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“Victims let down by poor crime recording” states HMIC report

In its latest report entitled ‘Crime Recording: Making the Victim Count’, encompassing the results of what is the most extensive inspection and analysis of crime recording carried out to date, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) finds that the national average rate of under-recording of crime is almost one-in-five.

The inspection was designed to review the integrity of police-recorded crime data (it was not an inspection or inquiry into the integrity of the police service). In examining over 8,000 reports of crime incidents detailed to the police, the HMIC found the national average of under-recording of crime to be 19% (which amounts to over 800,000 crimes each year).

During the audit period November 2012-October 2013, police were found to be less likely to record violent and sexual offences as crimes than they were other crime types. The inspection also found that, on the national average, over a quarter of sexual offences and a third of violent crimes reported to the police each year are not being recorded as crime.

Every force was inspected, and the results from each have been used to build a statistically representative figure on a national basis. HMIC emphasises that the picture at a local level is mixed. Not every force is the same. In a few forces, crime recording is very good and highlights the fact that this procedure can be carried out very well and the statistics trusted. In some other forces, though, HMIC suggests the process is “unacceptably bad”.

During and since the inspection, some forces have taken significant steps to improve their procedures, a fact which is naturally welcomed by HMIC.

National crime recording rate is “inexcusably poor”

Commenting on the report’s contents, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: “The first duty of the police service is to protect the public and reduce crime. A national crime recording rate of 81% is inexcusably poor. Failure to properly record crime is indefensible. This is not about numbers and dry statistics. It’s about victims and the protection of the public.”

Winsor continued: “The position in the case of rape and other sexual offences is a matter of particularly serious concern. The inspection found 37 cases of rape which were not recorded as crimes. The national rate of under-recording of sexual offences (including rapes) as crimes was 26%, while the national rate of incorrect decisions to no-crime rapes was 20%. These are wholly unacceptable failings. Some police forces have exemplary records in this respect while others are very bad. It’s particularly important that, in criminal cases as serious as rape, these shortcomings are put right as a matter of the greatest urgency. In some forces, action is already being taken in this respect.”

Tom Winsor: Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary

Tom Winsor: Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary also said: “The police should immediately institutionalise the presumption that the victim is to be believed. If evidence later comes to light which shows that no crime occurred then the record should be corrected. That’s how the system is supposed to work.”

Importantly, Winsor explained: “Victims need – and are entitled to – support and assistance. They – and their communities – are also entitled to justice. Failures in crime recording can also increase the risks to victims and the community of the denial of justice. The police need to take this subject very seriously. Trust in what the police tell others about crime is part of the essential trust which the public must have in the police service.”

The public’s view is unequivocal. When surveyed, 95% of respondents agreed that it’s important all crimes reported to the police are recorded accurately, but only 66% trust the police to do so. The inspection found that even when crime was correctly recorded, many incidents were removed or cancelled from the system as: ‘No crimes’. One-in-five of the 3,246 reviewed decisions to cancel a crime record were incorrect. This included over 200 rapes and more than 250 crimes of violence against the person.

The police should inform victims of these decisions, states HMIC, but in over 800 of the 3,246 decisions reviewed for this inspection there was no record of the victim having been told. This means that victims may be under the impression that their crimes are being investigated when in truth they’re not.

The inspection found that, once recorded, decisions on the classification of crimes were correct in 96% of cases.

Undue pressure placed on police officers?

Relatively little firm evidence was found of undue pressure being put on police officers to manipulate figures, despite allegations and assertions to that effect.

However, in a survey of over 17,000 police officers and staff, 39% of the 8,600 individuals who said they had responsibility for making crime recording decisions reported that performance and other pressures were distorting those decisions. When presented with that picture, a number of forces admitted it.

That said, the inspection also found that forces are making considerable efforts to change the culture in which such practices have been permitted in the past.

The HMIC inspection also looked at over 3,700 out-of-court disposals (consisting of cautions, penalty notices for disorder, cannabis warnings and community resolutions). In over a fifth of cases, HMIC found the offender should not have been given the sanction and should either have been charged and sent to court or given a different and more severe out-of-court disposal.

HMIC was also concerned that not all victims were asked for their views on the punishment (as the rules require).

