Hertfordshire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe.
It is good at investigating crime. It is organised to meet the growing challenges posed by issues such as gang-related violence, child sexual exploitation and cyber crime.
The force is well organised in the way it allocates and investigates crimes. However, in our 2017 effectiveness report, we noted that the quality of its investigations was variable. This has since improved. It robustly monitors incidents where a victim may be vulnerable. We are impressed by the support it gives to repeat victims of low-level domestic abuse in particular.
Following a peer review, Hertfordshire Constabulary has increased the number of investigators who deal with rape and other serious sexual offences. It is also analysing how it can better serve victims.
Lately, the force has been carrying out more evidence-led prosecutions. This is a result of its officers’ skill in building such cases when victims are reluctant to co-operate.
The force is highly effective in pursuing suspects of crime. And it is developing innovative practices involving female offenders and prolific, non-violent offenders.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at protecting vulnerable people. It is good at understanding and identifying vulnerability, including hidden harm. It responds swiftly to incidents involving vulnerable people.
Under the banner of Operation Sceptre, it has adopted a noteworthy approach to preventing knife and gang-related crime. It also seeks to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people in Hertfordshire.
In 2017, the force needed to review its effective use of body-worn video. It now consistently monitors the use and effectiveness of this.
It is making more effective use of police bail with conditions, leading to better protection for vulnerable victims.
It is well organised in the way it manages convicted, high-risk sexual and violent offenders who pose a risk to vulnerable people.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to develop a cyber strategy and delivery plan to support criminal investigations and safeguard victims.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is structured and resourced to meet the complex and growing challenges of crimes such as gang-related violence and child sexual exploitation. It is well organised in the way it allocates and investigates crimes.
In our 2017 effectiveness report, we said that the quality of investigations conducted by Hertfordshire Constabulary was variable. We also set two areas for improvement. The first was to fully comply with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. The second was to review the force’s effective use of body-worn video, particularly for domestic abuse incidents. This report will address these matters in detail, but we are satisfied that these improvements have taken place.
In November 2018, we reviewed a sample of 60 completed investigations. We considered 48 of those to be effective. At the time of our inspection, the force’s compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime was 41 percent for active cases and 67 percent for closed cases.
Good victim care was evident in 52 of the cases in our file review. Investigators contact victims in all cases, but don’t always correctly record this on the crime recording system. And where a victim reports more than one crime, investigators sometimes add updates to a linked crime report.
The force is working with IT suppliers to rectify this systems issue. It has a good understanding of the scale of the problem, and a credible plan to make further improvements, including continuing external scrutiny. Extra training and an interactive dashboard mean that supervisors can chart compliance among their staff.
In April 2018, Hertfordshire Constabulary commissioned a full review of its force control room. The review included demand, resources and training. The control room has strong quality assurance processes. This means that, throughout the response and initial evidence gathering process, the force robustly monitors incidents where a victim may be vulnerable.
The investigation management unit (IMU) deals with almost 40 percent of demand without the need to deploy an officer. The IMU isn’t inadvertently suppressing demand, however; we are satisfied that it makes appropriate decisions about whether to investigate further or close a case. The force’s own internal audit indicates that 18 percent of incidents, when assessed, didn’t need a further response. The remaining 22 percent were investigated by telephone; this included experienced investigators and detective sergeants carrying out dip-sampling and supervision.
Three times daily, the IMU reviews all incidents that haven’t been responded to, reassessing the risks involved in each incident. This way, it responds to high-priority incidents more quickly and to all incidents within 24 hours.
Hertfordshire Constabulary allocates investigations effectively. It uses the THRIVE risk-assessment model to reach decisions. This model is used to review and determine the type of threat or harm caused, degree of risk, investigation method, vulnerability of the victim and appropriate type of engagement.
The victim service team offers all victims a good level of service. The team is well trained to identify factors that cause a victim to become vulnerable, such as addiction and debt. We were impressed by the team’s level of support, particularly for people who are repeat victims of low-level domestic abuse.
The team displays a mature understanding that repeat victims are likely to suffer more serious harm in future if they don’t receive specialist support to break their dependence on controlling relationships. Where needed, a commissioned third-party service gives victims specialist, tailored help.
