British hosts Regional Police conference

Participants at the conference with Barbados AG Hon Adriel Brathwaite and Acting British High Commissioner Phil Culligan in the front row centre.

Police officers with experience of supporting victims of sexual assault met early this week in Barbados at the Accra Beach Hotel to share best practice.  The Consular Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the British High Commission in Bridgetown sponsored a two day conference on 25 and 26 July for the Pan-Caribbean region, with participants drawn from Commonwealth CARICOM countries, (including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines), the UK Overseas Territories and the Dutch Caribbean.  Barbados Attorney General Hon Adriel Brathwaite MP delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony.
Detective Superintendent Neville Blackwood, a Police Adviser with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was the chair and facilitator of the conference. He has extensive experience in the area of victim support not only in rape and serious sexual assault investigations but also homicide and kidnap investigations. DS Blackwood was assisted by officers from Scotland Yard’s Operation Sapphire team, which has 400 staff and specialises in tackling serious sexual assaults with an emphasis on bringing offenders to justice and on the care and support of victims.
Sexual assaults can be a very challenging area of investigation.  It is vital for the successful prosecution of cases that support is given to the victim.   Evidence shows that victims quickly disengage from the process if they feel investigators and prosecutors are not sensitive to the particular trauma associated with sexual assaults.  Victims can feel doubly impacted by the gathering of personal forensic evidence, the necessity of describing the incident to numerous officials and by challenges made by defence counsel in court.
As a follow-up to the conference, a small group of officers will go to the UK to witness British Police departments working at a practical level and the International Academy of the UK National Policing Improvement Agency will provide a train-the-trainers course to Caribbean police services to enable training to be cascaded to officers on the beat.

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