation.

Miss Nolan wrote to Michelle thanking her for being ‘kind-hearted’, ‘approachable’ and someone she can ‘trust’. Miss Nolan said she saw Michelle more as a friend and didn’t think she would be half as happy if it wasn’t for her support.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, said: “Here we have an incredibly brave young woman who has found the courage to speak out and in doing so a very good officer has been able to support her on a journey that has led to an evil man being put behind bars.

“With the support she has received and seeing justice done, I hope she can move on with her life.  By sharing her experience I hope she will encourage and inspire other victims of abuse to come forward and speak to the police for help. As Michelle has demonstrated , Northumbria Police has specialist officers on hand to listen, support and vigorously pursue those responsible for such awful crimes. Remember, practical and emotional support is also available through Victims First Northumbria even if you haven’t reported the crime to police.”

Detective Constable Michelle Gregory said she was flattered to receive the text message but said she was just doing her job.

DC Gregory, who is a specialist officer for the force’s safeguarding department, said: “Belinda has been so brave throughout the investigation and I am delighted that she has seen the justice she so rightly deserves. It was so thoughtful for her to send me this lovely feedback and I did feel a real sense of satisfaction to hear how happy she is now.

“But this is just what I do. It is all part of my job which I love to do. I am very proud and passionate about safeguarding and I always put the victims needs first. It really has to be about what is best for them. And it is important to reassure victims that we are here to support them and we will believe them.”

Detective Chief Inspector Shelley Hudson of the safeguarding department says that people are more confident than ever reporting crime to police, especially female victims of crime.

Over 50% of crimes reported to Northumbria Police are made by females,  with figures increasing each year, and DCI Hudson believes this is due to the excellent work around protecting vulnerable women and the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which has really helped encourage more female victims to come forward.

DCI Shelley Hudson said: “We are seeing more and more woman come forward to report crime and it really is a huge step in the right direction. Putting victims first is the priority for the force and is an integral part of the police and crime plan.

“We have an excellent relationship with partners to protect and safeguard those who may be vulnerable in our communities. We help protect, identify and educate within communities to help prevent vulnerable people becoming victims of crime.

“Any report that is made to police is taken seriously from the first contact and throughout the investigation and beyond. Victims will be believed and will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

“We also work with the Police and Crime Commissioner in support of the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. We have developed training packages for use in schools around healthy relationships, consent and sexual exploitation. And we also work in conjunction with the Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards to help protect young people in our communities.

“We are the best performing force in the country for victim satisfaction but we are in no way complacent. We want to continuing doing all we can to urge victims to come forward.”

The latest year-on-year figures show that Northumbria Police is the highest performing force in the country for overall victim satisfaction with the force also being ranked highest in the country for ease of contact and second highest in the country for best treatment of victims.

Chief Supt Scott Hall, who is head of the safeguarding department said: “This is an excellent example of the service our officers provide for victims but it is no means an isolated thanks. It is just one example of some of the positive feedback we receive. Everything we do is completely victim led and these really are matters we take extremely seriously.

“The force is passionate about safeguarding and victims really are at the heart of what we do. We want to make a difference for victims and I am proud that our officers are here to support these victims, I am even more proud when we receive such positive feedback.

“We would encourage any victim of crime to come forward to police and rest assured, you will be believed.”