The force resolves incidents by deploying officers from the local policing command. They are neighbourhood officers, response (intervention) officers, and local crime unit investigators.
Hertfordshire Constabulary also draws on personnel from Operation Scorpion, a proactive frontline team focused on acquisitive crimes such as domestic burglary. These officers give extra help where high-harm crime offences have been committed. The force also has a range of specialist safeguarding departments which deal with serious and complex crime. For example, its serious crime investigation team proactively targets violent gangs. Overall, the most appropriate teams carry out investigations, and their caseloads are manageable.
Specialists with enhanced skills investigate complex and sensitive crimes. These include rape, and domestic abuse cases where there is high risk of harm faced by the victim. The force carried out evidence-based research and invested heavily to establish a domestic abuse investigation and safeguarding unit (DAISU). This 60-strong team of investigators deals with all cases of domestic abuse where the victim has an intimate relationship with the suspect. It uses a range of tactics, including covert methods, to bring offenders to justice.
The force has also invested in digital investigators to effectively investigate cyber crime. However, it relies on the regional serious and organised crime strategy instead of its own bespoke cyber crime strategy, and the plan to carry out the strategy was out of date.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has improved its use of body-worn video. It reports that officers activated body-worn video when responding to 93 percent of domestic incidents which needed an emergency response. It is now working with a university graduate to evaluate the effectiveness of body-worn video. Overall, the force understands the value of body-worn video and the importance of complying with its use.
In January 2019, the force commissioned South Wales Police to carry out a peer review of its ability to investigate rape and other serious sexual offences. It did this to build on its learning culture. As a result, it has increased the number of qualified investigators in that department. It has also begun work with the Crown Prosecution Service to improve the low number of cases that get to court. It is also analysing how it can better serve victims and manage their vulnerability, given an increase in stalking and harassment offences.
The force has analysed its own data to make sure that it is taking positive action by arresting all high-risk domestic abuse suspects. This revealed that 89 percent of high-risk suspects were arrested but some were linked to other associated crimes, most notably harassment. The remaining 11 percent relate to crimes that are still being investigated locally or by another police force. We are reassured that the force is working to improve its data recording, and that officers show a good awareness of associated crimes, such as stalking and coercive control, meaning that they can protect victims and respond positively.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is working hard to recruit and keep enough investigators to meet demand. It has set clear tolerance levels so that departments investigating the highest levels of risk are fully staffed with qualified and experienced investigators. Experienced detectives teach a fast-track, comprehensive training and development programme. This makes for effective recruitment into investigator posts.
During our inspection, we spoke with a range of investigators. All felt they had been trained well enough for their roles. Every two months, the force holds development days for detective inspectors; these days include updates on child death investigations, policy keeping and threats to life. It also schedules training days for the wider detective workforce. This means that it has invested in continuing professional development, as well as the central training programmes that it has established through its tri-force collaboration with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire forces.
Regular professional development days have trained the workforce more broadly and deeply. The force’s training on vulnerability, problem solving and investigation standards, for example, means that frontline officers are confidently equipped with the right skills to maximise evidence-gathering opportunities at crime scenes. As a result, it is carrying out more evidence-led prosecutions and officers are better able to build a case when victims are reluctant to work with the police, particularly in domestic abuse situations.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has invested in a digital app that gives officers specialist knowledge about a range of technologies, including mobile phones, routers and crypto-currency.
This investment by the force in a range of training means that officers and staff are better able to investigate crime and protect victims.
The quality and completion of handovers between teams has also improved since our last inspection. Investigation plans are clear, and supervisors add value with timely and probing reviews. The force can show that it is attending more incidents and spending more time at them.
In the 12 months to 30 September 2018, the force concluded 26 percent of its recorded crimes due to evidential difficulties; this was mainly because there wasn’t enough evidence to support a prosecution. This figure includes cases where a victim did, or did not, support a prosecution (5 and 22 percent of cases respectively – the data does not add up due to rounding).
