THE BLOG

A Voice For Victims

25/03/2016 16:08 GMT | Updated 25/03/2017 09:12 GMT

As a former senior police officer, high profile murder detective, head of public protection and creator of Operation Anagram (set up to trace victims of serial killer Peter Tobin), I have always been compassionate about looking at crimes from a victim focused perspective.

For every crime there is a victim and their family - and they have a right to, and deserve the best possible support, as well as the truth.

We should never forget that all too often there is too much sensationalism in the media about the perpetrators of heinous crimes, and not enough about the victims and their families. Throughout my career as a murder detective, I have seen first-hand the devastating effects these crimes have on those affected by them.

There has always been an appetite among the British public for information about shocking and high profile crimes, particularly murders. TV documentaries often prove to be an effective way in which to educate and provide the public with an awareness of issues that often lead to these sorts of crimes.

The tragic, high profile cases of 14 year old Breck Bednar, who was groomed online and lured to his death, and 17 year old Georgia Williams, who was murdered in a snuff movie fantasy by a porn-obsessed killer, accentuate the need for awareness and pro-activity concerning online activity by children.

Breck's mum Lorin LaFave did all the right things - taking his computer away, monitoring his online activity and reporting her concerns to the police - her actions were what any concerned parent should do. However, it was not enough to stop a faceless online monster groom her son before killing him in a violent and sexually motivated attack.

There were missed early intervention opportunities by the various agencies in both the Breck Bednar and Georgia Williams murders, and recognition by the authorities that 'lessons had been learned.' How many times do we hear that phrase "lessons have been learned" in serious case reviews where a tragic incident occurs and a family has lost a loved one?

Britain's Darkest Taboos, currently airing on Crime + Investigation®, examines some of the most chilling acts of violence the UK has ever seen. The show, in which I provide expert analysis, has a very strong focus on the devastating effects on families at the heart of some unimaginable crimes.

The cases featured in the programme, including Breck and Georgia's murders, are all different, they are all horrible and (even for me with my vast experience dealing with tragic cases) are difficult to watch.

However, documentary series such as this provide the public with an awareness of issues regarding a range of crimes, including online grooming, stalking, domestic abuse, historical sex abuse and abuse of vulnerable people.

Sadly, there are many cases where failings by the relevant authorities to protect the victim have resulted in tragedy. A case in point is that of Rana Faruqui, stalked and murdered by an obsessive former partner in 2003.

It took this murder, as well as other killings related to stalking, and the involvement of Theresa May MP before laws and processes regarding stalking changed in 2012. Revised legislation, multi-agency guidelines and risk assessment processes now exist, making it easier for victims of stalking to report their concerns and early interventions to be put in place to mitigate risks of serious harm.

Someone making several telephone calls, texts or staring at another individual may not in isolation seem serious, however such events in entirety may form part of a more sinister chain of evidence to substantiate stalking.

Better systems are in place now to identify and link such reports, investigate and risk assess situations and provide a better public awareness of stalking and harassment legislation with multi-agency processes available to support victims.

I would encourage victims or third parties to report any concerns. Don't ever worry that you are wasting police time - perhaps it could save a life.

Abusers, stalkers, rapists, assailants and murderers are driven by control, power, jealousy and sexual deviancy. A lot goes on "behind closed doors" and these perpetrators thrive by going undetected and instilling fear into their victims, in turn preventing them making reports to the authorities.

The need for early recognition of abuse and early interventions is absolutely essential, and programmes that document real crimes hopefully help influence people to be more aware of the early indications and speak out. Education, awareness, intervention, information sharing and pro-activity are important to protect the public from extremely dangerous individuals.

Britain's Darkest Taboos is currently airing on Crime + Investigation® on Sundays at 9pm.

David Swindle

Multilingual Independent Reviewer

Crime & Investigation Expert