Ann Coffey congratulates Soroptimist International of Stockport on their support for vulnerable witnesses and victims
Stockport MP Ann Coffey visited Greater Manchester Police’s video interview unit in Hazel Grove to see the improvements which have been achieved with the support of Soroptimist International of Stockport.
This is a group of women volunteers from all backgrounds, talents and ages, who work on projects which help women and girls. In 2018 Soroptimists International of Stockport are celebrating 80 years of service to the local community and beyond.
The Soroptimists’ project with GMP came about when the group became aware that the Hazel Grove unit, where witnesses of serious crime including rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are taken to record witness statements, was in need of refurbishment.
A large number of people use the unit each year, including some 300 victims and as many witnesses, as well as their parents, family, friends and of course the police officers, social workers and doctors who are also involved. Providing this service to vulnerable witnesses and victims is an important link in the evidence chain.
The existing interview rooms, which were quite bare and not user-friendly, especially for children, have been transformed into a welcoming and comfortable space where vulnerable victims and witnesses can begin to relax after their ordeal. Re-painting, adding cushions, pictures, lamps and small tables have achieved a soothing atmosphere in which vulnerable and often traumatised people can feel safe to take part in the interview process.
The waiting rooms, where friends and family often have to spend lengthy periods, have been brightened up with TVs magazines, children’s toys and colouring books. Because the unit can be used for interviews on a 24-hour basis, a constant supply of tea and coffee is also assured, so that everyone can get a hot drink, no matter what time of day or night.
Sue Gledhill, President of Soroptimist International of Stockport, said:
“Soroptimist International of Stockport is part of an international women’s organisation committed to improving the lives of women and girls. We are pleased that today’s visit recognises our ongoing partnership with Greater Manchester Police providing support for all those involved in the investigation of abuse.”
Detective Inspector Julia Bowden, of GMP’s Stockport Borough said:
“I would like to thank the Soroptimist International of Stockport for their efforts and hard work on this project. It is always rewarding when we are able to work in partnership with local groups and residents to make improvements to the local community.
DI Bowden continued:
“Creating a more comfortable and welcoming atmosphere can make a huge difference to vulnerable victims and witnesses who are bravely supporting our investigations. With the refurbished unit, we can offer victims and witnesses a safe and private space to give their evidence and make the process easier for them.”
Ann Coffey said:
“I warmly congratulate the Soroptimist International of Stockport – a group of women who know how to get things done – and the police for working in partnership on this project. I was delighted to see that the refurbished unit now has a relaxed and homely feel, which puts vulnerable witnesses at their ease, and makes it easier for them to give their evidence.”
To find out more about Soroptimist International of Stockport, go to their website at https://sigbi.org/stockport/
Ann Coffey MP in one of the refurbished interview rooms at Hazel Grove video interview unit with (l to r) Detective Chief Inspector Chris Downey, Sue Gledhill, President, Soroptimist International of Stockport, Ingrid Whiteman, past-President, SIS, Detective Inspector Julia Bowden
Stockport Town Hall was host to a workshop held by the Parliament Project – an organisation which works to encourage women to participate in politics and stand for office.
Stockport MP Ann Coffey was invited to speak at the workshop about her motivation in standing to be a local Councillor and then an MP, and to talk about the day to day life of a Member of Parliament.
The Parliament Project holds workshops all over the country, and the Stockport event was attended by women who serve as Stockport Councillors, including Cllr Amanda Peers and Cllr Elise Wilson. The participants, women from all walks of life, had an interest in politics and were considering getting further involved. The workshop was designed for them to get the most out of it, by hearing the stories of women like themselves who have already been elected and whose voices are being heard on the Council and in Parliament.
Ann Coffey said:
“When I was elected to Parliament in 1992 there were only 60 women MPs in the House of Commons. That number now stands at 208, and I think the increased number of women MPs have really changed Parliament for the better. Obviously I would like to see even more women being elected to the local council and to Parliament, and so It was great to meet so many inspiring Stockport women, and hear their stories and hopes for the future.”
Hannah Stevens from the Parliament Project said:
“I would like to thank Ann for finding time in her busy schedule to share her experiences and inspire the women in the room.”