The force is working hard to safeguard and make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to support a prosecution. Senior officers contact victims to seek feedback on their team’s performance. According to an independent charity, 92 percent of domestic abuse victims who were surveyed about their experience would recommend contacting Hertfordshire Constabulary.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is highly effective at pursuing suspects of crime, as well as managing persistent offenders and working with other organisations to deal with foreign-national offenders. Its procedures enable it to make effective use of bail during active investigations. It has a culture of continuous learning with regard to increasing the number of cases where offenders are brought to justice.
The force is strongly committed to the swift capture of all outstanding suspects, including those who are recorded as wanted on the Police National Computer. During its daily management meetings, it prioritises high-risk wanted suspects.
Every week, a dedicated bail and warrants team tells supervisors how many suspects are either on police bail or have been released under investigation. In January 2019, the bail and warrants team carried out 150 arrests. The team also monitors suspects who are wanted for investigations where fingerprints or DNA are later linked to a crime scene; likewise, those who are wanted on warrant (including European arrest warrants) or who are in breach of conditions linked to their release from prison. This means that frontline officers and proactive teams can sustain the momentum needed to capture suspects who pose a high risk to themselves or others.
The IOM programme manages offenders who have a series of convictions and are likely to reoffend. The programme is well organised and actively manages high-risk domestic abuse suspects. For Hertfordshire Constabulary, the programme marks a move away from concentrating on offenders who commit mainly acquisitive crimes such as shoplifting. It now focuses on preventing crimes that cause the public most harm.
The force has worked with the probation and community rehabilitation service to design a choice and consequences programme (known as C2). This involves prolific, non-violent offenders having their prison sentences deferred for up to six months while they undergo an intensive series of activities that support a long-term change in offending behaviour. Offenders have to take a lie detector test and admit to all of their offences before they can take part in the programme. Activities have included restorative justice, to make amends to victims. The force can show the cost benefits of this programme, both in terms of finances and those whose lives have been turned around.
Another good example is Hertfordshire Constabulary’s management of a female-only cohort of offenders. This practice is based on research showing that women may need different support from men to address their offending behaviours. The force has invested in an IOM analyst, and its continuous evaluation of the programme includes external scrutiny by SafeLives, an independent domestic abuse charity commissioned by the force.
Hertfordshire Constabulary works well with immigration agencies. With the support of a dedicated co-ordinator, it effectively makes referrals to confirm foreign nationals’ entitlement to stay in the United Kingdom. This process includes the force sharing information about people who present a high risk of harm. It has led to some offenders being deported.
In April 2017, the Home Office amended legislation to change the way police bail was granted. As a result, some forces released suspects under investigation. But in these cases, releasing a suspect on bail with conditions may have better protected victims.
In January 2019, the force reinforced its guidance to its workforce: where a suspect’s remand in custody isn’t sought by officers, police bail with conditions will be primarily considered in cases where a suspect is detained for a violent offence or where the victim is defined as vulnerable. This guidance is supported by good governance and weekly reporting to supervisors. During our inspection, there was good evidence that the workforce has quickly acted on this guidance and follows it routinely.
We were pleased to note that a safeguarding mindset exists within the force’s custody suites. Staff consider the risk that detainees pose to victims, themselves and others. Staff also record and scrutinise these considerations.
It is important for officers and staff to understand disclosure rules when preparing cases for court, so that cases don’t collapse. The workforce has a good understanding of mandatory disclosure training. Hertfordshire Constabulary has invested in a specialist disclosure team of six officers. The team works across the safeguarding command to support disclosure requirements in complex investigations, such as rape and child sexual abuse. The officers are scheduled to receive enhanced disclosure training. This team should be a substantial asset to the force.
In November 2017, we published our Crime Data Integrity inspection report. We judged that Hertfordshire Constabulary’s crime recording compliance was 87 percent. We also identified deficiencies in its understanding of crime recording compliance and processes. The force has since made investments and can now comprehensively analyse data compliance. Internal audits show its compliance levels at an average of 99 percent for rape offences and 94 percent for domestic abuse offences from April 2019 to present.
Force data for 2018/19 shows that crime in Hertfordshire increased by 1.6 percent. In the previous year, there was an 11 percent increase. The force considers that the stabilised increase in crime figures is a result of its improved and continued accuracy in crime recording. In turn, this means that it is giving victims a better service. It also has a clearer understanding of the types of crime being committed, as well as their frequency and those affected.
