Protecting victims of forced marriage: Police Officer Esther Carroll

I was working in the domestic violence unit in 2007 when we started to see more and more reports of what is now known as honour based abuse. It’s a very difficult area to police, as a lot of the reports were just that, reports, with victims not wanting their families to be prosecuted. We set up an honour based abuse unit, following advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with the Luton All Women’s Centre playing an instrumental part. Honour based abuse can take any form; physical or emotional abuse, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, rape and in extreme cases, murder.

When I meet victims for the first time, I take their DNA and fingerprints; just in case the worst does happen. We take them somewhere to keep them safe, often a hotel, until refuge is found, sometimes for several days. Victims need a friend; when they are first taken away from their families, friends, school, college, university, work, this is when they are at their most vulnerable. They are often isolated, lonely and frightened.

I’ve always thought policing is not just about fighting crime and disorder, it is also about offering friendship; reaching out just that little bit further and having empathy, so that victims feel able to open up. I give them my phone number to and speak to them whatever time of day it is. I hope that by being accessible and by being their first point of call that  can help keep them away from danger.

Sometimes I get a call or text or email out of the blue, saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you saved my life’. I know then that the victim has become a survivor and this is why l do the job that l do.

Police Officer Esther Carroll has been protecting women from forced marriage since 2007 and was given the ‘True Honour’ award by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) for her work with victims in March.

Racing against the clock to find missing Margaret

BedsSergeant Nicola Barlow-Cook has been with Bedfordshire Police for 23 years. She tells us what it’s like to lead the search for a missing person who is living with dementia…

On 13 February, at about 7.30pm, Bedfordshire Police Force Control Room (FCR) took a call from a man reporting his 80-year-old mother, Margaret, missing. Margaret and her friend travelled back to Bedford on the same bus but were then due to get on to separate busses to return to their respective addresses. Margaret did not arrive home.

I was alerted to Margaret’s case by the Force Control Room; Margaret had been deemed ‘high risk’ because her family suspected she had early stage dementia. She had not been seen for a number of hours, so it was vital that our search was methodical but that we acted as fast as possible. I took responsibility as Bronze Commander, which means I coordinated the search.

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Just a standard day

The man punched in the face, who’s upset and scared.

The woman threatened by her ex-partner, screaming on the phone.

The woman whose house has been burgled – and completely trashed.

The drivers injured and shaken in a crash on the M1.

The people injecting heroin.

The paramedics who need help with a patient acting aggressively.

The injured man who doesn’t know how he got his cuts.

The woman worried about her daughter, who has gone missing again.

The shop worker threatened with a gun.

The motorcyclist hit by a car.

The child hit by a car.

The woman sexually assaulted by someone she knew.

The child sexually assaulted by someone they knew.

What do these people have in common?

They all needed the help of Bedfordshire Police on the same day.

We also stopped a man at Luton Airport wanted on suspicion of rape.

We went back to the airport to greet someone who was wanted by another force.

We received 30 reports of domestic abuse. One report of hare coursing. Seven reports of burglary. 45 reports of concern for welfare.

Not to mention the many reports of shoplifting, criminal damage, and anti-social behaviour.

That day we took 395 calls. It was just a standard day. 

We want to continue to be able to help you when you need us. We also want to continue to deliver the community policing you value and deserve.

But we need your help.

We have just 169 officers per 100,000 people – compared to the national average of 232 – and we’re facing further cuts.

Please help us continue to deliver the police service you want and need, by signing our petition today. 

Thank you.