Despite the clear framework and set of rules for the sound and consistent recording of crime by the police, the failures identified by HMIC are, in the main, attributable to lapses in leadership and supervision of officers and staff in addition to poor knowledge of the rules.

Victim Support is calling for all crime to be reported and accurately recorded

Victim Support is calling for all crime to be reported and accurately recorded

HMIC has recommended that the College of Policing should establish standard training to be provided by each force which ensures that all officers and staff who are likely to record crimes or have supervision of crime recording have a sound understanding of the relevant principles to be applied (and are periodically tested in that respect).

A number of forces are doing well in recording crime and have already tackled these issues. Some forces, including Kent and Merseyside, have moved swiftly to make improvements since the HMIC inspections. They’re already implementing changes and prioritising victims’ needs. This demonstrates how rapidly improvements can be made.

Number of crimes dismissed is “alarming”

In response to the HMIC’s findings, Adam Pemberton (assistant CEO of Victim Support) stated: “The sheer number of crimes that have been dismissed by the police is alarming. It’s equally astonishing that so many victims are not told if the police later decide that no crime took place.”

Pemberton stressed: “Each mistake represents a victim losing their chance for justice and support. Victims of crime rely on the police service to believe them and to investigate crime properly, and they should be able to trust them to do just that.”

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Victim Support celebrates Restorative Justice Week 2014

Victim Support is backing Restorative Justice Week 2014, which runs from 16-23 November.

Restorative justice is when an offender and victim converse about an offence and how it has affected them. This can be through a face-to-face meeting (known as Restorative Justice Conferencing), facilitated and supported by a trained restorative justice expert or indirectly through a mediator or a letter.

It’s a practice that actually dates back thousands of years but is seen as a relatively new idea in dealing with the harm done by crime and other conflicts in England and Wales.

Under the Code for Victims, all victims are entitled to restorative justice.

Victim Support has long been an advocate of restorative justice as it has many benefits for both victim and offender. For the victim, the benefits include:

• a chance to have their say about how the offence made them feel
• receiving answers to their questions about the offence and the offender
• challenging and confronting the offender’s behaviour
• a chance to seek an apology and/or other reparation
• a greater sense of justice and closure
• increased confidence in the criminal justice system
• a measured reduction in post-traumatic stress

Victim Support has long been an advocate of restorative justice as it has many benefits for both victims and offenders

Victim Support has long been an advocate of restorative justice as it has many benefits for both victims and offenders

Positive results are also numerous for the offender and the community. Often, there’s improvement in the rehabilitation of the offender, a reduced likelihood of re-offending and an understanding of the impact of their actions.

The restorative justice process also gives offenders the chance to make amends and explain why they committed the offence and their motivations behind it, which in turn can help the victim understand the situation.

It also helps them reintegrate back into the community, a process which is proven to help reduce crime and re-offending and increases feelings of safety and confidence in the criminal justice system.

Victim Support offers over 30 different restorative justice programmes across the country. These are in: London, Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Yorkshire West, Avonvale, Somerset and Dorset, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex and Hertfordshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, Gwent and South Wales, West Mercia and Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

*For further information visit: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/about-us/news/restorative-justice-week#sthash.kmMt2ALe.dpuf

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“Victims must not be left to investigate crimes” states Victim Support

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s (HMIC) latest report (entitled ‘Core Business: An Inspection into Crime Prevention, Police Attendance and the Use of Police Time’) reveals that victims of criminality receive a different response from the police for the same kind of incident depending on where they live.

The report – dubbed the ‘Policing Postcode Lottery’ – examines all 43 police forces in England and Wales. It looks at three principal aspects of day-to-day policing: the prevention of crime, how crime is investigated (and offenders brought to justice) and freeing up and using police time more efficiently (which includes the use of modern technology). The report merges three complementary inspections into a single assessment.

The document states that criminal damage and car crime are on the verge of being decriminalised because some forces had given up. In some cases, victims were asked to check for CCTV or fingerprints.

It also notes that partnerships are crucial for supporting crime victims and preventing further offences, highlighting the work that Victim Support pursues with victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales.

‘Policing postcode lottery’ must stop

HMI Roger Baker, who led the inspection, said: “Police forces have done a good job in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, in turn leading to long-term reductions over the last ten years. However, we were concerned to find that a member of the public will receive a different response from the police for the same type of crime or incident, depending on where they live. This sort of ‘postcode lottery’ has to stop and a consistent approach applied across England and Wales.”

