Meet Shona, the CASS+ newbie at Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court
Shona’s extensive experience as an Appropriate Adult is proving invaluable. On top of this, she has a real passion to help others, especially when it comes to anyone trying to find their way through the Justice System.
Shona hasn’t looked back since joining the team at Newton Abbot
Since starting, Shona has accompanied clients into court and worked on solutions for people facing many hardships, mental health problems, domestic abuse and housing needs.
So many services available
Each day, she’s learning new things about all the specialist support available.
We asked Shona for her first impressions at CASS+
What are the obstacles that people need to overcome?
First and foremost, when anyone faces court, they’re extremely anxious and can’t think straight. We can sit by their side and explain the process. We can even speak on their behalf if the judge allows.
Secondly, many people may not have the language skills to understand what’s being said. We’re here to check they know what’s going on.
Finally, people don’t know about all the help available. So, we can liaise with local services and partners to get them the right support, based on our one-to-one, person-centred approach.
What are the solutions to the problems people face?
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 provides a code of practice, balancing the rights of the individual against the powers of the police. Anyone struggling should get appropriate help.
Liaison and Diversion Services identify people who have mental health needs, learning disabilities, substance use or other vulnerabilities when they first come into the Justice System. If they could give us a shortened referral form with the right information, we could reach out and help anyone facing hardship at an early stage.
When the court listings come through to us in the CASS+ office, we have no way of knowing who needs extra support. If we were told that someone had been appointed an Appropriate Adult in custody, we would be able to look out for them.
How can we get known by the people who need us the most?
It would really help to improve communication between the custody and court systems.
When someone leaves custody, they are given a list of services available. We could help so many more people if Police Officers referred to us. As a result, I will be working hard to build on my knowledge of police custody and to promote what we and other partners have to offer the communities that Newton Abbot serves. We’re looking forward to growing our networks, especially with the police.
Tell us about someone who you’ve been able to help
Someone didn’t attend their trial due to an emergency at home. Consequently, a warrant for arrest was issued. We called them and explained that they could surrender to the court. Because of CASS+, they came back to court:
‘I’ve only come back because of the support you’re giving me.’
The future is definitely looking better for this person now.
I can’t wait to do more of the same.
Find out more about the CASS+ team here.
If you need help through court in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Bodmin or Truro, get in touch with us.