Specialist Suffolk police unit clears up hundreds of crimes

Highpoint prison in Suffolk Picture: ARCHANT

Offenders are often visited in prison and asked to own up to other offences - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

A specialist police unit dedicated to bringing criminals to book for cases that might otherwise go unsolved has cleared up more than 560 offences during 2021. 

Operation Converter, which was expanded in December 2020, aims to secure convictions by allowing offenders to own up to other crimes - which can be taken into consideration (TIC) at sentence.

During the calendar year of 2021 in Suffolk, 564 TICs were obtained from 73 prolific offenders, force statistics showed. 

These included 94 theft of or from motor vehicle offences and 65 home burglaries. 

Recent cases include Ipswich man Connor Roche, who was locked up for 45 months in November after pleading guilty to burglary, taking an Audi A1 without consent and five offences of attempted burglary.

Connor Roche

Connor Roche put forward 19 TICs at his sentence in November - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

The 20-year-old also put forward 19 TICs, including seven burglaries, seven attempted burglaries, four thefts of cars and one offence of criminal damage.

TICs can only be used in conjunction with charged offences and must be of a similar nature - meaning a shoplifter cannot ask for an assault to be considered, and only the less serious crimes can be taken into consideration.

Admissions must be detailed enough to link an offender to the crimes - and the use of TICs must withstand detailed scrutiny.

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Following his retirement in August last year, former detective Duncan Etchells returned to the unit as a civilian administrator in December 2020, following investment raised by the police and crime commissioner (PCC) through an increase to the council tax precept.

The unit of Mr Etchells and fellow detective constable Barry Simpson saw the additions of detective constable Merv Cook as well as PCs Dan Wheddon and Tim Barrell.

Mr Etchells, who now carries out an administrative role within the unit, said: "We persuade them [offenders] to do the right thing for the victim, and themselves, and it saves our colleagues a lot of work and saves the forensic managers a lot of forensic submissions. 

"It frees up colleagues, they've all got busy workloads, and we can try to return property to victims. I hate to use the word closure - but we hear it a lot from victims."

A total of 35 of restorative justice referrals were also made 2021 - a process of bringing victims and offenders together to address and repair any harm. 

"If we can, we refer them onto restorative justice hub. We know that for every TIC we get, there's a victim behind that. We always update our victims and that's what spurs us on. It's what we all joined the job to do - make a difference and help victims of crime."

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore - Credit: Archant

Speaking earlier this year, Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: "The overall aim of Operation Converter is victim satisfaction, and what better way to achieve this than to be able to tell a victim that the offender has been apprehended. 

"Helping more victims have closure on the crimes they have experienced is very important for their general wellbeing and improves confidence in the criminal justice system, which is good news all round.

“I fully supported the investment in this team, the work they do is making a real difference to public confidence, offender rehabilitation, property recovery and crime reduction."