Baker added: “It’s only by fully understanding how they use their staff that police forces can ensure they’re both efficient and responsive. We found that this vital element of evaluation and analysis is still lacking in the majority of forces, with fewer than a quarter investigating demand in order to prioritise and organise their workforce. In this age of austerity, it’s more important than ever that forces understand how to prioritise their resources.”

Tom Winsor: HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary

Tom Winsor: HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Thomas Winsor commented: “The oxygen of effective policing is intelligence. Information is useless if it cannot be found and used at the time and in the circumstances in which it is needed. In policing, if it’s inaccessible to those who need it, great harm may occur which could and should have been prevented. Despite this, in too many respects police forces have failed to embrace and exploit the capacities of modern technology. They’ve established information systems which, even now, lack necessary standards of interoperability. Steps are now being taken in this respect – and they are to be welcomed – but progress until now has been too slow, insular and isolationist. This must change urgently. As long as these material shortcomings persist then lives are at risk.”

Winsor also stated: “England and Wales has 43 police forces. There are not, and never have been, 43 best ways of doing something. While the roots and much of the practice of policing are local, and will remain so, police forces must collectively recognise that it’s in the public interest that every force must understand and adopt Best Practice to be applied in the most efficient and effective way in each police force area.”

Placing victims at risk of further harm

Responding to the report, Adam Pemberton (assistant CEO of Victim Support) explained: “As a charity that has supported millions of crime victims, we know how important it is that they get the help they need from the police. It’s critical that victims can trust officers to investigate their case thoroughly and keep them informed of progress and the outcome. It is totally unacceptable for victims to have to investigate their own case as it could put them at risk of further harm and they may miss vital evidence which could allow offenders to evade justice.”

Victim Support believes that it's Unacceptable for victims to investigate crimes themselves

Victim Support believes that it’s Unacceptable for victims to investigate crimes themselves

Pemberton added: “We know from supporting children and young people, victims of domestic and sexual violence and those with mental health problems how devastating crime can be for their well-being and sense of security. They are also some of the people most likely to suffer repeated crimes.”

In conclusion, Pemberton said: “These are not the standards we should expect from the police and improvements must be made. We will make sure crime victims and witnesses receive the support they need and the respect they deserve.”

*Read the HMIC Report in full

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Director of Public Prosecutions launches support package for crime victims

Alison Saunders – the Director of Public Prosecutions – has launched a wide-ranging support package for the victims of crime. Dedicated units of trained staff are now up-and-running across England and Wales. In addition, the final Victims’ Right to Review scheme is being published alongside almost a year’s worth of statistics from the interim scheme launched in June 2013.

“There has been a lot of focus on the victims of sexual offences in recent months,” commented Saunders, “but all crimes – from burglary and muggings through to harassment and fraud – serve to undermine confidence, create fear and damage the fabric of our society. My focus is on improving our service to anyone who has suffered at the hands of criminals.”

More than 70 Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) will staff units across England and Wales, with around 80 completing training alongside experts from the Victim Support charity in handling the specific needs of crime victims. Members of staff have also been provided with disability awareness training by the Business Disability Forum.

Victim Liaison Units were piloted in three CPS Areas from March 2014 with feedback from victims on the amount of information they wanted to receive on their cases. The CPS will now always offer a meeting to victims and their families when it stops or changes the charges in cases involving the following offence types: homicide cases, sexual offences, child abuse cases, offences aggravated by hostility based on disability, racially/religiously aggravated offences, cases with a homophobic, transphobic or sexual orientation element and offences motivated by hostility based on age.

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders continued: “On my first day as the Director of Public Prosecutions, I spoke of my intention to set up Victim Liaison Units across the CPS. I’m really pleased to announce this roll-out after a successful pilot. These specialist members of staff are receiving bespoke training from one of the charities that know victims best – the charity Victim Support, whose professionalism I witnessed when I visited its centre last year. I hope people will see this collaboration as a sign of a modern and responsive prosecution service.”

The Victims’ Right to Review Scheme

As stated earlier, the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme was first launched in June 2013, and details of the final scheme have now been published on the CPS website. Between 5 June 2013 and 31 March 2014, the CPS reviewed 1,186 cases and decisions in 1,024 of those cases were found to be the right one.

