Georgina Dixon: a day in the life of a Voice Witness Care Officer
My journey to Voice always felt like a natural career progression. While working as a pharmacy technician at Northampton General Hospital, I realised I wanted to help people more directly, and when I spotted the advert for the Witness Care Office role at Voice it seemed perfect!
My dad is an ex-police officer, and also works for Voice, therefore I think helping people who need it the most is probably something that runs through our family! I’d never heard of Voice before he started working for them, but because of his previous job, I knew a little bit about victim and witness care, and it always fascinated me.
The opportunity to join the Voice team felt like an amazing new challenge which would expose me to a new field of work that greatly interested me. I’ve been here a year now, and those twelve months have absolutely flown by. We receive brilliant training at Voice, but I was asked to take to the phones relatively early on. That can be a bit of a steep learning curve, but I think it’s the best way to approach any new role, and the team are so supportive.
A proper team effort
There’s no such thing as a typical day when you work in witness care, but we have a number of procedures we have to follow each day. For instance, we work directly with the court system to keep track of tasks that need carrying out, and check what trials are coming up. We also run six-weekly welfare checks on the victims and witnesses we’re working with.
We obviously speak regularly with the courts and also any officers that are in charge of the cases we’re working on. But there’s a lot of work that takes place internally each day which highlights how brilliantly the Voice team works together. For instance, the victim support team’s work is closely aligned with ours, therefore we’re regularly in contact to get the latest updates on meetings they might have had with the people we’re supporting.
Our interactions with the court are really varied, but they’re all designed to help victims and witnesses navigate their way through the process. For example, we’ll speak to the court on the victim or witness’ behalf if there are any issues, and help manage diaries. This means we can use our experience to determine when there might be issues with certain dates or court arrangements to ensure key individuals are able to attend. There are sometimes childcare issues to address, too, and we’re even able to help in those instances.
A vital gateway
We see ourselves as a vital gateway between victims or witnesses and the courts, and can handle all of the details from the point of charge to sentencing. We always want to be involved as early as possible, because our training puts us in the prefect position to understand what’s needed from court at each stage and how to obtain the relevant information and answers for the victim or witness.
It’s a really proactive role, which is something I love. We have to pre-empt a lot of the things that might happen during a trial and during the lead-up to it, too, and so much of that comes from experience of dealing with multiple cases. Help like that is vital if you’re a victim or witness going through the process, because there’s no manual for this experience.
Despite the proactive nature of the job, we’re always here to answer questions from victims and witnesses. This is particularly comforting for those who might be vulnerable, but also vital for cases where child witnesses are required (we support lots of parents under such circumstances, who understandably have lots of questions).
I love helping these people, and I always put myself in their shoes; what would I be thinking, worrying about or need answers to if I was in their position? It really helps me provide the support they need.
Our involvement typically ends once the accused has been sentenced or found not-guilty, but just like all aspects of the Voice service, we’re always here if the victim or witness has any further questions or wants additional support. Every case we deal with has a unique reference number, therefore if we’re contacted a year later, we can usually still find answers to questions.
The benefit of working closely with the courts
When I first started, I was genuinely surprised by the number of court cases that are going on at any one time. Even growing up with a dad who was an officer, I was so naive to the number offences and what types are classified as crown or magistrates. I’ve learned so much in the last year, and while the level and type of crime being carried out in Northampton was genuinely surprising, working so closely with the courts is a constant reminder that public awareness increases each time someone is found guilty.
We follow pretty much the same process whether we’re supporting witnesses or victims, and while the latter are sometimes in a more vulnerable position, we do identify witnesses who we’d describe as being in ‘greatest need’, where they may be particularly vulnerable, have mental health issues or are experiencing witness intimidation. We treat everyone the same, of course, but it’s important we prioritise those who are most in need.
The best thing about my job is when we get a great outcome and the opportunity we get to see how happy the victims and witnesses are. It’s amazing to know we’ve played a part in helping them reach a point where they can move on with their lives. Whether that happens to me or one of my colleagues, the Voice team collectively cherishes those moments.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If I was a victim or witness of crime and had to attend court, I’d be scared, confused and have no idea what happens next, but when people discover Voice and find that, actually, the court process isn’t as dramatic as portrayed on TV, they realise it can be navigated – particularly with the right support.
My best advice to people who need to attend court as a victim or witness is to approach it with an open mind. I also can’t recommend pre-court visits enough – they’re a brilliant way to get a feel for the room and physically stand where you’ll be on the day of the trial. It takes away so much fear and changes preconceptions of the court experience.
We’re here to help. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, and it’s absolutely ok if you feel you need lots of support while going through the court process. It’s why we’re here – just contact us whenever you’re ready to find out how we can help you.
When I’m not at Voice…
Not many people know but I… have a degree in Human Bioscience
If I could watch one last film, it’d be… Bridget Jones
The person I admire the most is… my dad; he is my absolute hero
If it’s my turn with the radio, I’ll tune to… Kisstory!
My favourite place on the Earth is… Old Town – Dubrovnik, Croatia
What makes me truly happy is… Food! 🙂