Christ Church justice facility dog recruited to support victims of crime in East Midlands

For the past year, Oliver, Canterbury Christ Church University’s justice facility dog has been helping vulnerable victims and witnesses within the UK criminal justice system and his work is now expanding to Derbyshire. 

The pilot project started by the University and working with Kent Police, aims to produce an evidence base to show that using a trained facility dog can provide a less traumatic experience for victims. 

Duo, a US organisation accredited through Assistance Dogs International (ADI) donated Oliver, the black Labrador-retriever to Dr Liz Spruin, primary handler and Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology. 

So far, Oliver has supported vulnerable people in around 20 interviews with Kent Police and has helped with the Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) training for officers. 

He is trained to provide quiet companionship and to reduce stress and anxiety for people involved in a variety of cases.

Speaking about the project, Dr Liz Spruin, said: “The research we are doing with Oliver has really taken off over the past year.

“It’s fantastic to not only see the difference he has made to the vulnerable people he has supported, but also the difference he is making in our criminal justice system. I am very hopeful that in the years to come, we will be seeing more Oliver’s working in the criminal justice system, I hope that this past year is just a glimpse of what’s to come for Oliver and our research.”

In March, Oliver and Dr Spruin were invited by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to talk to several child advocacy centres in Alberta about the work and research they are undertaking.

In June, he worked with Intermediaries for Justice to help train the officers at Sussex Police who were taking the ABE training course. 

Dr Spruin and Oliver went to Seattle to speak at the International Courthouse Dog Conference in September and more recently, they were invited by the Assistant District Attorney’s Office in New York to attend the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law and Dr Spruin will be attending again in April to participate in a panel discussion about the use of faculty dogs worldwide. 

Over the next two weeks, Oliver will offer his services to victims and witnesses in the Derbyshire Constabulary. 

Derbyshire’s Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: “We are very lucky to have Oliver with us for this trial. The additional support he can give to the victims and witnesses that we work with on a daily basis is amazing to see. When victims talk about their experiences in an interview situation, it can be traumatic and difficult for them to open up.

“He is a very clever dog that can really help to put vulnerable people at ease, and making this process easier for people really is what we are trying to achieve with having him with us.”

Read more at Christ Church News Centre