Giving victims a voice

PC Richard Dawson is one of the force’s Specially Trained Officers (STOs), who is assigned to work with victims of rape and serious sexual assault.

Rich Dawson

We ensure the best care possible for our victims throughout the investigation, and any resultant court proceedings.

The way in which we deal with victims can make a world of difference to not only the criminal case, but to those who have had their lives turned upside down, and to how they go about their life afterwards.

It’s by no means easy, but I have to think what’s best for each of the victims, and what can I do that helps them take some control back in their life, and help manage their thoughts and feelings.

I was assigned to work with the victim of a stranger rape that occurred on The Embankment in Bedford on Friday, 2 February 2018. We always put the victim at the heart of everything we do, and this case shows the importance of supporting the victim and giving them a voice throughout.

During the investigation it was discovered that the suspect, Anderson Cosma, had been stalking another woman and was lying in wait for her that Friday evening outside her workplace. When she failed to appear, he chanced upon another woman and subjected her to a horrific ordeal.

Cosma was jailed on 1 February this year and the judge presiding over the case deemed him to be “most dangerous”.

This was a fantastic result for the force and for both the rape victim, and the stalking victim, to know that we could have the suspect identified and in custody within two weeks of the offence happening, but victim care is paramount. They have had their world taken from them in a matter of minutes, and it’s all about giving back control and quality of life.

In respect of Cosma’s rape victim, this meant speaking with her regularly, both making and taking calls. It also meant going with her to court. She told me that she wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Often seeing a case through to conclusion is the best way for a victim to get the greatest closure and, in this case, both victims stayed on board throughout. Cosma was convicted and jailed for 12 years.

My role involved answering all her questions, and hearing what she had to say, but all the while maintaining a professional distance. My approach must be friendly, but I can’t become a friend.

Listening to the victim is vitally important, so that you can understand and allay any fears.

One of the fears I often encounter from victims is the thought of facing their attacker again, whether through them repeating the offence, or in an act of retaliation for making a report to police.

They also fear seeing the offender in the court room, feeling they will be intimidated and not be able to give their evidence. I know that both women in this case were prepared to pull out on a number of occasions and walk away, but part of my job is to persuade them to keep going.

For one of the victims I felt it was important for not only her, but for her immediate family, to attend the Old Bailey for the sentencing. This was not only for closure and reassurance that Cosma was actually going to prison, but also for the family to see and understand what she had been through over the last few months, as they weren’t able to attend the trial in Luton.

It was a huge reality check for the family, but it will help them to understand and be better equipped to support the victim in the months and years that follow. When you’re dealing with someone with vulnerabilities, the support isn’t always just for the victim, it can also help the extended family to cope as well.

She told me that she couldn’t have done it, or gone through it, without the help and support she was given. Her family thanked me for keeping them updated as well. This was, of course with the victim’s permission, as it helped them to really understand what was going on. And I am delighted to have played my part in bringing about justice for this lady.

Anderson Cosma was found guilty of raping a woman in Bedford in February last year, and stalking and sexually assaulting another woman. He was jailed for 12 years after being deemed a danger to the public.

To find out more about this case, visit our website.

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