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Despair at move to axe independent support for local crime victims

VICTIMS of crime, campaigners and victims' charities have reacted with despair and disbelief at this month's move by Merseyside's Police and Crime Commissioner to axe independent support services for victims and hand delivery to local Police instead.

1 local domestic abuse survivor predicted that:- 'a lot' of victims will now not get the help and support they need because they won't want to approach a service run by the scandal hit force. Merseyside becomes the highest profile force to make this controversial change, which mirrors similar models introduced by a minority of Crime Commissioners across England and Wales.

Until this recent move, the Merseyside vulnerable victims' service had been delivered by the independent charity Victim Support for over 30 years. The charity provided tailored help for victims, with specialist case workers delivering 1 on 1 support and advice, regardless of whether or not victims had contacted the Police.

As of Monday, 3 October 2022, vulnerable victims of crime in Merseyside will have to approach the Police for support.

The move comes on the back of Merseyside Police facing multiple recent scandals and being accused of overseeing a:- 'culture of impunity':-

In July 2021, an Officer was jailed for repeatedly punching a man while on a call out and trying to cover up his actions.

2 Officers present at the scene were also jailed for switching off body cameras in an attempt to cover up the incident .

In November 2021 2 Officers faced disciplinary action over allegedly sending:- "derogatory" messages and images and 1 seeking to buy drugs.

In December 2021 an Officer was dismissed after taking a selfie at a murder scene, photographing vulnerable people and storing racist and homophobic images.

In April 2022 a Police sergeant was caught running a WhatsApp group titled:- "Would you, Wouldn't you" containing dozens of secretly taken pictures of the backsides and crotch areas of his female colleagues.

In May 2022 another Officer was called to face a misconduct hearing for sharing an inappropriate video on WhatsApp.

Last month, Merseyside Police apologised after an Officer deterred a woman from perusing a sexual assault complaint, claiming she had no chance of getting a prosecution.

Mina Smallman, the mother of 2 murdered sisters whose bodies were photographed by Police Officers, has spoken out against the move:- "The thought of victims in Merseyside having their independent support abolished is terrifying. There are no words to describe how important Victim Support was in helping me to cope and giving me the strength to speak out about my appalling experience with the Metropolitan Police. The fact that the charity was independent from the Police was so important. Supporting victims must be left to the specialist, independent organisations who know what they're doing. Unfortunately, the Police aren't doing a good job at the moment, they're not even getting the basics right; so taking Officers away from the work of solving crimes is just nonsensical. If more forces got the idea of copying this ill thought out plan it would be disastrous."

Under the new plans, victims of these incidents in need of support would now be expected to approach people in jobs advertised by the Police and reporting to the Merseyside Police's own Head of Prosecutions.

With only 40% of crimes reported to the Police, Victim Support, which provides independent support to victims across the country, says it is seriously concerned that the decision will prevent people who don't want to involve the Police from accessing help. They worry that this will hit victims of domestic abuse and ethnic minorities hardest.

Diana Fawcett, Chief Executive at the charity Victim Support said:- "It's heart breaking to know that from next month many victims in vulnerable circumstances won't feel able to get the help they urgently need. 6 in 10 crimes go unreported because victims won't approach the Police. I don't see the logic in expecting people with low trust in the Police to reach out to them for help when they're at their most vulnerable. We are sad to lose the chance to run this service, but frankly this is nothing compared to our concern about the principle of victims losing their right to support that is independent of the Police. A service run by the Police, from a Police station is not independent. Merseyside has a wealth of excellent, trusted charities that could have run this service - I just can't make sense of this decision."

The move coincides with growing public debate about Police accountability, with forces facing accusations of institutional prejudice. Merseyside's Police and Crime Commissioner, has herself said that racism is a problem within the force, compounding Liverpool's history of strained public trust in the Police.

In 2021 Victim Support was contacted by over 1,200 victims from Merseyside for advice and support, who did not want to contact the Police.

A previous YouGov poll found that 72% of victims believe it is important to receive help and support from a victim service that is independent of the Police.

This rose to 87% for victims who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence.

UK marks World Maritime Day with £60 million boost for clean shipping

TANKERS, cruise ships, ports, and the wider maritime sector could play their part in slashing emissions and boosting economic growth thanks to £60 million of funding for the UK maritime industry.

