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Former Avon and Somerset detective collects top policing award

A former Avon and Somerset detective based in North East Investigations, has taken a top policing award at a national detectives’ forum in Manchester.

Former Detective Constable Christine Williams was nominated for her work in child protection as well as exemplary work with victims during her 37-year police career. She retired in August but plans to return to the force as police staff, working as a major crime investigating officer.

Her achievement follows her success at the prestigious BAWP (British Association for Women in Policing) awards event held in Coventry in June. She finished runner-up in the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Performance and Inspirational Woman category.

The Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) Awards – which is being held at the Renaissance Manchester Hotel – recognises the very best of detective policing throughout England and Wales and forms part of a two-day seminar for detective representatives, organised by the National Detectives’ Forum.

The awards categories this year were: Smarter Detective; New Trainee; Detective Investigation of the Year and Services to Detectives, as well as Regional Recognition Awards for those who make outstanding contributions to detective policing, often behind-the-scenes.

Christine was awarded the overall Regional Recognition Award from a shortlist of impressive regional winners drawn from throughout England and Wales. She was recognised for “her unrelenting passion and dedication to safeguard children from abuse. She has given vulnerable victims the confidence and courage to speak out.”

Speaking after receiving the award, Christine said: “I feel so honoured and privileged to receive this award. I have simply been doing my job, which I love and have enjoyed so much.

“My job has been about talking and listening to people. That is so important still today.

“I am so pleased to have finished my career with this award, which is also for all the wonderful people that I worked with.”

Christine or Chris as she likes to be known, joined Avon and Somerset Police on 1 February 1982 after obtaining a degree in psychology and sociology. From the outset she made it clear she was not interested in the graduate scheme or rapid promotion.

She joined the CID in 1988 and after 10 years in a detective role she moved to her area of passion and interest – the Child Protection Team. She has set the standard of professionalism, skill and commitment for the past 20 years.

She described her motivation for working with the CPT: “My interest in this specialist area of policing stemmed from feelings of despair following the reporting of high profile child abuse cases. I’d grown tired of feeling helpless and upset and decided that I wanted to try to do something positive to help prevent it and detect it, by playing a part in safeguarding children and enabling them to have a voice.”

Her work supporting vulnerable victims inevitably meant becoming emotionally involved with those people and children she was working with and helping them with the challenges they faced.

In 1991 Chris received a personal letter of thanks for the support she had provided to the family of a manager who had been shot dead in an armed robbery. In 2004 she supported four sisters, who were victims of sexual abuse, including one who attempted suicide following the trial because of its traumatic nature.

She is forensically trained in conducting Achieving Best Evidence video interviews and is recognised for her skill, expertise and experience. As a result she has undertaken interviews of young children who have witnessed horrendous incidents, including murder, as well as the offences they have been victims of themselves.

In 2011, through her diligent planning and preparation, together with excellent conversational management and cognitive techniques, Chris obtained extremely detailed accounts from three victims of historic child sexual abuse. This was an extremely unusual case in terms of victim interviews and after care and she demonstrated exemplary skills in both these areas. Her excellent work made a significant contribution towards the eventual court conviction and sentencing of the offender for 81 consecutive years’ imprisonment.

In 2012 Chris received a judge’s commendation for her exemplary victim care work in a complex case involving seven victims over many years.

Twelve months later her tact and empathy were critical in obtaining evidence of sexual abuse from elderly, frail and very vulnerable residents at a care home.

In April last year Chris interviewed two young children following the parents’ suspicions that they had been subject to a number of sexual offences by a close family friend. As a result of her exceptional empathy and ability to relate to children, they disclosed serious sexual abuse over the previous three years, leading to the arrest of the family friend. Chris was able to develop and maintain a strong and supportive relationship with the boys, supporting them throughout the investigation and successful trial where the offender was jailed for nine years. She received force recognition for the difference she had made in this investigation but this was typical of her involvement in every investigation she has conducted in the past 20 years.

Det Supt Marie Wright of Avon and Somerset Investigations, said: “I am so thrilled that Chris has won this award. She is one of the most dedicated child protection detectives that I have known and her 37 years’ service is an indication of her commitment to protecting the most vulnerable people in our community.

“Chris is a true professional and has always put the victim first, ensuring that they have a voice. She works with them to achieve what they want at what is often the most terrible time of their life.

“Chris remained as enthusiastic and motivated as she was when she joined the police. She has mentored and developed a number of colleagues over the years and has a great working relationship with our key partners.

“She has been a credit to my team and Avon and Somerset Police and winning this prestige national award from the Police Federation is duly deserved. If I was a victim of crime I would want Chris to work with me in her unique way – sensitive, caring and professional. That’s Chris!”

Insp Andy Roebuck, Federation Council Chair at Avon and Somerset Police Federation said: “This is a great honour for Chris and for Avon and Somerset Police. Her dedicated and professional work spanning 37 years is a real credit to her and demonstrates the inspirational role she has with her colleagues.

“Chris has moved through so many changes in detective career and her ability to adapt, remain enthusiastic and focused on the victim is a real credit to her as a detective. This is well-deserved and something that Chris and her family should be extremely proud of.”