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.
Have you emailed your PCC? Copy & paste your responses into the comments below.
‹ RAINN – when support services fail to eradicate victim blaming attitudes HMIC Report into Domestic Abuse ›
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Reply from Derbyshire Police:
Following on from your correspondence with the Police and Crime Commissioners Office, I have been asked to comment on the commitment to this agenda from an operational policing perspective.
Firstly, I would like to say that we are very clear about what the top priority is for the Derbyshire Police, this being the protection of the vulnerable. We have a well-established risk and threat process that has identified Child protection, domestic abuse and vulnerable adults as key areas for the organization.
Dealing specifically with domestic violence and serious sexual violence , we have a multi-agency governance board in place that provides the oversight for this complex area. There is an overarching strategy that deals with the response of the police and partners and this is clearly linked into the Regional Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS now have a regional team dedicated to dealing with sexual offences that are put forward by the police and are available to advise.
The work that is ongoing around improving convictions for domestic and sexual violence involves improving the overall quality of the investigations undertaken, and professionally accrediting those staff undertaking investigations. You will be aware that the College Of Policing has recently been established and that the main thrust of their work is around the professionalising of the service. This professionalisation is about continual accreditation and producing evidence of competence. This will place the service on a similar footing to that of nursing, teaching and the legal profession and within Derbyshire we are working on this issue.
Within Derbyshire we have been running a project looking at the issues around improving the overall quality of investigations. This is a formal project with all the associated project plans and documentation. The recommendations from the project board have produced considerable benefits, particularly around the quality of the material provided to the CPS.
Internally, we have a number of scrutiny panels that look at cases that have failed within the criminal justice system. This process allows us to learn from mistakes and understand the complexities of the cases we are dealing with.
We are more than aware of the Violence Against Women National action plan and the plans that sit underneath this overarching approach. We have a number of plans to take the issues forward. More recently we have been the subject of an HMIC Inspection in relation to our response to Domestic Violence and this has identified a number of areas in which we need to improve. In particular there is reference to the need to improve the training for all staff and this is a recommendation that features heavily in the national report. Within Derbyshire considerable awareness raising has been undertaken, together with mandatory training, for all police officers and staff and the issues are embedded in our initial police training program and that of the Detective training process.
In 2008 Derbyshire took the decision to expand the public protection arrangements that were in place. This resulted in the creation of dedicated teams of Detectives looking at Domestic Violence, child abuse and dangerous offender management. These arrangements have been built on ever since, with a strong emphasis on early risk identification within investigations and partnership working.
The HMIC report in relation to DV is due to be released during the next few days and I anticipate that there will be a need for the police and partners to again review their approach. This area of criminality is continually changing and the service needs to change with it.
I accept wholeheartedly that there is a need to improve our approach to this important area, but we have made progress and will continue to do so with the interests of victims central to those efforts.
Response from South Yorkshire:
Thank you for your email of 11 March 2014 where you requested information about the update to the plan of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner for Violence Against Women and Girls.
This information is exempt under section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore being withheld, as it is information intended for future publication.
The Police and Crime Plan for South Yorkshire is currently being updated for consideration by the Police and Crime Panel on 2 May 2014. It will be published on the Internet five days beforehand, as with agendas for all local government meetings. You will be able to see it on this website: http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=937&Year=2012
As this work is still in hand, and the statutory process requires consideration by the Police and Crime Panel before final publication, it is not practical to provide you with the information now. Having considered the public interest, our decision is therefore to withhold the information.
We transferred your request for information about the training of police officers in these crimes to South Yorkshire Police on 14 March 2014.
[…] You can ask your Police & Crime Commissioner about Domestic & Sexual Violence here, and read the responses we’ve had so far here] […]
Info from Sussex PCC:
Thank you for your message to the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne, in relation to domestic violence. Mrs Bourne is committed to ensuring Sussex Police follow the recommendations set out in HMIC’s report on forces’ response to domestic violence. It is recognised that there is a need for better training for officers and staff to ensure that when officers respond to a domestic abuse incident they will be supplied with as much information as possible to allow them to make a more accurate assessment of the level of risk to the victim. Mrs Bourne will be meeting with senior officers to ensure a more robust training programme is rolled out across the force.
The PCC holds the Force to account on a regular basis, and improving the Force’s response to domestic and sexual violence is a clear priority for the PCC and therefore for Sussex Police, as reflected in the priorities set for the Force and within its Operational Delivery Plan.
