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COMMENDEE 2020-21: Roland’s Commendation is for his outstanding work as a Victim Liaison Officer with Essex Probation, for his “wonderful and compassionate character”, and for his particular skill in dealing with some of the most challenging cases.
Roland sadly died shortly after his initial nomination. The high regard of his colleagues was reflected in their decision, alongside his family, to continue with the Awards process – and his Commendation in turn reflects his significant and important contribution in an often ‘unsung’ area of criminal justice, as the following testimonials amply demonstrate.
Michele Walker, a Senior Probation Officer, Victim Liaison Manager, and Roland’s Line Manager, praised his ability to deal with “sometimes very difficult, upset and angry people.” She recalled occasions where victims were annoyed and angry about their experience of the Criminal Justice System in which Roland “quickly established a professional working relationship and started to build trust in our service.” She added that Roland was “held in high regard by many, not only because he would share his knowledge but also his caring, dedicated and passionate nature of his work and as a friend and colleague,” and that the whole team had supported his nomination.
Alongside Michele, colleague Louisa Browning shared an impressive array of testimonials by colleagues and victims alike. Elizabeth News, a MAPPA Manager in Essex, noted that Roland often used his voice “as a timely reminder to other agencies that the Victim’s needs and wishes are primary”, and that he was “a passionate advocate”, and went on to praise “Roly’s knowledge and experience and his evident empathy for the service user”. She added that he was “universally respected and liked”, as well as personally “a huge support to me, our MAPPA team and to the MAPPA processes in Essex.”
Debbie Redman, another colleague and Victim Liaison Officer, recalls that “within the victims role, you never know what situation you will be walking in to.” She remembers witnessing Roland “working with extremely distraught victims to those presenting with real anger towards the Criminal Justice System”, remarking that he had a notable calm and “took everything in his stride” while being “so caring and sensitive to the victim’s needs.” Debbie has taken over many of Roland’s cases, and says “there have been so many lovely comments from victims who have worked with him – I certainly had some big shoes to fill.” She called Roland “a great colleague and a friend with a cracking sense of humour. In this job, you certainly need some humour at times, to help you get through”.
Flor Quicenco-Lopez, another VLO, particularly admired Roland’s “work ethic, and the empathy he shows which goes beyond his duties”, calling him “an extremely kind and honest person.” An NPS Programmes Facilitator recalls that her first day in Probation “was a daunting experience & I was beginning to wonder whether I’d made the right decision. Then Roly kind of burst into the room, I think he saw my fear; his energy & passion for his job was palpable & infectious. He immediately reassured me whilst being frank about the work, and over the months that followed he regularly checked in with me. That’s gold dust.” She added that “Roly was a bit of an institution, a wonderful & compassionate character” who represented “the heart & soul of the work we do.”
South Essex Probation Officer Tuncay Gurhan added praise for Roland’s highly effective communication and empathy. Meanwhile, those he supported in his role, responding in a Victim Satisfaction Survey, clearly really valued his work, too: “Excellent service, felt extremely supported. I was given all the time and support I needed. He went at my pace and gave me valuable advice”, said one. Another wanted to acknowledge that he “made me feel like an individual and human”, and found his work “very informative and understanding.”
Another said, simply. “My Victim Liaison officer was great. Explained everything clearly in plain English and answered all my questions fully. I felt very supported.” Another response summed up Roland’s work with the pithy remark: “Professionalism with empathy.”
That professionalism was reflected in another colleague’s testimony. Gordon Low, a Senior Probation Officer and Formal Complaints Officer, was “impressed by Roland’s attention to detail and commitment to ensuring the work of the Probation Service was fully addressed and not merely concentrating on his role and responsibility in isolation.” The Chair of the Lifer’s Panel was also “extremely impressed” by Roland’s “knowledge and willingness to share this with others.”
Steve Johnson-Proctor, Regional Probation Director for the NPS East of England Region, said that “This is one of those lovely nominations made by staff emanating from what l will call, daily appreciation, support, care and commitment from Roland. The role of Victim Liaison Officers, VLOs, can easily be hidden behind the ‘higher profile’ work of courts, prisons or offender management. But, the role of VLOs, as unsung heroes, needs a loud banging of drums.” Steve praised the contributions of Roland “to protecting the public, supporting his colleagues on a daily basis to ensure that ‘the voice of the victim’ should be at the core of our work” and noted his undoubtedly “positive impacted on the development of his colleagues’ professional practice.” That impact will hopefully be deepened by Roland’s posthumous Commendation for his outstanding professional contributions on behalf of victims.