Marking this year's World Maritime Day, that fell on 29 September 2022, Transport Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan announced funding for the 3rd round of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC), which will run from April 2023 to March 2025, and help innovative companies and scientists make emission-free maritime a reality.

The Transport Secretary will made the announcement during a keynote address to the Atlantic Future Forum in New York, on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The address focuses on how maritime security improves global prosperity and protects all of our interests, as well as how more environmentally friendly shipping can lead to a sustainable future for maritime trade.

UK companies will now be able to bid for a slice of the funding to supercharge the development of early stage clean maritime technologies for wider use in the future. This is all part of Government plans to back innovative businesses and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Transport Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan said:- "The UK has always been a proud seafaring nation, and helping the maritime sector to be more environmentally friendly will mean it continues to play a key role in the UK's economy for generations to come. This World Maritime Day we're announcing funding to harness the best innovations the UK has to offer; proving that tackling climate change can go hand in hand with business innovation, job creation and supercharging economic growth."

In 2020 UK domestic maritime vessels contributed around 5% of the UK's domestic greenhouse gas emissions; more than trains and buses combined. The CMDC is 1 of the ways the Government is supporting the sector to decarbonise.

Also announced are the winning projects from the 2nd round of the CMDC, that was launched in May 2022, which saw £12 million shared between 121 UK companies. Among the winners are 3 projects exploring the development of green shipping corridors; zero emission shipping routes between 2 ports. These routes build on the Clydebank Declaration backed by 24 states at COP26.

The Clean Tyne Shipping Corridor consortium, the Aberdeen Harbour Board and ACUA Ocean hydrogen powered North Sea crossing study and the (GCSS) study between the Port of Dover and the Ports of Calais and Dunkirk, aim to support the transition to green crossings to and from the UK. This could 1 day create international agreements that would see only zero emission vessels; including:- ferries, leisure crafts and workboats; between the UK and other ports.

Using aerospace technologies, new ships are being developed that 'fly' above the surface of the water, reducing operational emissions by 100% and fuel costs by up to 90% by reducing drag. Built in Belfast by Artemis Technologies in collaboration with Tidal Transit, ORE Catapult and Lloyd's Register, the project is receiving over £1 million to develop a green, 24 metre workboat, to transfer workers to and from offshore windfarms.

David Tyler, Commercial Director at Artemis Technology said:- "Following years of underinvestment in research and innovation by the maritime industry, the sector is under real pressure to develop and adopt disruptive technologies if it has any chance of achieving the UK's ambitious net zero targets. The Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition is welcomed by the sector and will play a critical role in helping accelerate the UK's transition to a more sustainable maritime future."

The announcement follows the allocation of £206 million to support zero emission sailing and skilled maritime jobs as part of UK SHORE, announced in March this year.

The UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) is housed in the Department for Transport, and is dedicated to creating a world free from shipping emissions.

UK SHORE is implementing a comprehensive research and development programme, including the CMDC, working in partnership with industry to help build greener vessels; from:- cruises to tankers and leisure boats.

Innovate UK Executive Director for Net Zero, Mike Biddle, said:- "The maritime sector is of crucial importance to the UK, with more than 95% of our trade running through the major ports that connect us to the global economy. As such an important part of the UK economy, significant change is needed to ensure that the sector adapts to new, clean technologies, reducing maritime emissions. This latest, multi year round of Government's Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition builds on the success of the 1st 2 rounds, stimulating innovation to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this transition to make maritime greener."

Ashley Feldman, Programme Manager for Transport and Smart Cities, techUK said:- "This announcement marks an important step forward in the UK's journey to net zero. The maritime sector is especially complex to decarbonise and the CMDC is funding cutting edge innovation for solving these challenges. This next round of investment will accelerate progress, ensuring the UK emerges as a global power for these technologies."

Ben Murray, CEO of Maritime UK, said:- "The maritime sector is 1 of Britain's biggest industries and can play a major role in helping to grow our economy as we accelerate efforts to decarbonise the sector, delivering well paid, high quality jobs across the UK. This funding will help all parts of the sector to develop the solutions needed for maritime decarbonisation. Industry is rising to the challenge and co-investing with Government to accelerate progress on clean maritime propulsion and infrastructure. If we move quickly, the UK has a generational opportunity to lead globally, exporting cutting edge solutions to maritime businesses across the world."


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