Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
02 October 2023
Homicide prevention: An inspection of the police contribution to the prevention of homicide
I am writing to you in response to the above HMICFRS report published on 11th August 2023. The national inspection examined how effectively the police understood and contributed to the prevention of homicides. The inspection focused on 8 police forces (West Mercia was not inspected), and resulted in 3 national recommendations; 2 of which were for Chief Constables.
I am pleased to report that activity is already in train within the force, with partners and in my office to enhance West Mercia’s approach to homicide prevention. Below I set out how the Chief Constable in West Mercia will address these recommendations and the wider support provided in my role as Police and Crime Commissioner.
Recommendation 2: By 31 August 2024, Chief Constables in England and Wales should devise an approach to make sure their force can, on a sufficiently frequent basis, produce an analytical report concerning its death investigations. This will help the force to:
- better understand the pattern of death reports across the force area, drawing on force data and information gathered by other organisations, including the NHS and local authorities; and
- identify any linked series of death reports.
West Mercia Police has reviewed and rewritten its sudden death policy, and is actively reviewing the recommendations from the HMICFRS report into the Stephen Port murders. The policy is currently out for consultation with key stakeholders before it is
ratified. A key theme across both of these pieces of work, is to further improve current practices within West Mercia to allow an accurate view of death investigations to be accessed at any time. Coronial reports are currently submitted by electronic means in compliance with the Coroners national guidance. However, different local policing areas use different systems, and there is no analytical capability linked to this that gives the Force true visibility of all death investigations.
The current proposal is for all unexplained death investigations to be recorded on the Athena system used within Force. This will require the creation of unexplained death Incidents on Athena. There is work to be done to achieve this specifically in terms of setting up the functionality within Athena and then delivering across the Force alongside Coroners processes. However, once complete, this will allow the Force to produce an analytical report concerning its death investigations. The delivery of an analytical report concerning its death investigations is on track for August 2024.
As part of the work linked to reducing Homicide and Serious Violence West Mercia Police has developed Operation Freya; a partnership approach to reducing the risk of homicide across the area. Operation Freya was established following the presentation of force homicide and near miss data at the my Crime Reduction Board in June 2023. This presentation highlighted an opportunity to exploit the data, using appropriate tools and techniques to identify those most at risk of perpetrating a homicide or becoming a victim of homicide. Central to Operation Freya is improved data and information sharing with stakeholders across West Mercia. This has been supported by a series of data sharing events on the Serious Violence duty facilitated by the my office, the force and Crest Advisory. It is anticipated that in forging those links with organisations such as the NHS and local authorities, the force will improve its ability to access data and information held by other agencies. Governance of Operation Freya will sit under the PCC-led Crime Reduction board, with support of 4 local operational groups. Engagement with local partners is ongoing with the aspiration to hold a multi-agency case conference meeting in November 2023.
Recommendation 3: By 1 December 2023, Chief Constables should make sure their force can quickly identify lessons from homicides and serious violence incidents. The process should be capable of involving partner organisations when appropriate, so that lessons can be learned more widely.
West Mercia Police have created a proposal for a rapid review process for homicides and high level near miss incidents, with the intention of capturing learning together with good and bad practice as soon as reasonably possible after the event. The review process has three key objectives:
- Identifying key learning to prevent future homicides.
- Support the effective management of on-going investigations.
- To promote reflective practice and enhance the provision of service for partners and communities.
The Statutory Major Crime Review Unit (SMCRU) propose to complete the initial review within 14 days of a homicide / near miss occurring and will produce a report within 30 days to facilitate a meeting with key stakeholders and partners, detailing observations together with good practice and potential learning. Key learning and recommendations emanating from the report and stakeholder meeting(s) will be managed by the Organisation Learning Board (OLB) acting as governance with a minimum quarterly review mechanism built in to monitor and track learning outcomes.
Key stakeholders are likely to be those pivotal to the investigation and pre-cursor incidents, together with those best placed to support and deliver timely learning either in the immediacy and / or via the OLB – i.e. MIU, SNT, Problem Solving Teams and Learning and Development. Overall responsibility for the management of the review process will sit with the Statutory and Major Crime Review Unit (SMCRU) who will chair the process at an appropriate rank level (to be determined).
Homicide and near miss incidents suitable for review will be identified during the Pacesetter process, with endorsement / ratification made by the SMCRU Detective Inspector.
As set out in my Safer West Mercia Plan, I remain committed to working with police and partners to prevent and reduce serious violence, including homicide, in West Mercia. This commitment is supported by a range of different activities led on or coordinated by my office including:
- significant investment in officers who work within the force’s early intervention and prevention teams, as well as those responsible for local and major investigations.
- Increased investment in commissioned services aimed at young people to prevent knife related crime, serious violence and criminal exploitation including the award-winning Steer Clear programme, and Climb, delivered by The Children’s Society.
- Convening and coordinating activity across specified authorities to support the successful implementation of the Serious Violence Duty. This includes coordinating funding, establishing governance arrangements and reporting to the Home Office.
- Governance and support for the newly established Operation Freya focused on homicide reduction.
- Inclusion of national policing priorities including homicide and serious violence within my 2nd Safer West Mercia plan, and related force and PCC performance management frameworks. This provides clear strategic direction to the force.
- Inclusion of national policing priorities including homicide and serious violence within quarterly assurance and accountability meetings with the Chief Constable. This ensures oversight of performance and activity being undertaken by the force to prevent and reduce homicide and serious violence. Much of this information is used to publish updates on my website in line with the Specified Information Order.
Although West Mercia was not inspected as part of the report, I welcome the continued national focus on homicide prevention. I will continue to utilise the recommendations set out to inform my engagement activity with partners, and ongoing assurance and accountability activity with the Chief Constable.
Police and Crime Commissioner
cc West Mercia Police Chief Constable