Duchess Camilla opens sex assault referral unit and visits dog centre in Brentwood

Brentwood was graced by the presence of royalty on Monday as The Duchess of Cornwall visited the town as part of a day out in Essex.

Camilla visited the Essex Dog Training Centre, Doddinghurst Road, in the early afternoon, as well as officially opening a new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) at Brentwood Community Hospital.

The centre, called Oakwood Place, is the first of its kind in Essex and is a new dedicated facility for victims of sexual assault and rape.

It is staffed by specialist doctors and nurses and police officers trained in handling this type of offence.

The Duchess received a tour of the new unit, unveiled a plaque and spoke to nurses who work there.

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Gary Green, from G4S Forensic and Medical Services, which provides medical and forensic services at the centre, said: “It was a great honour to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to the SARC to showcase the important work we are delivering to help support victims of sexual assault and rape.”

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A small crowd, made up of traders from Crown Street and their children, later gathered outside the dog centre waving flags and holding a banner to welcome her.

During the visit, she met children suffering from cynophobia, a morbid fear of dogs, who are trained to overcome their fears at the centre.

The Duchess was given a 50-minute tour of the centre, and was also joined by centre founder Roy Dyer, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex Lord Petre and the Mayor of Brentwood, Cllr Joan Holmes. They were treated to an obedience session showcasing seven dogs’ flawless ability to follow instructions.

She chatted with parents, children and centre volunteers before taking a seat to applaud a demonstration by the Essex Dog Display Team, complete with leaping through flames.

Roy Dyer, chief instructor at the training centre, said: “All the children she met today have now overcome their fear and they were walking dogs on leads, touching them and brushing them.

“She was extremely complimentary about the whole thing. She said she wished she lived closer to the centre because she would most certainly bring her new dog here.”

The new Sexual Assault Referral Centre – Oakwood Place - is a safe and confidential unit where an expert team of crisis workers is on hand to provide immediate support to victims of sexual assault or rape.

It has been commissioned by NHS South West Essex and Essex Police, and developed in partnership with the Centre for Action and Abuse, South Essex Rape and Incest Crises Centre, victim support and local authorities.

Det Chief Insp Simon Coxhall, head of public protection at Essex Police, said: “Oakwood Place has greatly improved the support for people at a time of crisis. The SARC has an integral role to play in securing prosecutions against perpetrators of these very serious, distressing crimes.”

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