In total, 162 decisions have been overturned (which accounts for 0.14% of all qualifying decisions finalised in the period). A breakdown of the reviews by offence category has also been published on the CPS website.

The DPP has now committed to ensuring that CPS policy and guidance will be updated wherever necessary due to any issues identified through the VRR process.

Alison Saunders stated: “It’s hard to think of a scheme that gives more power to victims than the Victims’ Right to Review. Having the right to challenge our work and hold us to account is fundamental to instilling greater confidence among victims. We made 113,952 qualifying decisions during the period covered by these latest figures, and so less than 0.14% of those decisions have been overturned. This should be seen as a sign of confidence in our decision-making and also our ability to act swiftly where mistakes may have been made.”

The CPS is also publishing Complaints and Community Engagement Standards for all members of staff. The document sets out clear benchmarks of quality by which the CPS’ performance on handling complaints and engaging with the wider community can be measured by victims and the wider public. The standards will be subject to a public consultation.

“The work we are setting out here,” concluded Saunders, “is a major step forward in addressing the balance of power towards the victim within criminal justice. Empowering and supporting the victims of crime is an absolute priority for me as Director of Public Prosecutions, and was the very reason I became a prosecutor more than 25 years ago. The right to review and specialist Victim Liaison Officers will make a very real and tangible difference to those whom we serve.”

Public confidence – the critical factor

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP – the newly-installed Attorney General – said: “Public confidence in the criminal justice system is the critical factor in helping victims of crime to come forward. Victims need to know that they will be listened to, taken seriously and supported so that justice can be done. That’s why the package of measures that the Director of Public Prosecutions has announced is so significant. It’s a clear statement that the prosecution will put victims first, and will make a real difference to the way in which individuals are supported through the justice process.”

Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove, who has also welcomed the announcement, said: “Victims need to be listened to and have open and honest conversations about what is happening to them. I welcome the efforts of the CPS to do this in a compassionate, clear and timely way. The right to review is a crucial and essential tool for those who want to challenge a court decision and hold the CPS to account, which is why it’s so important to get it right. I will be looking very closely at how both are being delivered to ensure they are in compliance with the Victims’ Code and are delivered at a standard that victims deserve.”

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Victim Support appoints Mark Castle OBE as next CEO

Victim Support has appointed Mark Castle OBE to be its next CEO, with Castle taking up the role in June.

Mark Castle OBE is currently CEO at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and was previously CEO at the Association of Police Authorities (APA).

Castle joined the APA directly from the Army following a 31-year career which included deployments to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq where he commanded British forces on stabilisation and reconstruction operations.

Castle was awarded the OBE in 2004 and later roles included redeveloping Army corporate communications and personnel strategy.

In his final Army role, Castle mentored Iraqi Interior Ministry forces and worked closely with local police advising them on measures designed to boost confidence and tackle corruption.

Victim Support: the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales

Victim Support: the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales

As CEO of the APCC, Castle secured funding from all 41 Police and Crime Commissioners following their elections in 2012.

He currently holds positions in key agencies across the criminal justice system including the College of Policing.

Knowledge of the criminal justice system

Chairman of Victim Support’s Trustees, Enid Rowlands, said: “We are delighted that Mark is joining Victim Support. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge about the criminal justice system, and the many recent changes to it. He also has vast experience of frontline service delivery. We are confident that his vision, energy and leadership will drive our charity onto even greater success in the future.”

Speaking about his new role, Mark Castle OBE commented: “I am honoured to be joining Victim Support on its historic mission to provide practical help and emotional support to victims and witnesses of crime. I have seen first-hand the devastating impact crime and lawlessness can have on people and communities, and the value of prompt and effective help. I look forward to meeting the staff and volunteers who I know do so much to help people in need.”

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Victim Support celebrates 40 years of helping the victims of crime

Victim Support began celebrating 40 years of helping the victims of crime on New Year’s Day.

The occasion was marked with a feature which ran across the BBC, including BBC Breakfast and the News Channel. More than half a million people also heard about the anniversary through social media channels.

From humble beginnings as a local community project, Victim Support has grown into the world’s biggest charity for victims and witnesses. It now contacts more than one million victims of crime every year and helps more than 200,000 people giving evidence in court.

