Specially-trained ‘justice dog’ helps crime victims and witnesses give evidence

Specially-trained ‘justice dog’ helps crime victims and witnesses give evidence

A specially-trained 'justice dog' has been drafted in by the police to help vulnerable witnesses and victims of crime to give evidence.

Oliver, a three-year old black Labrador Retriever, is the first dog in Europe to help vulnerable people make their way through the justice system.

He is visiting Nottinghamshire for the first time to provide a calming influence in court and during police interviews.

His job is to provide comfort for children and vulnerable people who may need support during these situations.

The justice facility dog was drafted in as part of Nottinghamshire Police’s commitment to supporting young and vulnerable witnesses.

Teams at Mansfield and Oxclose Lane Police Station will be hosting Oliver this week, where officers can request him to attend interviews.

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Oliver’s handler Liz Spruin is an Investigative Psychologist from Canterbury Christ Church University, and the Director of Justice Support Dogs International in the UK.

She said: “A lot of times when you go through such an ordeal, especially children, a lot of people need that comfort and support, and that’s what Oliver provides, that unconditional support when they really need it.

"If Oliver was requested, we’d have an assessment period where he meets the individual who is using him.

"Then, we bring him into the interview room or court, he sits on a sofa or on the floor, and during the whole interview he is trained to maintain physical contact and recognise when people get stressed.”

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Detective Inspector Natasha Todd said: “Working in Public Protection, we’re always working with young people and vulnerable adults, and on a daily basis it’s important to be able to interview them.

"A lot of people, particularly children, come in here very vulnerable and don’t want to talk to strangers about what’s happened.

"What Oliver brings to them is some comfort and reassurance, and makes them feel more comfortable in disclosing matters that they wouldn’t ordinarily talk about. I think Oliver will be a massive asset this week.”

Oliver’s visit is on a trial basis to see how popular the service is.

If successful, a justice dog could be recruited full-time.

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