Campaign Update: information from PCCs
As you are aware, we asked our supporters to contact their PCC and find out what they are doing about Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse.
So far, most of the PCCs have assumed that we are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act - and so have been able to decline our request, citing numerous different reasons. We'll be writing a bit more about these decisions in the near future. Some have asked us to wait until the HMIC Domestic Abuse Report is published, which we are happy to do. One of them described our email as having a 'rather hectoring tone'.
Oh dear, one of the PCCs we've emailed isn't impressed with our 'hectoring tone'. pic.twitter.com/tDkTWuHtnS
— Ending Victimisation (@EVB_Now) March 13, 2014
More about him in another post!
One PCC who stands out from the rest is Vera Baird - and we've published her response below.[Note the incorrect figures in the original report; this should mean that the work of Northumbria Police & Vera Baird is more accurately reflected in the HMIC Domestic Abuse Report which is due out on Thursday 27th March.]
Thank you for your email dated 11 March in which you seek information about the work of Northumbria Police and myself as PCC in responding to Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in the Northumbria Area, including work to improve convictions for victims of domestic and sexual violence and also training provided to officers within Northumbria Police.
But first, may I take this opportunity to point out that the police recorded crime information which was released on the 10th March 2014 initially included figures relating to Northumbria which were incorrect. Figures had been transposed on to the wrong line on the spreadsheet and this provided an incorrect representation of Northumbria Police in relation to the number of referrals and convictions that have taken place between 2009/10 and 2012/13. The data has now been corrected and a revised version is attached. You see now that the referral rate to the CPS for 2012/13 is 10.16%, not the figure of 2.55% as quoted in the national press on the 10th March 2013.
Ending domestic and sexual violence is something I passionately campaign about and take very seriously. In December 2013 I launched a 20 point plan to end this violence and abuse, alongside my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners from Cleveland and Durham. There are many priorities in the plan that aim to improve the policing and criminal justice system experience for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Some of the key priorities include:
- Establishing a Sexual Violence Strategic Forum which will work to encourage the increase in complaint and prosecution levels of rape and sexual offences.
- Establish a Police Rape Scrutiny Panel to scrutinise case files that have failed to attain the requisite evidential level for prosecution or where a prosecution has failed and look for lessons to learn.
- Piloting a court observers panel to scrutinise rape and sexual abuse trials at Newcastle and Teesside Crown Courts.
- Work to drive forward a new protocol for victimless prosecutions signed by the Chief Crown Prosecutor and the three regional Chief Constables and piloting and evaluating the use of body worn cameras to support this protocol.
- A pilot project which sees workers from the Wearside Women in Need, a local voluntary organisation that provides help, advice, support and refuge accommodation to victims of domestic abuse, to accompany response police officers on calls to domestic violence and sexual abuse and also plans to have a domestic and sexual violence support worker to advise police on the development of safe action plans.
You can access a copy of the strategy using this link. http://www.northumbria-pcc.gov.uk/plans/domestic-sexual-abuse
Northumbria Police take positive action against perpetrators and their procedure into the investigation of domestic abuse includes a number of requirements for positive action in domestic abuse cases. This includes clear guidance around the initial deployment, the response of the first officer onto the scene and follows on through the whole process of investigation and the protection and care of victims and children whilst allowing the criminal justice system to hold the offender to account.
The Chief Constable and myself firmly believe that when maintaining standards there are always opportunities to learn lessons and improve practice and service responses. Northumbria Police’s response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse is therefore supported and enhanced through an effective training programme.
Northumbria Police Training Department identify who is the target audience for a variety of different training packages depending on the role of the individual officer or staff member. At present all frontline officers and staff have received training in domestic violence and all new recruits are provided the same training. Officers are also given additional training when there are changes to law. Broadcasts are also sent to provide all staff updates to changes to protocols and/or procedures. There are also on line training packages for DV.
Plans for the future include:
- In April 2014 the new legislation for Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clares Law) commences. A tailormade training package has been created where a DVD depicting an interview with a victim who had suffered 8 years of abuse at the hands of her partner and only found out about his offending history when he was sentenced at court.
- In June 2014 new legislation will also commence in relation to Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the criminalisation of Forced Marriage and Forced Marriage Prevention Orders. Further training will be provided with regards to this legislation and all internal policies and procedures will be amended to reflect these changes.
I hope this response is informative and helps to reassure you that Northumbria Police and I take domestic violence and sexual abuse very seriously and that we are doing everything can to ensure the safety of women and children and also ensure that perpetrators are exposed, brought to court and rehabilitated or deterred from future offending.
Vera Baird QC
Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria
We hope other PCCs respond in the same, positive way as Vera Baird.