In Sussex, we rolled out DASH in 2009:
We employed Laura Richards, who developed the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harrassment and Honour Based Violence Risk Checklist (DASH 2009) to do one whole-day sessions to specialist domestic abuse officers and two half-day sessions to general officers on each of the three divisions.
There was a follow-up DASH briefing at a police station in every district.
We incorporated DA and DASH in a day of risk assessment training delivered to all response officers during 2009.
In terms of training; this is an area where the Force recognises that it needs to do more, and it features heavily in its post-HMIC action plan.
At the moment, training delivery can be summarised as:
There is national e-training material available to all officers across the Force.
DA features heavily in the initial police learning and development program
DA is one of the strands in the new public protection training model but the specialist officer training has not yet been rolled out by the College of Policing
There are also specific DASH and Honour Based Violence training modules
The Commissioner is a Director on the Board of College of Policing and is using her position to look at different ways in which officers can secure evidence and share it effectively with the CPS. The Commissioner has recently been appointed to the role of Chair of the Sussex Criminal Justice Board, and in this role can use her influence to ensure that partnership arrangements between Sussex Police and other agencies are effective in the support services they provide to victims.
Sussex Police has already invested in over 450 body worn video cameras, and looking at its effectiveness in increasing criminal justice outcomes in domestic abuse cases by improving the evidence captured when an officer responds to an incident while wearing the equipment. Its use is a particularly effective tool in cases where victims are too frightened to give evidence themselves.
There is still more work to be done to improve Sussex Police’s response to domestic abuse, but improvements are being made. The number of reported incidents of domestic abuse has risen from an average of 40 a day to 60 a day since the commissioner was appointed. This is a result of recent campaigns to encourage reporting. Last year, Sussex Police was the first force in England and Wales to achieve White Ribbon status in recognition of its leadership and commitment to tackling domestic abuse. The recent decision to roll out Clare’s Law, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, nationally is an extremely positive one and could potentially save lives. The College of Policing has begun briefing officers on how they should respond to requests under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
This office is currently carrying out a detailed analysis of victims’ needs and the support that is currently available in Sussex. This detailed audit takes account of reports received from domestic violence charities, community safety partnerships, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Children’s Services, Public Health, the police and the VAWG Commissioner. From April 2015, Commissioners will take on the responsibility for commissioning victims’ services locally, which will ensure that support services are tailored to meet victims’ specific needs. The office will be funding the posts of additional IDVAs and ISVAs, which research has revealed as vital for ensuring that victims of domestic violence receive the specialist support they need.
Response from Gwent PCC:
Freedom of Information Request 2014/16737
Thank you for your recent request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which was received in this office on the 13th March 2014.
Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at, Section 1(1) (a), is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. The second duty at, Section1 (1) (b), is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held.
Under the provisions of those sections of FOIA, I can confirm that information you requested is held by Gwent Police for the below questions so we are able to comply with your request to supply information.
The information that you are seeking is in relation to the following:
Q. Following the release of the Police Recorded Crime information regarding Domestic Violence, I have significant concerns about the response of both senior and junior police officers investigating these cases.
Please provide an update of your plan for dealing with the issue of Violence Against Women and Girls. We expect you to state clearly how your force is going to improve convictions rates for domestic and sexual violence, in order to improve the service for women and girls who report incidents perpetrated against them.
In addition to this, please provide details of how often officers are required to attend training in order to refresh their skills in dealing with these cases. If you require additional information regarding Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse training available in your area, these organisations will be able to help:
Rape Crisis England & Wales
Ending Victimisation & Blame
I would expect you to be able to provide clear and detailed information of what practical steps are to be taken by your force to improve the response for victim-survivors and to ensure that domestic and sexual violence is taken seriously at all levels within your organisation.
A. Tackling Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence are key priorities for Gwent Police as set out in the PCC’s Policing and Crime Plan and the Force Control Strategy.
We have made many improvements to the way in which we deliver services to vulnerable victims in recent years and we continue to work with our partners in the public and third sectors to seek better ways of delivering a joined up end to end service that works.
Rape and Serious Sexual Offences
In relation to our force response to rape and serious sexual offences, we have a dedicated team of detectives within our Public Protection Unit that deals with all cases of this nature. This team has been in place since 2009 and has developed effective working relationships, particularly with CPS and New Pathways, who manage our local SARC service.
