Date: Tuesday 28th February, 14:00pm
Chair: PCC John Campion
Minutes: Chris Jensen, Senior Policy and Partnerships Officer, OPCC
Venue: West Mercia Police HQ
- John Campion, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
- Chris Jensen, Senior Policy and Partnerships Officer (SPPO)
- Charity Pearce, Policy Officer (PO)
- Pippa Mills, Chief Constable (CC)
- Alex Murray, Deputy Chief Constable (DCC)
- Richard Cooper, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC)
1. Outstanding Matters/ Matters arising
2. Holding to account- Criminal Justice
Prior to the meeting the CC provided the PCC with a report setting out a thematic review of Criminal Justice (CJ) within West Mercia as per the terms of reference set by the PCC.
The PCC began the meeting by welcoming the report provided by the force, noting that it had met the brief and the content struck the right balance between National and Local issues.
The PCC asked the Chief for her assessment of the forces approach to criminal justice. The Chief highlighted positives including:
- Strong partnership working
- Improvements in file quality submissions to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the introduction of a triage process.
- Strengthening the voice of the victim in the CJ system.
- Transformational change linked to the introduction of a new out of court disposal (OOCD) framework.
Things in the CJ system that the CC felt were not as positive included:
- Court cases being listed into 2025
- Overall file quality
- Additional burden of increased evidence and file redaction required at point of charge to the CPS.
The PCC highlighted how conviction rates in West Mercia were higher than the National Average and wanted to know if there was any good practice that could be taken from that process and introduced into other processes. The CC outlined the track record of improvement in West Mercia highlighting the fact that when focus was put onto improving a process there were clear performance improvements.
The PCC asked the CC to rank the CJS in West Mercia on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. The CC commented that the CJS was complex and in need of significant investment to get it to where it needed to be. She referred to the National CJS scorecards which would provide an overview of performance. When asked what areas of the CJS needed improvement, the CC remarked that she was not the HMICFRS and couldn’t comment.
The PCC asked the CC how he gets the relevant reassurance that the CJS is West Mercia is performing as expected. The CC commented that listing cases to the backend of 24-25 doesn’t feel like a functioning system and highlighted the work the Force is undertaking increase capacity in the wider system, touching on TICs, case reviews and OOCDs.
The DCC added that the system isn’t functioning and provided an outline of how the Witness Care Unit (WCU) are being abused by victims and witnesses complaining about how long their cases are taking to be heard. The DCC would give the CJS a 3 out 10 score.
The CC asked the PCC as Chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) for views on the CJS. The PCC commented that the CJS isn’t functioning as intended, outlining how the system is structured in a way that makes it very difficult to influence change.
The PCC and Chief Officers discussed the role of the courts service in addressing certain issues. It was noted that locally the judiciary are very helpful in trying to improve the system, it appears that certain issues which can only be improved by the centre are where there needs to be better channels to effect change. The DCC highlighted the need for a CJS system wide commissioner, someone responsible for improving and holding the whole system to account.
PCC and Chief officers discussed issues and duplication surrounding the triaging of cases and agreed that the current approach could be improved.
The PCC sought to understand the barriers to achieving 100% file quality. The CC highlighted that the force have recently piloted a triage team to review files before submission to the CPS. The ACC added that improvements in file quality rates are evident in latest performance figures, highlighting a 52% pass rate, still below the national average of 63%. The PCC wanted to know how the improvements would be sustained. The CC outlined how their systems of leadership, supervision, training and focus would maintain the improvements moving forward.
The PCC shifted the focus to Operation Reset highlighting the limited benefits witnessed to date and asked if the CC is reassured that benefits will be realised. The DCC and ACC highlight recent performance improvements, demonstrating the realisation of benefits with further improvements anticipated moving forward.
The PCC asked the CC to outline how lessons from Op Reset will be embedded within the culture of West Mercia. The CC outlined how Op Reset will shape future BAU processes with the systems developed during the improvement programme having already shaped how staff behave. The existing governance and leadership will ensure the improvements are sustained.
