Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG)
Date: 19th December 2023
Chair: Marc Bayliss
- Marc Bayliss – Deputy PCC (DPCC)
- Natasha Noorbakhsh – Senior Policy Officer (NN)
- Charity Pearce – Policy Officer (CP)
- David Keenan – OPCC Intern (DK)
- Alex Murray – Temporary Chief Constable (T/CC)
- Richard Cooper – T/ Deputy Chief Constable (T/DCC)
1. Review of Action Tracker
Action tracker reviewed. One action was closed.
2. Assurance & Accountability – ‘Violence against women and girls’- with a focus on domestic abuse
The DPCC played a victim case study video produced by his Communications & Engagement team. The video contained an experience one individual had with West Mercia Police. In this case it referred to the police making an intervention after the victim had retracted her complaint.
The DPCC asked what could be learnt from how the force approached the case to inform the forces approach for all DA cases and how is this communicated strategically. The T/CC said that whilst noting that the force aim to have a victim centred approach that doesn’t necessarily reflect what the victim wants but the legislation and governance dictates what should be recorded when crimes are disclosed.
To inform this meeting the PCC commissioned a report from West Mercia Police on elements of work relating to violence against women and girls (VAWG).
The T/CC drew out highlights from the report, including welcoming the focus on the topic, the progress made so far and the areas where he wants to see additional activity. Progress made so far includes:
- Increase in the use of civil powers.
- Increase in the police detection rate.
- Increase in referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service for Domestic Abuse (DA)
Reduction in response times for DA.
Governance and Leadership
UK policing has been on a journey in regard to the approach to domestic abuse incidents. At a national level there are a number of strategic leads and action plans for different elements of VAWG and there is a danger this could cause confusion. This is to be simplified which will filter down and influence the West Mercia approach to complement the existing governance structure for VAWG.
The DPCC queried which officers receive DA training and whether this was expanded beyond just first responders. DA training is in place for officers within different roles including those in response, investigations and at more senior levels. This includes DA Matters, trauma informed training and on specific elements such as DVPNs and culture specific.
The DPCC was concerned that this may not include call handlers who are victims first point of contact with the force. It is thought that call handlers will be included within the next round of DA Matters training.
ACTION: CC to provide assurance that call handlers receive training linked to DA.
The DPCC asked the force to explain how the lived experience is utilised in training. The force held a masterclass day that included feedback from a Judge and Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor direct to officers based on victims’ experiences through the Criminal Justice System. Videos of victim experiences have also been shown to patrol teams.
Recent analysis undertaken by the force shows that grade 2 response times are slower for DA incidents rather than all other crime despite notable improvements. The DPCC was concerned that this was evidence of a wider organisational cultural issue. The T/CC was also concerned and stated the force is looking in detail at why this could be including:
- The processes linked to attending these types of incidents
- The force takes a victim led approach so may attend at a later time as requested by the victim.
- The dispatch time is longer which means the call remains in the OCC and this may be linked to dispatchers understanding the safety of attendance or other options for such as Rapid Video Response (RVR)to suit the victim.
Domestic Violence Protective Notice/Orders
There has been a significant increase in the volume of protective orders issued, it is hoped that this will continue to increase with the recent introduction of the VAWG officers. This was welcomed by the DPCC as the force had made a commitment to improve use of orders at the previous A&A meeting on VAWG (Dec 2023). There have been issues with getting orders approved by judges in certain courts in West Mercia, however ACC Jones is having discussions to mitigate this. An update will be taken to a future Local Criminal Justice Board, chaired by the PCC who can raise with HMCTS if required.
The VAWG officers are still a relatively new group of officers, and their role is still being defined as their work develops. Their focus will remain on becoming tactical advisors in the force rather than directly interacting with victims.
Community scrutiny panels
The forces first VAWG independent advisory group (IAG) is launching in January who will provide advice in regard to VAWG. This will support the force to better understand the victim experience. The Most Appropriate Agency (MAA) policy compliments the force’s approach and ensures the focus on DA when needed.
When the new two tier out of court disposal framework is introduced, the force wants to ensure they get it right for DA cases. The force sought clarity around the provision of management information in relation to some services commissioned by the OPCC and provided by the force.
ACTION: Rachel Jones (RJ) to share with PCC Head of Commissioning feedback from DASSO in regard to provision of management information into OPCC
ACTION: PCC Head of commissioning to work with RJ to:
- Ensure current commissioned services for DA are fully utilised by the force.
- Ensure preparedness for two tier OOCD framework in terms of availability of commissioned service.
Most Appropriate Agency (MAA) Policy
Improvements have been seen in response times since the introduction of MAA and the grading review, however the force can’t disentangle the data to understand the impact of each. The Safeguarding Advice Team provide a focus on victim needs in MAA decisions by supporting the appropriate risk assessment of VAWG and ensuring the right resource with the right skills, is deployed. It is expected that the number of referrals to this team will increase.
The DPCC raised concerns that regarding the performance of Shropshire policing area across a number of metrics when compared to other policing areas. This was acknowledged by the force who set out some activity put in place to support the policing area who are impacted by their geographical location. This activity includes bolstering working relationships with CPS to provide early advice to officers for DA offences.
NN questioned how advice and feedback from this scrutiny panel would be escalated to the right area of the organisation to impact wider learning. This was particularly important to understand as the force has recently stood down the strategic IAG meeting. A Superintendent for vulnerability oversees this group so has the power to influence the whole organisation and ensure feedback from the group is used to inform decision making.
Rapid Video Response (RVR)
The DPCC questioned why RVR is currently underutilised across the force (an assessment set out in the force’s briefing note). It was suggested that this is due to officers needing to adapt to new technology, but its use needs to be expanded as it has clear benefits on victim satisfaction. Further work is needed to understand the best model to exploit the system and get maximum benefit.
Trust and confidence
DA victim satisfaction varies across the force with the force performing just below their target of 80%. Feedback to the force through NGOs who directly work with victims suggest more confidence in the police response. Sometimes the force has to go against the needs of the victim to comply with other responsibilities that can impact victim satisfaction, as seen in the recent HMICFRS Victim Service Assessment revisit (for example taking police action when the victim does not support this).
A discussion around the force’s current DA offender management approach took place, with the force confirming that a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) process already exists. Nationally, some forces have adopted DA perpetrators under existing offender managed cohorts but the benefits of this are still being explored locally.
Locally, there are perpetrator offender programmes in place for those that offend for low through to high-risk cases. The T/CC highlighted a programme that exists in Hampshire called the CARA programme. The DPCC is keen to monitor emerging best practice to ensure the PCC is commissioning the right services with a clear evidence base.
ACTION: OPCC to compare currently funded low to medium risk DA perpetrator programmes to CARA programme to understand similarities and difference in terms of referral criteria in service provide and to inform ongoing commissioning
Safeguarding Advice Team
The Safeguarding Advice Team sits in the OCC but there are difficulties getting safeguarding experts into this environment. The DPCC questioned why they have found it challenging to recruit experts into this environment. The force is trying to upskill the team through investigative and vulnerability inputs. The new Ch Supt. is reviewing the model to understand if a new approach is needed.
ACTION: Update on the review into the success of the Safeguarding Advice Team (SAT)
3. Summary of Actions Arising
CP provided a summary of the actions as set out above
5. Confirmation of next meeting type / date / time / venue:
Public Meeting- Calling Time on Retail Crime – Monday 29th January, 2pm