Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Peter McCall is opening the ‘Safer Streets, Making a Start’ seminar on Wednesday 30 March at the University of Cumbria and top of the agenda will be the issue of violence against women and girls in the Carlisle area.
Local pupils from schools across the north of Cumbria are being presented with a series of engaging film, short talks and presentations, hosted by University of Cumbria students and staff, Cumbria Constabulary and local partners.
As part of the Safer Streets initiative, the University of Cumbria has written and produced a film to promote topics such as consent, harassment, stalking and violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Presentations from the university’s Law and Criminology courses will include students explaining how different professional disciplines contribute to making our streets safer, particularly for women and girls.
In addition, there will be the opportunity to raise any questions or issues during a ‘Questions from the Audience’ session and the Student Union will also be raising awareness on their ‘Expect Respect’ consent campaign.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says that someone consents to sexual activity if they agree by choice and have both the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Both parties involved must say ‘yes’ to provide consent. If someone doesn’t say ‘no’ out loud that doesn’t mean that they are consenting. The legal age of consent is 16 in the UK.
Talking about the ‘Safer Streets, Making a Start’ seminar, Peter McCall comments: “It’s vital that preventative projects such as this, focus on children and young people and that a greater understanding is developed around the myths and facts around consent and harassment.
“The heart of the Safer Streets initiative focuses on prevention and forms part of our extended work to tackle violence against women and girls in all spheres of life, as we know this also occurs in homes, in schools, in the workplace, as well as in our streets.
“Other elements of the Safer Streets project include a Night-time charter for local business to sign up to, co-ordination of a team of new Safer Street volunteers to be based in the new welfare hub at the train station during evenings at the weekend and a countywide Crimestoppers ‘Be Consent Aware’ campaign.
“It is only by understanding the laws around stalking, consent and harassment and focusing on how we can work together, that we can rebuild trust and confidence to help make women and girls feel safer in Carlisle.”
University of Cumbria policing principal lecturer Gary Slater said: “This is a very important issue for our students and staff, in both social and professional contexts and continues the collaborative partnership we and the University of Cumbria Students’ Union have with Cumbria Police and the Office for Police and Crime Commissioner.
“Student and staff welfare and wellbeing is our highest priority, so for the university to be involved in this way helps to educate, inform and empower them and peers to challenge behaviours and help address, debate and tackle issues raised.
“We are delighted that a number of our students doing criminology, law, policing and security degree programmes at the School of Justice will soon be involved in the night-time hub that is going to be outside Carlisle Railway Station.
“They are taking up the role of new Safer Streets Volunteers and are currently completing the necessary training in readiness for when the welfare hub begins.
“Not only are they promoting safer environments for women and girls, the roles offer them a real opportunity to fulfil their passion of making a positive contribution to the community in which they live and study now and in the future.”
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Vicki Coombes said: "The safety of woman and girls in Cumbria is a priority for our force. Whilst violence can occur against anyone, records show that it is disproportionately targeted at females.
"There is no place for violence in Cumbria. We are working at length with partners, such as the University of Cumbria and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, to educate and deter unacceptable behaviour.
"It is vital that we are educating young people to create a long-lasting change in culture
“This seminar provides a great opportunity for myself, and my colleagues, to discuss the work of the police in this area of crime. It also provides a safe environment for us to ask students to consider the potentially life-long, devastating effects of sexual violence. A criminal record will also have life-long, negative consequences for a perpetrator. Poor choices can quickly change multiple lives.
"It has been a pleasure working with the University’s students on their film projects and with our partners on this conference.
“I look forward to the films being seen by other students and for their vital messages to be heard and shared in Carlisle and across the wider Cumbrian community.”