Interview with Nick Gazzard of the Hollie Gazzard Trust

Gloucester, Cheltenham

You don’t have to look far into Cheltenham’s local news to find stories hitting the headlines such as: “Police looking for gang of teenagers who grabbed woman’s hair and slapped her bottom outside McDonald’s in Cheltenham” (Gloucestershire Live, 8th April 2019) or “Arrests after serious sexual assault in Cheltenham’s High Street” (Gloucestershire Live 31st March 2019). These reports of harassment are only too familiar for women today, as illustrated by Plan International UK who state that; “Almost two thirds of adult women (63%) in Britain say they feeling unsafe walking alone after dark […] in contrast to one third (33%) of adult men”. Not only do women feel extremely threatened when walking alone at night, but Office of National Statistics show that these fears are legitimate: “The CSEW estimated that 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims.” Sadly, such high statistics and frequent news headlines of female harassment stand to illustrate how unsafe it’s become for women in public spaces today.

In order to discover more about the prevention of sexual harassment in Cheltenham, I was lucky enough to sit down with Nick Gazzard of the Hollie Gazzard Trust to discuss the great work the Charity has achieved and their initiatives regarding safeguarding.

nick gazzard interview for

Why was the Charity set up and what are it’s aims?

The charity was formed following the murder of Hollie Gazzard back in February 2014. Hollie was an individual who had lots of talent, and she had a lot of drive and ambition. I thought at that stage it was too good to just let her go, because of everything she stood for. So I thought what could I do, and how could I use her talents to help other people?
The three main aims we have are: Funding young people to follow their careers as hairdressers and beauticians, the second is to try and help people who are suffering/prevent people from suffering, and the last area is to try and tackle knife crime.
It’s stemmed from there really, and since then it’s grown, and grown, and grown – beyond our expectations.

The charity runs so many great projects which help keep people safe by educating them on issues such as harassment – can you tell me more about these workshops?
I go into a lot of schools and deliver workshops around relationships, coercive control, stalking, domestic abuse – but I also do that work in colleges and universities along with professionals as well. An example of that is when I ran a two hour workshop on coercive control to nurses at the University of Oxford. I also run a programme called “Working Without Fear” which is aimed at businesses, it’s a day long course which looks at the impact of domestic abuse and stalking on both the employer and the employee. We also run this workshop at universities such as the University of Exeter.

We also run workshops with football coaches to help combat rape and sexual violence, along with general attitudes towards women. We are trying to use coaches as role models to educate young boys about their attitudes towards young girls – particularly in terms of sexual violence and rape.

Recently I’ve been researching different ways women can help keep themselves safe in dangerous situations such as walking home alone at night. One of the best initiatives I’ve seen in the Cheltenham/Gloucester area is in the development of your “Hollie Guard” app. Can you tell me more about this amazing app?

Hollie Guard is a personal safety app which can be used in any situation, and we work with a lot of various police forces on that basis. There’s so much functionality on the app, you can enter the start and end points of your journey, which your contacts will immediately receive so they can see where you are on the journey. It also records voice and video.
Part of the evaluation of this app has been trying to use it in court.

This is being tackled through the release of the Hollie Guard 2 app in a couple months, which has some additional features. One of them is that you will be able to use it as a diary, so for example, if you were being stalked or if you are being abused, if you go to the police, the police will want evidence. So what you will be able to do on Hollie Guard 2 is if you are being stalked and see the person outside, then you can actually just click on ‘report stalking’ and it [the diary] will come up and you can type in exactly what it is that’s happening along with taking a photo. This will help start to keep a log of any issues, so then what you will be able to do is phase one come to us, then phase two, you can present that evidence to the police. We are currently working with Derbyshire police and CPS to make sure this evidence is in an acceptable format.

Another initiative you’ve taken towards safeguarding is through directly targeting the issue by being involved in the “knife surrender” campaign. What is this campaign all about, and what have you achieved from it?

This was run by Gloucestershire Police which we supported. That was all about getting people to surrender knives to try and help reduce the amount of knives that are on the streets in Gloucestershire.

In the Hollie Gazzette I read that less than 1% of stalking cases are recorded nationally by the police, yet 94% of homicides show that stalking was present – this is a truly astonishing statistic.

The 1% you are talking about is convictions. That has changed, I think for a couple of reasons, one is because the awareness is being raised, not only with the general public but with the CPS. I think it’s now around 12% of stalking cases being recorded, so it is rising. Also, the police has changed the way they record crimes 6 or 7 months ago, and they now have to record all elements of the crime. So if the crime involved stalking, domestic abuse and knife crime they have to record all of this now regardless, whereas before they would only record one, predominantly knife crime or domestic abuse.

Therefore, the volume of reporting and recording will go up as a result of that.

I was very happy when I read that you’ve teamed up with GDASS to offer a stalking support service. How does this service work and what are its aims?

About 3-3½ years ago one of my thoughts around that time was that stalking was very prevalent, as it was in Hollie’s case. But as a county we didn’t have any response to stalking, if you were being stalked and you identified, all you could do is ring the national stalking helpline. To me I thought that wasn’t good enough, and when you bear in mind that 1 in 6 women are stalked and 1 in 12 men - which in Gloucestershire equates to 59,000 women and 25,000 men - that is a huge amount of people that are being stalked. I wanted to provide a local service, so I went down to Hampshire, sat in on some of their stalking clinics and put this model to the police and said “look, we don’t have a stalking strategy, and this is what I think we should have, can you deliver this please”.

From this, they set up a stalking clinic which involves a number of professionals around CPS along with clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, police, support workers, probation and a few others. There is also an independent stalking advocacy case worker who specialises in dealing with stalking. We funded that as a trust for the first year and now some other funding has been found, because once we set it up and proven that it worked funding was then sought from other avenues.

So that’s now up and running and we’ll start to expand over the next couple of years.

Do you have any other plans regarding safeguarding?

I think what we are going to do now is concentrate on projects that are in the embryonic stage really, like the intervention initiative.

Regarding harassment, it’s really all about the journey people go on and the further you get down that journey the more difficult it becomes to get out of it [the situation] and the more severe it becomes in terms of injury or homicide. There is plenty of opportunities to intervene down that journey, so what we’ve got to get people to do is identify the early signs of what’s happening and get those people out of those situations quickly.

Finally, what are you most proud of?

I’d say Hollie Guard, because that helps so many people. From the feedback we get, it just makes people feel safe. Even if that means you download it onto your phone and you don’t use it but you feel safer then it’s achieved its aim. We do get a lot of people that come back to us and say ‘I was a victim of robbery or sexual assault’ and I wouldn’t go out the house, but actually now I can go out.

We had one woman who was raped at least twice on two separate occasions, sexual abused, all sorts of things happened to her. A horrible existence she had, and she wouldn’t go out the door until she got Hollie Guard and she actually managed to get out to the front garden, and then she managed to get out onto the street, just because she had that feeling of comfort.

It is life-changing

Absolutely – it’s life changing for her.


Written by Charlotte Cottenham.


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