‘Rochdale grooming gang’ chief prosecutor stresses importance of listening to the public during speech in Ipswich

Luke Woodley, Suzanna Pickering and Nasir Afzal OBE at Trinity Park in Ipswich. Picture: ADAM HOWLET

Luke Woodley, Suzanna Pickering and Nasir Afzal OBE at Trinity Park in Ipswich. Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant

The man at the centre of prosecuting the so-called ‘Rochdale grooming gang’ has stressed the importance of public organisations listening to their staff and users in safeguarding the public.

Nazir Afzal OBE, formerly the chief crown prosecutor for North West England, gave a keynote speech at Trinity Park in Ipswich this week as part of an annual University of Suffolk conference called ‘Can You Hear Me? The Voice of the Service User’.

The conference brought together an audience of students and those currently working in health, social care, education and the police to encourage best practice and to improve links to related services.

Following his speech, Mr Afzal said that organisations need to really listen to what service users and staff are saying, rather than conducting a box ticking exercise.

He said: “We keep hearing that people don’t have a voice.

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“Well they have always had a voice, we just don’t listen to it.

“It is not enough to carry out an analysis after something has happened, it is about what you are going to do about it.

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“My response is get it right first time, it should be about getting it right. People love to tick their boxes and feel like they have done their job - but tick boxes have never saved anyone’s life.

“Competence is what drives confidence.”

He added: “Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, not just the professionals but we can learn from each other and this conference will drive up performance and awareness and protect even more.”

The conference, now in its third year, also included a speech by former Coldstream Guard Luke Woodley, who developed PTSD after serving in Bosnia with the UN in 1993. Mr Woodley later launched The Veterans Response Partnership, a service offering support to veterans going through a mental health crisis.

Suzanna Pickering, senior lecturer in social work and joint conference lead, said: “This conference takes place at an important time, when some people are struggling more than ever. We are bringing together police, nurses, social workers and lawyers to make the service better by listening to the voices of ordinary people.”

The event was sponsored by Gotelee Solicitors and supported by Iceni, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk police.

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