Dame Vera Baird to step down as Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner to take up new national role helping victims of crime
Dame Vera Baird was elected as the area's first PCC in 2012, and in that time has taken an active role in promoting the views of victims, also serving as the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner’s lead for supporting victims and reducing harm.
She has now been appointed as the new Victims’ Commissioner and will take over the role from the incumbent, Baroness Newlove, next month.
Her responsibilities will include promoting the interests of victims and witnesses, ensuring that their voices are heard and holding government to account on delivery of its commitments.
An election will have to take place to appoint a new PCC for the Northumbria Police area. Dame Vera was not due to be up for election until 2020.
Dame Vera said: "I am delighted to be appointed Victims’ Commissioner, it is an honour to have the chance to work with victims and witnesses to ensure that their voices are heard everywhere it matters.
“I will be their champion, and I will work with government and the Criminal Justice agencies to implement the Victims’ Code when it has been updated, to bring national guidelines to local victim services which are delivered so well by my colleague Police and Crime Commissioner’s and to make the justice system responsive to victim needs, whilst ensuring fair trials.
“I will be very sad to leave my role as a Police and Crime Commissioner and my super staff, and all we achieved together with Northumbria Police. This new role will help me to build on my experience of victim and witness needs that I gained as a PCC and when I was in government.”
Justice Secretary David Gauke said he looked forward to Dame Vera making her new role her own.
He said: “The role of the Victims’ Commissioner is greatly valued across the justice system, and its importance has only strengthened under the tireless work of Baroness Newlove.
“Since the role was established in 2010, this government has driven vital improvements – from establishing the Victims Panel, revising the Victims’ Code, and last year publishing the first-ever cross-government Victims Strategy.
“I very much look forward to working with Dame Vera in continuing to drive the best possible support for victims across every stage of the justice system.”
Justice Minister Edward Argar added: “Throughout Dame Vera’s career she has demonstrated a constant commitment to ensuring victims of crime have the best possible experience of the criminal justice system.
“I look forward to working with her to build on the foundations laid by Baroness Newlove’s unwavering dedication to improve how we support victims and witnesses.”
Dame Vera Baird’s appointment will last for three years and her role will involve engaging with victims to build up a picture of how support services are working and how they could be improved; promoting the interests of victims and witnesses; encouraging good practice in their treatment; and keeping the operation of the Victims’ Code under review.
Baroness Newlove said: “I am delighted Dame Vera has been appointed to succeed me. Throughout the past six years I have had the opportunity to work closely with Vera in her capacity as Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria and as chair of the Victim Portfolio Group in the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
“Vera is a passionate and articulate advocate for victims, particularly the most vulnerable. She brings to this post huge experience and understanding of the criminal justice system, both as a lawyer and a former Solicitor General. I know she will work tirelessly and be a powerful voice for victims.
“I look forward to supporting her in the years to come.”
What is Dame Vera's new role?
The role of the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses (Victims’ Commissioner) has been in existence since 2010 and is a statutory role.
The role is independent of government and appointed through an open recruitment exercise.
In September 2018 the first ever cross-government Victims Strategy was published. It was the first-time government have looked in such detail and in such a joined-up way at how we treat victims in the wake of crime.
The Victims Strategy brings together, for the first time, funding which Government and agencies spend on supporting victims of crime, which is roughly £200million a year.