New analysis of Victim Support’s records shows an estimated 55,000 people have volunteered for the charity over the years, which has helped or contacted at least 30 million victims of crime.

Tributes to the organisation

Leading figures from the criminal justice system have paid tribute to the immense contribution made by Victim Support’s staff and volunteers over the last four decades.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “We know that participation in the criminal justice system can be daunting for both victims and witnesses. Victim Support provides an essential service, not only by supporting victims of crime and helping witnesses give evidence in court through its volunteer-led Witness Service, but also in ensuring their voices are heard across the system.”

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

Saunders continued: “As DPP, I am committed to making victims’ experiences easier and better and the work of Victim Support is invaluable to the CPS’ efforts to achieve this. I am grateful to Victim Support for its role in representing the views of victims and witnesses, and we will continue to work closely with the organisation to ensure the CPS continues to improve the service we provide to those unfortunate enough to find themselves victims of crime.”

Sir Hugh Orde – President of the Association of Chief Police Officers – said: “Victim Support has made a vital and often unsung difference to the lives of so many victims and witnesses of crime over the past 40 years. The hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers, who give up their time for free, has helped thousands to negotiate what can be an extremely traumatic and confusing process.”

ACPO's president Sir Hugh Orde

ACPO’s president Sir Hugh Orde

ACPO’s leader continued: “Third sector partners like Victim Support make an invaluable contribution in improving the experiences of victims and witnesses and driving up their confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole. The police service will continue to work closely with Victim Support to ensure that victims and witnesses of crime receive the best possible help and support.”

Lifeline for more than one million victims

Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester and chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “Victim Support provides a lifeline to more than a million victims each year. Without volunteers willing to give up their own time to offer help and support to people at what is a very distressing time, Victim Support wouldn’t be able to provide this invaluable service. The organisations makes a real difference.”

Lloyd went on to state: “Organisations like Victim Support give victims a voice in the criminal justice system and it’s vital that we work with them to improve the service we provide to victims and witnesses and make sure their needs are at the centre of everything we do.”

Anti-knife crime campaigner Brooke Kinsella MBE, who became Victim Support’s Ambassador last year, said: “Victim Support was there for me and my family when we needed them most. I can honestly say that we couldn’t have got through the experience without them. The volunteer who helped us made such a difference to our lives with his kindness, patience and strength. So much more than a shoulder to cry on, he was truly a lifeline for us in the darkest of times.”

Brooke Kinsella MBE

Brooke Kinsella MBE

“I’m so proud to be an ambassador for Victim Support as the organisation celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and want to take this opportunity to thank all of their staff and volunteers, past and present – from the bottom of my heart – for the amazing job they have done and continue to do.”

Celebratory events in the pipeline

Victim Support will be acknowledging the vital contribution of volunteers and staff old and new by way of a series of celebratory events over the coming months.

The last 40 years has seen Victim Support make huge strides – developing from supporting victims of crimes such as theft, to very serious crimes, including homicide, rape and emerging crimes such as human trafficking.

It has also set up national services to support more than 200,000 victims and witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales each year, as well as a national service to help families bereaved by homicide.

Some of the vital specialist work Victim Support now carries out includes anti-social behaviour and domestic violence projects, restorative justice programmes and preventative work in schools warning about the dangers of getting involved in gangs.

Javed Khan: CEO at Victim Support

Javed Khan: CEO at Victim Support

Victim Support’s CEO Javed Khan said: “We are told day in and day out that the work of our staff and volunteers makes a real difference to many, many people’s lives, and we are very proud of that. Much of our work wouldn’t be possible without our 5,600 dedicated volunteers, whose time alone is estimated to be worth £21 million. They are the backbone of Victim Support and I cannot thank them enough for their tireless efforts.”

Khan continued: “Over the last 40 years, more than 55,000 people have volunteered for the charity. It is one of the most rewarding contributions that anyone can make, and we are always welcoming new volunteers. If you want to help victims cope and recover then please get in touch with Victim Support.”

In conclusion, Khan stated: “There’s no better opportunity than this 40th Anniversary to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to those who have made us what we are today, and continue to provide a world class service to victims and witnesses of crime. We are always mindful that the work we do needs to keep evolving, and we look forward to continuing to do all that we can to ensure victims’ needs are placed at the forefront of the criminal justice process.”

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