Force data also shows that the proportion of positive outcomes (that is, where investigations conclude in a criminal prosecution or other action taken against the offender) has reduced from 14,491 cases to 11,347 cases. While this is disappointing, the force shows an exacting performance culture, particularly in priority areas of policing such as burglary and gang-related violence. Senior leaders work hard to analyse determining factors and improve positive outcomes. Hertfordshire Constabulary has very detailed plans in place to improve outcomes for serious sexual offences, including rape.
It is encouraging to note that crimes of burglary have reduced by 11 percent. This reduction is due to the force’s detailed understanding of crime series and its targeting of resources in hotspot areas. It gives all burglary victims practical help to improve their home security, including SmartWater marking and doorbell cameras. These measures have been effective in significantly reducing crimes within those localities.
During the period June 2018 to March 2019, the force also made 50 significant arrests connected to violent crime gangs.Summary for question 2
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Areas for improvement
- The force should refresh guidance to staff on processes for managing unconvicted but potentially dangerous people within the community and reassure itself that staff understand this.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at understanding and identifying vulnerability. It has a coherent and proactive vulnerability strategy which recognises that people may be both vulnerable victims and offenders. This translates into ambitious and progressive approaches to tackling violent crime, persistent offenders and domestic abuse. The workforce consistently receives extra training. Officers and staff have a practical understanding of vulnerability and its various strands. They also understand hidden harm factors such as so-called honour-based violence, hate crime, exploitation and female genital mutilation.
The force has restructured its serious and organised crime unit, and given this team specialist training so it can investigate modern slavery and human trafficking offences. This means that it can use more resources to investigate criminal gangs who control and exploit vulnerable people.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has an excellent ability to investigate cyber crime, and has appointed a cyber protection officer. It recognises that 14 percent of fraud victims, which often has a cyber element, are vulnerable members of society, and that these types of crime are set to increase.
To better understand the scale and nature of vulnerability in Hertfordshire, the force is using a harm and risk modelling tool (HARM). This tool layers multiple data sources to produce an overall risk score. The force then uses the score to map risk in relation to certain factors: community demographics, deprivation, unemployment, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, crime and harm. In this way, it can justify allocating resources to risk management and prevention activity through the community safety partnerships across the force.
Communities and partner organisations, including the local authority and the fire and rescue service, take part in initiatives such as street sweeps. With trading standards, the force carries out test purchases for the sale of knives to under-age youngsters.
Hertfordshire Constabulary develops problem profiles on a range of crime types with other agencies and shares these profiles through them.
It has a serious violence strategy and delivery plan; this includes noteworthy approaches to preventing knife and gang-related crime, under the banner of Operation Sceptre. To encourage amnesty and awareness, the force uses digital technology to target certain age groups in certain areas. This use of technology has achieved over a thousand hours of digital exposure in just one 24-hour period.
Dedicated liaison officers visit schools and show bespoke films to educate children about relevant issues. These officers also form part of an intelligence network with partner organisations that diverts potential offenders from committing crime via an effective outreach and mentoring scheme.
Every day, the force now receives four referrals to divert young people away from knife crime. It keeps its focus on prevention by referring children and young people who have no previous offending history to a panel. The panel assesses suitability for a community resolution as a more effective means of dealing with less serious crime. This strategy builds on national best practice and serves to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people in Hertfordshire.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has reinvested savings from within its safeguarding command into additional capacity to tackle child and adult vulnerability. Staff in units such as Halo – a team that tackles child sexual exploitation – don’t rely solely on victim disclosure; they develop proactive approaches through intelligence that reveals additional victims who weren’t initially obvious.
A child sexual exploitation disruption officer runs awareness and prevention campaigns across the county. Referrals shown to us included exploitation concerns raised by taxi drivers. Similarly, the force has invested in a missing persons Locate team. This dedicated team of investigators has halved the time it takes to find vulnerable missing persons. The team also carries out prevention interviews when it finds a missing person. Its work with children’s outreach services has successfully reduced the frequency of those who go missing and their exposure to harm.