The PCC asked about domestic abuse cases and queried if victims are at the heart of the process. The CC outlined the impact positive action has had and while arresting an offender hasn’t met some victim expectations, overall there is a body of evidence to support the fact that taking positive action improves overall victim satisfaction while reducing risk and increasing positive outcomes.
The PCC shifted focus to Operation Soteria which is designed to improve investigative outcomes linked to rape and serious sexual offences. The PCC wanted to know if implementing the new model presented any challenges. The CC said that the new resources allocated via the uplift and investment by the PCC will enable the model to be fully implemented within West Mercia. The PCC outlined recent visit to Redditch CID and commented on how the additional resources were making a tangible difference.
The PCC drew the focus back to the file quality triage teams and sought assurance there was a plan to roll out the teams across all the LPAs (currently piloted in two areas). The CC confirmed that this was being evaluated to understand the and once that review was completed a decision would be taken on whether or not to roll out to all areas.
The PCC then sought reassurance that the change team delivering the new Out of Court disposal framework had all the relevant resources needed to successfully implement the change. The CC stated that it did have the right level of resources.
The PCC highlighted his role as Chair of the Out of Court Scrutiny Panel highlighting potential disconnects between the findings of the panel and Chief Officers. The ACC commented that moving forward the panel would have senior officer representation and the force would review how it could improve oversight of lessons learned as a result of panel findings.
The PCC and Chief Officers had a general discussion surrounding OOCDs and various processes. Chief Officers said:
- They acknowledged that there was scope from improvement linked to conditional cautioning, RJ and capturing lessons learned.
- The DCC highlighted concerns surrounding the new framework being introduced and the volume of service providers offering NCALT packages as solutions without any evidence to support crime/reoffending reduction.
- They need to keep things simple for front line officers who are critical to improving referral rates into services.
- When asked if officers understood the benefits of the new system, the CC confirmed that new officers did and there was some work still to go with raising awareness amongst all officers.
The PCC and CC shifted focus to the ongoing VAL review. The CC highlighted that the review is due to be finalised and she is looking forward to revisiting the key performance indicators to ensure that they are meaningful and add value.
The PCC and CC discussed how feedback from various victim surveys was used to shape organisational learning. The CC outlined the various systems and processes used by the force and how the information and feedback was used to reinforce key objectives.
The PCC and CC discussed the WCU and additional funding provided by him for 2 full time witness and victim care officers who support witnesses through the CJ process. The PCC sought reassurance that the Force are monitoring workloads to ensure additional resource could be absorbed into regular budget planning processes moving forwards. The CC and DCC provided assurances that caseloads are being monitored and if necessary, the Force will incorporate the need to increase staffing levels into their business plan.
The PCC and CC discussed wider issues around the CJS and satisfaction levels. The CC reported that the majority of the public see the Police as the CJS, without the awareness of how the different organisations function. The DCC highlighted how work to understand the wider determinants that undermine satisfaction and how feedback and surveys are used in those reviews.
The PCC asked how he could assist in influencing the wider system and partners to improve confidence and satisfaction. The CC said that the force already has very good working relationship with CJS partners and that as Chair of the LCJB the PCC is well placed to work with partners to address some issues undermining satisfaction. The ACC added that the system needs to be mindful of unintended consequences when trying to improve something in one agency may have an adverse effect on another agency. The ACC states that the Force needs to get better at pushing back on systems and approaches that undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the Force.
All agree that it is difficult to influence change in the system.
3. Next steps
The Force to provide the PCC with regular CJS updates, to include exception reports. Updates and exception reports will be linked to the bi-monthly meetings the ACC chairs. Head of Justice will have quarterly meetings with the PCC moving forward.
4. Any Other Business
The ACC wanted to acknowledge and highlight the excellent work the CJ team carried out around the digital submission of evidence to the CPS and the redaction software which has been implemented. The change has yielded significant productivity gains at minimal expense and is seen as a great success.
5. Confirmation of next meeting type/ date/ time / venue:
Friday 31st March 2023