Fighting for the victims of crime

INCREASING prosecutions for domestic violence and hate crime is the aim of a newly appointed Herts Constabulary detective inspector. DI Gary Atkinson, a former Watford FC youth player with a keen interest in the history of World War II, has been appoint

INCREASING prosecutions for domestic violence and hate crime is the aim of a newly appointed Herts Constabulary detective inspector.

DI Gary Atkinson, a former Watford FC youth player with a keen interest in the history of World War II, has been appointed the new head of the eastern area harm reduction unit and has announced his intention to increase prosecutions by improving investigation techniques and encouraging more victims of domestic violence, racism and homophobia to come forward.

Mr Atkinson, 43, who is married with two boys aged 13 and eight, has over 20 years service as a detective with the constabulary and feels that this experience will stand him in good stead in his new role.

He said: "I am enjoying the challenge and really want to make a difference. I want to do real investigation work and really help people."


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Based at Hitchin police station, he leads a team of around 20 officers, both male and female, with cultural and language skills, dedicated to dealing with investigating domestic violence and hate crime and supporting victims. The team has a detection rate of 60 per cent.

Describing domestic violence, he said: "It can take many forms - it can be physical, psychological, financial or sexual. It's a particularly vicious crime, usually against women in the home, by cowards and bullies with a pattern of controlling behaviour."

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On tackling the 400 domestic violence incidents reported to police each month in the eastern area, he said: "We have a policy where we will arrest those involved and deal with them. We are working closely with the Criminal Prosecution Service to make more prosecutions and looking at the way we go about our investigations, such as improving our evidence gathering - filming the aftermath of a domestic violence incident, for example, is very powerful."

Mr Atkinson said that he was aware of the difficulties victims face in coming forward and understood their reticence, but wanted to reassure them that mechanisms are in place to help them.

"I want to tell all victims that we are here to support them. I fully appreciate how difficult and complicated domestic violence can be, especially when children are involved, but victims don't have to tolerate it, we can help. We have excellent victim care with specialist officers and the help of a number of support agencies.

"If offenders think they can hide behind the defence that victims won't prosecute they should think again."

Describing his other remit, hate crime, Mr Atkinson said: "Again, like domestic violence, hate crimes can take many forms, such as verbal or physical abuse directed at individuals because of their beliefs, religion, sexuality or nationality. It can and does have a devastating effect not only on the victims but on the community as well. I would urge people who have been the victims of a hate crime to come forward and speak to us. We will deal with the offenders and victims should be reminded this type of behaviour against them will not be tolerated.

"We will continue to work to bring the perpetrators of this type of crime to justice."

Police surgeries are held across the eastern area where victims of hate crimes can talk about their experiences and report incidents to the police. Victims who do not want direct contact with a uniformed police officer can report abuse at council offices and religious and community centres. Details are available at www.herts.police.uk

Victims of domestic violence are urged to call 08088 088 088, free and in confidence, and 999 in an emergency.

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