Where a risk of sexual exploitation is found, the Locate team makes referrals for specialist outreach support to SEARCH (Sexual Exploitation of Adolescents and Runaway Children in Hertfordshire.) The force would benefit from refreshing its child sexual exploitation problem profile, as the one we found was out of date.
When people first call Hertfordshire Constabulary for assistance, call handlers use a THRIVE triage process to assess both the risk presented by the incident and the urgency of the police response needed. They respond to callers quickly and make use of computer system prompts that signify repeat callers or otherwise vulnerable people.
Mental health triage staff are present in the force control room. They regularly intervene to support improved call-handling decisions and a better resolution for callers who are in a mental health crisis. The force has gone to considerable lengths to identify and reduce vulnerability. Victims receive an assured and responsive service.
Responding to incidents
Hertfordshire Constabulary continues to be effective in its swift response to incidents involving vulnerable people. In our 2017 effectiveness report, we said that it had identified that further work was needed to improve the completion of risk assessments by officers, and that their use of body-worn video wasn’t routinely used to record evidence.
The force now consistently monitors the use and effectiveness of body-worn video. It also has innovative plans to work with television producers to improve the recording of evidence and gain a more comprehensive picture of crime scenes.
We saw that officers routinely complete effective risk assessments, and make referrals to schools when they identify children who are linked to a household where they may be affected by domestic abuse.
Officers routinely use body-worn video and take the time they need to make people feel safe.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a comprehensive mental health strategy. It anticipates that mental health-related demand will increase by 20 percent over the next three years. Its strategic approach recognises that investigations can be complex, and that victims with mental health illnesses may need support well beyond the initial crime scene.
The force’s approach to mental health triage is progressive and highly regarded by both its own workforce and partner organisations. Mental health nurses and intervention officers in the control room are available 23 hours daily. They help officers with appropriate patient information to improve the police response. The team frequently deploys to locations to accurately assess those who need additional or specialist support. While this has improved the initial assessment at the scene, officers can experience lengthy delays at healthcare premises where formal assessments take place. This means they are prevented from being usefully deployed to other incidents.
In December 2018, the mental health partnership carried out a formal evaluation of the mental health triage scheme. While the evaluation showed the scheme to be effective, it revealed that the triage team was being burdened by demand that should have been dealt with by other health agencies.
As a result, the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust has agreed additional investment to meet a target time of one hour for response by mental health professionals. This means that partners should receive a timelier service and their clients won’t need to be referred to the triage team. This will leave the team with more capacity to support police officers.
The mental health partnership also has plans to support people who frequently experience mental health crisis by offering them a mentor. The aim is to improve their resilience. This measure should further reduce the impact on both police and partners. This service was due to be launched in spring 2019 and we look forward to seeing the results.
We commend the fact that the force is supplementing the College of Policing mental health training with suicide intervention training.
Hertfordshire Constabulary reports that domestic abuse-related crimes have risen by 6 percent in the year 2018 to 2019. Much of the increase relates to complaints of harassment rather than physical violence. It is now reviewing its response to stalking and harassment complaints to see what improvements it can make.
Where a prosecution isn’t possible, the force makes use of other positive outcomes to reduce the future likelihood of domestic abuse. These include education programmes.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a sophisticated understanding of factors that underpin its approach to dealing with domestic abuse. These include an up-to-date problem profile, peer reviews of its own effectiveness, and work with victims and charities to provide independent scrutiny. This is particularly useful in cases where victims have withdrawn their co-operation.
Independent domestic violence advocate (IDVA) services work alongside officers. They support 96 percent of victims and children within the first 24 hours of the crime. The force recognises the importance of taking positive action within the first 48 hours; evidence-based research shows that victims are more likely to support a prosecution (or some other form of positive outcome) within that timeframe. Ninety-two percent of victims of domestic abuse who were surveyed by SafeLives said they would recommend contacting Hertfordshire Constabulary.
The force used arrest powers to protect victims in 36 percent of cases reported to it. But, having analysed its own data, it reports that, in high-risk cases, the arrest rate is 89 percent. This means that the most vulnerable victims receive a more intense police response. The remaining 11 percent are shown to be a mix of outstanding suspects, out-of-force arrests and counter-complaints.
For the force, capturing outstanding suspects is a high priority; it devotes significant resource to tracing and arresting them.