There are two partnership management groups overseeing this work. We have a Joint Operational Group, which is a multi-agency forum which reviews cases that have failed to result in a conviction at Court and also deals with other day to day working practices.
We also have a Rape Steering Group which comprises senior representation from Police, CPS, Health, New Pathways, Women’s Aid, Victim Support, Survivor’s Trust and BAWSO. The purpose of this group, chaired by the Head of our Public Protection Unit, is to review performance and to ensure a joined up approach to delivering the best service for victims.
We acknowledge that in Gwent the attrition rate is currently higher than it has been in recent years, however, our review has found that most cases have been thoroughly investigated and properly presented at Court. The fact is that most of the failed cases have resulted from jury acquittals and the relatively small numbers of cases in this category means that it only takes a few acquittals to have a significant impact on the reported attrition rates for the year.
One of the key things that we are doing this year through our Rape Steering Group is to put systems in place with our third sector partners to capture feedback from victims about the effectiveness of the police response from their perspective and be able to report on this.
On the subject of domestic abuse our partnership arrangements with other public and third sector agencies have been highlighted as good practice. We have a daily conference call with a range of partners where all incidents of domestic abuse are subject to holistic assessment of risk and where early interventions are put in place following an incident. Partners taking part in this conference call include Local Authority Children’s Services, Gwent Domestic Abuse Services, Women’s Aid, Housing, Probation, BAWSO and Health.
We have also invested significant resources into a dedicated team of investigators for domestic abuse but overall, the service has not improved and this approach has not worked. We have learned from this experience in terms of what works and what doesn’t and we recognise that to move forward our focus needs to be on providing better and more frequent training for all officers, properly supported by a smaller team of specialists who can deal with the needs of victims in high risk cases.
In relation to domestic abuse attrition rates we know that most cases fail because victims and witnesses fail to attend Court to give evidence. To ensure a victim centred approach to prosecutions we have a Specialist Domestic Abuse Court sitting in Gwent each week and we have very good links in place with our Witness Care Unit to ensure that victims are supported through the process.
We actively contribute to strategic partnerships in relation to domestic abuse and we are currently working with our partners to develop a regional approach to delivering domestic abuse services and also implementing a Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Board.
The College of Policing has recently launched its Public Protection Learning Programme which covers all 13 areas of Public Protection. This programme will provide a comprehensive and consistent set of learning resources, aimed at all officers and staff involved in responding to incidents involving vulnerable people across the 43 force in England and Wales. These resources have been developed using subject matter experts in the relevant fields.
Specialist Public Protection Officers will be required to be accredited with the College of Policing and receive on-going continual professional development and annual assessment.
We are currently working with the College of Policing to consider how we can use the learning resources to best effect to deliver foundation level training to all officers and staff across the organisation in Neighbourhood Policing and Communications Suite roles. We will continue with our local approach to using the force intranet to deliver key messages and provide guidance for officers and following a recent meeting with one of our local Women’s Aid groups we will also be seeking to arrange a series of one-day attachments for local officers so that they can gain a better hands-on understanding of the range of services offered to support victims and share this knowledge with colleagues.
The Freedom of Information Act is a public disclosure regime, not a private regime. Any information disclosed under the Act is thereafter deemed to be in the public domain, and therefore freely available to the general public and will be published on the Gwent Police website.
I hope this information is satisfactory to your request however, should you feel dissatisfied with this response or the way in which your request was handled, I have attached the Gwent Police FOI Appeals Procedure for your information.
Thank you for your interest in Gwent Police.
Response from North Wales Police:
The issue of domestic abuse is mentioned several times within the updated Police and Crime plan, which can be found on the North Wales PCC website (http://www.northwales-pcc.gov.uk/en/News/News/2014/Police-and-Crime-Plan-2014-15.aspx). The objectives within the updated plan are preventing crime, deliver an effective response, reduce harm and the risk of harm and build effective partnerships, all of which are relevant to domestic incidents.
Reducing the risk of harm to our communities is of great importance to the force and it is expected that the force will provide an effective response to incidents of domestic abuse. To ensure that the force responds effectively we will work with partner agencies to provide the appropriate support services for the victims of domestic abuse. We aim to support victims during and following investigations.
If you have any further questions in relation to the Police and Crime Plan please contact the PCC’s office. We have forwarded your e-mail to the Force for them to reply directly to you on the other matters that you raise in your e-mail.
