It has been nearly a decade since Julia Mulligan was elected as the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.
The Bradford-born Conservative in her time has seen a lot of change in the region, from navigating through austerity cuts, taking on governance of the fire service to a global pandemic.
But after eight-and-a-half years in office, Ms Mulligan has announced she is stepping down from the role – and from politics altogether.
Going from politics to policing, she plans on moving to a new role helping fight crime in the region, although is not currently at liberty to say what.
Her proudest achievement, she tells The Yorkshire Post, has been dramatically improving services for victims of crime, in particular survivors of abuse and exploitation.
“When I was first elected in 2012 we inherited a really dire situation where we had very limited resources for North Yorkshire,” Ms Mulligan said.
“I think we had one person a week who was based in West Yorkshire, and that was literally it. And, you know, what we’ve got now is incomparable.”
Now in North Yorkshire, victims of burglary can access support in the same way a victim of domestic abuse can seek help.
On top of this, the county’s police force has also come a long way when it comes to its services for women, being one of the only forces in the country to recognise misogyny as a hate crime while also implementing a domestic abuse scrutiny panel.
Ms Mulligan attributed this, in part, as “what you get when you have a female chief constable and crime commissioner”.
Although historically one of the safest counties in the country in terms of crime rates, nine women report sexual assault and seven report rape every week in North Yorkshire, according to data for the last financial year.
Ms Mulligan spoke out in January 2019 to reveal she, too, had been a survivor of sexual violence, and is currently Chair of York-based charity for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, IDAS.
“What we’ve seen - until the pandemic anyway - is an increase in reporting of these crimes,” she said.
“But I still think reporting rates have got a long way to go. And certainly the criminal justice system has got a long way to go.
“We do have some of the best statistics in the country around conviction rates for rape, and I think that’s because of the focus that the police give it and they way they work with the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Looking forwards at her new responsibilities in the world of policing, Ms Mulligan says one of her biggest concerns about the road ahead is the long-term impact on young people from the pandemic, and how this could lead to many children and teenagers being exploited by criminals.
“You’ve got to look at the impact of Covid,” she said.
“I’m particularly worried about the impact on young people, with regards to crime and anti-social behaviour.
“I think young people have had a really, really tough time and it’s very difficult for them.
“We’ve got some evidence of increases in anti-social behaviour and young people getting drawn into groups of the types of people we are concerned about, so people who are dealing and selling drugs.
“I am concerned about drugs, and not just county lines drug dealing. We’ve seen some really tragic deaths of teenagers in North Yorkshire over recent months and years, and that’s a big concern for me.”
In November last year, two teenagers were both sentenced over the death of 15-year-old Leah Heyes in Northallerton, who died in May 2019 after taking MDMA.
Two months earlier in September, 15-year-old Josh Reeson died after having taken illegal drugs in York. Several arrests have been made in connection with his death.
“If I were staying in post, would my priorities be drugs? For sure,” Ms Mulligan continued.
“I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done around offender management and rehabilitating offenders who are responsible for, according to what statistics suggest, a third of all crime.
“Of course, I would say rural crime is something I’ve been very vocal on and needs to continue being prioritised in North Yorkshire.”
One moment from Ms Mulligan’s time in office which drew controversy was in September 2018, when a panel upheld complaints of bullying made against her.
The commissioner publicly apologised at the time of the allegations, although told The Yorkshire Post there were not, in her view, any issues with the working culture in her office.
“I think it’s really important to mention that that allegation was never investigated,” she said.
“The panel has no powers of investigation, so they looked at one person’s version of events, and my version of events, and made conclusions. I think that any allegation like that needs to be properly investigated moving forwards.”
Moving forwards indeed, Ms Mulligan is looking forward to her future role away from politics.
“I’ve got a number of plans, although I’m not at liberty to say what they are at the minute.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed this job, because in it you see the very best - and worst - of humanity.”
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