During our fieldwork, we were encouraged to find that frontline officers have a good understanding of hidden factors in domestic abuse and can identify offences of coercion and control. Where appropriate, the force is trialling an offer of an education programme to help prevent the escalation of potential domestic abuse in low-risk cases where no power of arrest exists. It also offers sanctioned perpetrator programmes to rehabilitate offenders. The police or probation services manages these programmes.
Supporting vulnerable victims
The support that Hertfordshire Constabulary gives to vulnerable victims is effective. It begins with a problem-solving ethos that isn’t dependent upon whether a crime is considered solvable. The IMU and victim service team are trained to signpost victims towards sources of assistance. Catch 22, a commissioned victim support service, gives tailored help to those deemed vulnerable.
Neighbourhood officers make good use of mapping facilities on systems which plot the addresses of people who are considered a high risk, such as registered sex offenders and domestic abuse perpetrators. This tool, together with frequent intelligence briefings based on geographic location, means that neighbourhood officers are better able to manage and respond to risk in their policing area.
The specialist safeguarding unit (SSU) is part of the DAISU and deals exclusively with victim safeguarding. The team is an expert resource, advising officers on a range of interventions that support safeguarding victims and families including so-called honour-based violence.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has developed a simplified online application for disclosures under Clare’s Law, a domestic abuse disclosure scheme. It made 44 right-to-know disclosures in 2016/17 and 54 disclosures in 2017/18. The SSU deals with all of these applications, meaning that applicants benefit from the disclosure and guidance of staff who are experts in safeguarding. The SSU makes all applications for prevention orders such as domestic violence prevention orders. It also reviews all investigations of stalking and monitors prison releases, contributing to multi-agency public protection meetings.
The force has a clear risk-based rationale for use of police bail to better protect vulnerable victims. The DAISU used bail in five out of six cases that we examined, all of which were appropriate.
In the 12 months from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, Hertfordshire Constabulary issued 27 domestic violence protection notices. This is a reduction on the 56 issued in the previous year, which is the result of the force making more effective use of police bail with conditions.
The force reports that between 22 January to 31st March 2019, its use of police bail in high-risk domestic abuse cases has risen from 18 percent to 32 percent. In medium-risk domestic abuse cases, its use has risen from 6 percent to 16 percent. In cases of sexual offences, its use has risen from 16 percent to 81 percent. The force is also giving more support to victims who apply for civil orders, because these generally remain in place for longer than some protection orders it applies for. This means that Hertfordshire Constabulary makes confident and effective use of police bail and other powers to safeguard victims.
As part of its response to improve safeguarding, Hertfordshire Constabulary has developed a safeguarding referrals hub. This provides a single point of contact for all referrals to and from adult or children’s services. The hub has developed a triage process to make sure referrals to the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) are timely.
We saw that a safeguarding referral involving a three-year-old child meant that an adult who was suspected of indecent exposure was arrested within 24 hours of the referral being made.
Referrals that identify vulnerable children pass through the safeguarding hub to the countywide MASH. The MASH is made up of police and probation officers, safeguarding nurses and children’s services staff. They work together to share information and protect children through timely provision of services.
The MASH received favourable feedback during a 2018 Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) inspection, with no recommendations for improvement. We saw good examples of effective practice, including a referral from a sexual health clinic relating to a child. The MASH immediately initiated a joint investigation, which revealed that the partner of a locally based registered sex offender had committed crimes against the child. This means that the voice of the child is recognised by services which co-operate to keep children safe and reduce further harm when it happens.
In Hertfordshire, a domestic abuse executive board oversees a partnership approach. The board sets joint priorities to reduce offences and improve outcomes for victims and their families. Five multi-agency risk-assessment conferences (MARACs) take place regularly across Hertfordshire districts to discuss high-risk cases of domestic violence.
The MARAC manager is co-located within the DAISU team. Reports of domestic abuse are scrutinised to make sure all high-risk cases are recorded and discussed. During 2018, referrals to MARAC have increased by 14 percent. Many of these referrals came from partner agencies, and there is good partner representation at MARAC meetings by housing, drug and alcohol, and mental health workers. IDVAs give some feedback to the board on the experience of victims. In spring 2019, an independent review of the effectiveness of the five county MARACs was due to be published.
