PSNI is efficient but needs to improve its support to vulnerable victims

Inspections carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have determined that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) uses its resources well to keep people safe and reduce crime, however it needs to do more to protect vulnerable victims.

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PEEL: Police efficiency

PEEL: Police effectiveness (vulnerability)

HMIC carried out inspections in PSNI in February 2016, focusing on two important areas of policing:

  • the efficiency with which it keeps people safe; and
  • how effective it is at supporting vulnerable victims.

The force has been assessed as ‘good’ for efficiency and ‘requires improvement’ for protecting vulnerable victims.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Michael Cunningham said:

“For this inspection we looked at two areas of policing. We were pleased to find that the service is demonstrating a good understanding of current demand for its services and is good at financial management. We have identified areas where it could be more efficient – including building a clearer understanding of future demand, and better planning for how it uses its workforce.

“However, we do have concerns with how the force responds to and protects vulnerable victims. In particular we were concerned to see inconsistencies in how staff recognise and assess vulnerability.

“I am encouraged that leadership of the force has made the protection of vulnerable people a clear priority. We will continue to monitor how this commitment results in improved service for vulnerable victims.”

HMIC found that PSNI uses its resources well: the force has a good understanding of the current demand on its service, and generally uses its resources well. However PSNI needs to improve its long-term financial and workforce plans: currently the force is too reliant on officers and staff working overtime, and sickness levels are too high.

Additionally, the force needs to improve how it protects vulnerable victims. Although the response to initial calls is generally good, improved training needs to help staff better understand the needs of vulnerable people, and how to identify children at risk of sexual exploitation.

The Department of Justice commissioned HMIC to carry out these inspections as part of annual assessments of police performance. HMIC will carry out further inspections in 2016/17.

Get the reports

PEEL: Police efficiency

PEEL: Police effectiveness (vulnerability)


  1. HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing to promote improvements in policing that make everyone safer, and assesses and reports on the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
  2. The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 as amended provides that HMIC shall at least once in every year inspect and report to the Department of Justice on the efficiency and effectiveness of:
    • the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
    • the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve;
    • the police support staff; and
    • traffic wardens.
  3. In relation to this inspection, HMIC is publishing two separate reports: one covering ‘efficiency’; and one covering ‘vulnerability’. These will be published on the HMIC website from 4 August 2016.
  4. As part of its annual inspections into police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL), HMIC’s Efficiency programme assessed how a force maximises the outcomes from its available resources. We reviewed both the financial and workforce planning of police forces whilst examining wider questions of cost, capacity and capability. Our inspection focused on the overall question, ‘How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?’. Forces’ ‘Efficiency’ was graded as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate.
  5. HMIC’s inspections into police forces’ response to ‘vulnerability’ is included in the PEEL ‘Effectiveness’ inspections. For 2015/16 ‘vulnerability’ was published separately to the other ‘Effectiveness’ subjects (preventing crime, investigating crime, neighbourhood policing and approach to tackling serious and organised crime).
  6. The majority of forces in England and Wales use either the definition from the government’s Code of Practice for Victims of Crime or that referred to in guidance issued by ACPO
  7. The PSNI defines vulnerability as:
    “A term used to describe a person who is in need of special care, support or protection because of age, disability or risk of abuse or neglect.”
  8. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  9. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.