How one volunteer is gaining criminology career experience at VSS

14 June, 2021

Courtney, a volunteer in Airdrie, tells us how her VSS volunteer journey has cemented her passion for a career in the criminology sector

I studied sociology and criminology at the University of Stirling, graduating two years ago. I currently work in retail and my role at VSS includes in court support to victims and witnesses. Since I joined in March 2020, my experience has been exclusively related to the pandemic experience of court witness support and I currently volunteer at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

I was looking at volunteer opportunities online which were close to my studies and interest in criminology, and I came across VSS, completed the online form and one of the team contacted me.

An in-depth training and shadowing programme

I was invited to an in-person interview, followed by a training programme with around 15 other new volunteers. The induction covered shadowing, how to speak to victims and witnesses of crime and following other volunteers, listening to how they engaged with people and sitting in the court and public gallery watching trials. It was particularly interesting seeing how other volunteers interacted with children and younger teenagers and seeing how they adapted their communication style accordingly.

Domestic and sexual abuse are the most common crimes I deal with. I am only involved in court work as I joined just as the pandemic started and while I have shadowed calls for community work, while in court you only hear the details of the case, community volunteer work involves more detailed information on crimes and situations which, while interesting, can be more complex.

Victims of crime are struggling more than ever in the pandemic

The pandemic has had an enormous impact. At times it has been difficult for victims of crime to remember the circumstances around a particular crime incident. They have often developed new lives following the crime, memories are unclear and much has happened between then and now which can be traumatic. With Covid-19, it can also be difficult for them to come to court for worries around health and this provides additional pressure.

Volunteering at VSS has been helpful to my career aspirations. As part of my university degree, I had a good understanding of the criminal justice system in Scotland which was beneficial. I’ve also worked for seven years in customer service which helped my ability to deal with people and communicate well with a wide audience of people.

Helping the vulnerable through the criminal justice system

However, I’ve now had the opportunity to see how a court runs first-hand and gain more knowledge in a career sector of interest to me. I now have a greater knowledge of how to deal with vulnerable witnesses, nervous people going through trauma and how to support them. Working with children has been of particular note as they can’t communicate as an adult can and I’ve had to adapt my communication style accordingly, helping them be at ease in a court setting and to tell their truth in a legal environment with the least stress possible – all valuable learnings for me.

My role is interesting, rewarding and fulfilling. People are incredibly thankful for and appreciative of the advice we offer, and the role is tremendously fulfilling from a personal perspective. The management team is also great and always there to support volunteers, help with any queries and adapt timetables if necessary.

VSS truly has offered an insight into the career path I wanted to pursue in the criminal justice sector while enabling me to make a difference, helping to support victims and witnesses of crime, as well as their families.

Victim Support Scotland is recruiting for support volunteers across the country. To find out more about our volunteering opportunities and application process, visit our volunteering pages