On-call rape centre 'on my radar': Crime commissioner Ann Barnes
Kent police commissioner Ann Barnes has pledged to investigate
round-the-clock centre for rape victims after being challenged
charities to act.
Ms Barnes said Kent's failure to have a referral centre that
available 24 hours a day was "on her radar" after being challenged
on the issue at her first "meet the public" event this week.
She was responding to complaints about the failure of the police
agencies to work towards providing a round-the-clock referral
Kent is the only part of the south east region not to have
Most victims are taken to Darent Valley Hospital in Gravesend to
be forensically tested, by an on-call doctor - who in most cases is
The centre is only available from 9am to 4pm and often counsellors
victims are not available.
Malcolm Gilbert, of the charity Family Matters in Gravesend,
said the lack of a dedicated centre was a factor in deterring
victims of rape and sexual assault from reporting crimes.
"Unfortunately, what we have in Kent is an open-on-demand
Darent Valley Hospital which sometimes has a case worker if they
"That is a pretty poor show. Kent is the only county not to have
a 24/7 health referral centre. Only 14% of rapes are ever
reported...this is a factor in discouraging them to come
Ann Barnes said she accepted the situation was not good enough.
"I am on
"I cannot think of anything more horrible than not having
somewhere safe and comfortable to go if you are a victim of
" I would like the referral centre at Darent Valley to be open
24 hours a
day. It is a nonsense that you cannot get help after 4pm. It is on
The police commissioner's first "meet the public" event in
Maidstone saw her fielding questions on a range of subjects, from
anti-social behaviour to the role of the youth commissioner she
plans to appoint.
She underlined her commitment to ensure there was a more visible
presence in towns and villages but warned that funding cuts meant
force could not do everything.
"Every penny I can find I will put into community policing.
"There are fewer officers out in our communities. Visibility is
important and we should be able to see more officers and feel
comfortable that they are
But she warned the force was dealing with severe cuts in
funding that were limiting its ability to do everything people
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