Adults and children who are victims of sexual assault receive swift, specialist support though an independently commissioned sexual assault referral centre (SARC).
SARC asks for feedback from clients to further improve its work. It advertises its services to raise awareness of how it can help. This includes targeted marketing designed by university law students who are involved in the partnership. At SARC, all victims are offered support from a specialist independent sexual violence adviser and onward referrals to partner agencies such as the Talking Therapies pilot, the Beacon victim support service and Rape Crisis.
The SARC governing board is waiting to consider the recommendations of the police and crime commissioner’s recent report into the effectiveness of care to male victims.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is well organised in the way it manages convicted, high-risk sexual and violent offenders who pose a risk to vulnerable people. But it needs to improve its workforce’s understanding of processes to assess and manage the risk posed by unconvicted suspects.
The force recognises this and, during our inspection, the nature of our questioning focused on the management of potentially dangerous people and not specifically on sexual risk orders (SROs) and interim sexual risk orders (ISROs). Although the orders are one tool to manage potentially dangerous people, officers didn’t make that link. This means that the force cannot be confident that it is managing and mitigating the risk to the public from some potentially dangerous people. That said, the force has considered and successfully applied for SROs and ISROs, and officers in the safeguarding command are aware of both their existence and benefits.
Detectives who manage offenders within a specialist unit have high but manageable workloads. We noted that one detective carried 82 offender management cases, six of which related to high-risk offenders. This particular workload was, in part, due to sickness absence within the department. But it is higher than the reported average of 41.5 cases in the force’s 2018 management statement. Still, cases were effectively supervised and there were no overdue tasks. Visits to monitor very high-risk offenders are all authentically unannounced.
The force makes good use of its digital forensic technology. It manages well the risk posed by people sharing indecent images of children online. It makes daily use of technology to track those who seek indecent images and opens investigations into each case discovered.
To Hertfordshire Constabulary’s credit, it hasn’t adopted the practice of issuing letters to desist to suspects for low-level abuse images. Instead, it carries out enforcement on every such occasion and, in doing so, has uncovered incidents of more serious offending. This shows that it carries out meaningful investigations into all concerns, irrespective of the initial classification of risk.Summary for question 3
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Understanding the threat and responding to it
Hertfordshire Constabulary works jointly with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary to provide armed policing. This means that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are assured in all three forces.
The force has a good understanding of the potential harm facing communities in Hertfordshire. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.
Last year, we identified some areas where the force’s APSTRA could be improved. For example, it didn’t include details of how rapidly armed response vehicles (ARVs) respond to incidents. This is important to determine whether the force has sufficient armed officers to meet operational demands. The most recent APSTRA includes this detail.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most armed incidents in Hertfordshire Constabulary are attended by officers trained to an ARV standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.
We found that Hertfordshire Constabulary has adequate arrangements in place should specialist capabilities be needed. It has tried-and-tested arrangements with the Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire forces mean that specialist officers can be mobilised should their skills be required.
However, we believe there is scope to extend joint working beyond these three forces to include others in the region. This would strengthen operational resilience and bring greater assurance that officers with the right skills are on hand to manage the highest threats anywhere in the east of England.
Working with others
It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. As a consequence, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.
As Hertfordshire Constabulary provides armed policing jointly with neighbouring forces, armed officers can deploy effectively into adjoining counties if they need to. This means that greater armed response capacity is available to tackle armed criminals and protect the public.
We also recognise that a programme of work is underway to bring a number of policing services into joint venture in forces in the east of England. The seven-force collaboration programme, as it is known, is designed to make policing services more efficient and economical. We welcome the fact that armed policing forms part of this programme. In addition to our earlier comments about greater sharing of specialist capabilities, we also recognise that the available firearms training facilities available to the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire forces are limited. We believe that improved training facilities and greater sharing of specialist capabilities should be prioritised within the programme.
We examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Hertfordshire Constabulary are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. The force also has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified and improvements are made for the future.
In addition to debriefing training exercises, Hertfordshire Constabulary reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. We also found that this knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.Summary for question 5