Response from Essex PCC:
After the HMIC report on domestic violence was released yesterday, the PCC comments:
“Domestic abuse is an absolute priority,” starts Nick Alston.
“Every day, Essex Police deal with over 80 incidents of domestic abuse. Whilst real progress has been made over the past 12 months, nevertheless the HMIC report shows that more work needs to be done to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are identified earlier and kept safe from harm.
“I have made domestic abuse one of my key priorities within the Police Crime Plan and it will remain there for the year ahead. I chair the pan-Essex Domestic Abuse Strategy Board, which is leading on an ambitious programme of work across police, social care, health and the voluntary sector to tackle domestic abuse through a co-ordinated and joined up approach.
“Partnership working is essential to improving the services we offer to victims of domestic abuse, as well as the interventions delivered to perpetrators. I am encouraged that through our new multiagency hubs, there is already a better sharing of information across agencies to ensure that those who are victims of domestic abuse, and those who are at risk, have support packages in place to help keep them safe.
“I am determined to place victims at the centre of all of our work to tackle domestic abuse. This includes the children of domestic abuse victims, who often witness domestic abuse and need our support to help them cope and recover.
“I will ensure that Essex Police’s response to the HMIC report recommendations remains at the centre of my scrutiny programme over the coming year, and I will hold the chief constable to account for delivery.
“Right across Essex, Southend and Thurrock I will continue to encourage victims of domestic abuse to come forward and report cases to Essex Police. I want to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse get the service and support that they deserve every step of the way.”
Response from Lincolnshire:
Thank you for your enquiry dated 11th March with regards to Police Recorded Crime for Domestic Abuse and Serious Sexual Offences.
The care of victims in these areas is a priority for the Commisioner’s office and the Lincolnshire Police.
Domestic Abuse is one of the top 5 priorities for this county within the Community Safety Partnership. As you are aware the force has recently been inspected in this area by HMIC and was found to be generally effective in dealing with such crimes. There were some recommendations to improve some of our practices and procedures and these improvements are being undertaken via an Action Plan. This plan will shortly be placed before the Home Secretary for scrutiny. The force has also carried out its own internal review, prior to HMIC, to identify areas for improvements.
In the 12 months to the end of August 2013 Lincolnshire Police recorded 2726 domestic abuse related crimes. Of these crimes 21% resulted in a charge, 9% resulted in a caution and 54% had an out of court disposal. Within the force we have dedicated domestic abuse officers that cater to the needs of those victims most at risk. We also work closely with partners to reduce and address the issues of domestic abuse. In fact Lincolnshire was one of only two areas in the country to be scored as excellent in a recent inspection of multi-agency working carried out on behalf of CAADA.
The commissioner and the Chief Constable are keen for these improvements to continue and the Commissioner funds the county Domestic Abuse Strategic Management Board which in turn commissions IDVA services. We also provide funding towards a pilot DA perpetrator programme and to the provision of Victim Contact Officers who provide services and signposting to Medium Risk victims. The force is looking to expand this service currently. The force also employs a Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator who oversees policy and procedure and co-ordinates awareness raising campaigns.
All officers and front line staff within the force receive mandatory training in respect of Domestic Abuse and the DASH risk assessment process. Further specialist training has also been undertaken by staff in the areas of Forced Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, Enhanced Risk Assessment processes, MARAC and Autism.
With regards to Rape and Serious Sexual Offences the force has invested in a dedicated investigation team that contains experienced detectives and nationally trained victim contact officers. This team has much improved the response to Rape and has been recognised at a national level for the professionalism of its victim care. The force currently has the 2nd lowest attrition rate post charge which highlights the work the victim officers carry out. The force has a good working relationship with specialist CPS sexual offences lawyers an works very closely with the county SARC. The force also has an ethical crime recording policy and every report of Rape is raised as a crime at first report, showing our commitment to believe every victim.
The Commissioner has funded 50% of the SARC costs until April 2015 and funded the ISVA service to work in conjunction with the SARC.
The force and the Commissioner are conscious of the need for continuous improvement in these areas and there is currently work on going to strengthen existing links and improve services in other areas. The county Public Protection Board has commissioned a piece of work through the Head of the Public Protection Unit to provide a ‘gap analysis’ with regards to the Government’s Action Plan to end violence Against Women and Girls. This work is currently being undertaken and will help to inform future improvements.
I hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns. Kind regards