North Yorkshire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
North Yorkshire Police is good at looking after vulnerable people who are victims of crime. From the first contact with a victim, the force recognises when people need support and help. Those who handle calls in the control room can see the records and other information they need to judge how best to work with vulnerable victims. Officers were able to explain to inspectors how they assess risk. But the force should make sure that those risk judgments are properly recorded using the tools available. This would mean the force could be sure that it is offering a consistently good service to vulnerable victims. Officers and staff have recently been trained to recognise signs of vulnerability.
The control room also has good ways of quickly assessing people’s mental health needs at peak times, with plans to offer this service 24 hours a day every day. Street teams in some areas also have the skills to recognise people with mental ill health. However, officers and staff are concerned about the extra pressures resulting from some mental health suites closing.
In some places, daily meetings talk about the ‘most vulnerable, most demanding, most dangerous and most wanted’ people. The force should think about applying this way of working across North Yorkshire so that vulnerability is identified consistently.
The force has improved its data collection on domestic abuse since our last inspection in 2017. It has also introduced an additional post so that court applications in domestic abuse cases are improved and achieve positive results to protect vulnerable victims, with the vast majority of applications succeeding. This is a positive step. However, the force needs to understand why not all high-level domestic abuse cases are being properly referred for multi-agency support.
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?
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 protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Areas for improvement
- The force should assure itself that risk assessment processes are being appropriately recorded when dealing with calls from the public to manage risk for all vulnerable victims.
- The force should review its MARAC referral processes to ensure that all high-risk victims of domestic abuse are protected.
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
North Yorkshire Police uses the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) definition of vulnerability. Caring for the vulnerable is identified as a priority in the police, fire and crime commissioner’s (PFCC) police and crime plan. The force’s control strategy has a focus on vulnerable victims. There is a senior strategic lead for vulnerability, and it is overseen at the force vulnerability board and the force operations board. Operational leads are accountable for control strategy delivery and action plans, which are also monitored at force level. Two police analysts are embedded within local authorities and they use MoRile, Mosaic, information from partner agencies and community profiling to understand risk and vulnerability. As a result, the force is well placed to understand vulnerability and protect vulnerable people.
Most officers and staff we spoke to during our inspection had received recent vulnerability training, including in dealing with child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and female genital mutilation. They understood and could explain vulnerability, including hidden harm. The force refreshed its domestic abuse, stalking and harassment policies and procedures in January 2019. It has procedures for identifying and dealing with hidden harm, including female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and uses a range of safeguarding toolkits to support officers.
We observed differences in the way daily management meetings run across the force. These meetings are vital in ensuring that vulnerable victims at high risk of harm are protected. In York, a comprehensive daily meeting included vulnerability and discussed those people who were ‘most vulnerable, most demanding, most dangerous and most wanted’. The meeting also discussed the application and management of current domestic violence protection orders and notices (DVPOs and DVPNs) and multi-agency tasking and co-ordinating-related incidents. In Scarborough, the daily meeting focused more on resourcing, crime recording and other business, including intelligence. This means that important issues affecting vulnerable people may not be identified at an early stage and they may not be properly protected. The force should consider adopting a consistent approach to these meetings, prioritising vulnerability, to make sure that vulnerable victims are protected from harm across North Yorkshire.
In the control room, the force uses a call handling system called Aspire. Repeat and vulnerable victims are identified through caller details and the addition of specific comments to show vulnerability. Control room staff have access to the force’s intelligence system. They can research information about the caller or situation that can be added directly to the incident log as it is created, improving the quality of the initial response. The call handler can add further manual flags to highlight the vulnerable nature of the caller or incident, including domestic abuse incidents and mental health concerns. Control room supervisors and operational sergeants are told about domestic abuse incidents, providing further scrutiny and management of these calls to make sure that appropriate help is provided to vulnerable callers. Our inspection found that domestic abuse is a priority both for operational officers and the control room staff.
We reviewed a sample of crime files and spent time in the control room examining calls for service and incident logs. All the control room staff we spoke to had been trained to use the force’s risk assessment tool THRIVE and understood how to apply it. However, force policy makes it discretionary for call handlers as to whether to record their THRIVE assessment on the incident log. We found that most incident logs and crime files didn’t formally document a risk assessment. While staff could explain to our inspectors how they assess risk, if a sound rationale isn’t documented, the force can’t be confident that all vulnerability is being identified in a consistent manner. The force should assure itself that risk assessment processes are being appropriately recorded when dealing with calls from the public to manage risk for all vulnerable victims.
Responding to incidents
North Yorkshire Police has generally effective call handling arrangements, with most incidents graded appropriately. Incidents receive a prompt response most of the time. Where we saw a delay in responding to priority calls, there was no apparent adverse effect and victims were kept safe. But the risk for victims wasn’t consistently reassessed if those delays continued or became protracted. The force should make sure that, where there is a delayed response, incidents are regularly reassessed for risk and that it is properly recorded.
The force is generally working well with its partners in the complex area of mental health. The control room uses a mental health triage service, with approved mental health professionals with access to health records as well as force systems. The force wants to extend this service beyond its current availability of 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Mental health is also assessed using street triage services in the Vale of York, Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale. The workforce believes that the support works well, where it is offered. But the closure of some suites where vulnerable people are taken for mental health support (under section 136 of the Mental Health Act) has led to officers reporting delays at the suites and increased travel times. North Yorkshire Police recognises that the provision and availability of mental health services vary across the different geographical areas of the force. It is working with partners to introduce mental health co-ordinators to deal with demand more effectively and consistently. The aim is to bring a preventative and early intervention approach to mental health support work.
Domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) risk assessments are completed satisfactorily in most cases, with immediate safeguarding arrangements being identified. Specialist domestic abuse officers review all incidents, including the completion of DASH and police protection notices. In each case, they check the initial safeguarding actions taken and determine what further safeguarding arrangements are required. The force monitors the quality of these assessments and provides feedback to officers. This helps to improve future referrals and further protection for vulnerable people.
In 2017 we found that, because the force wasn’t accurately collecting data about domestic abuse cases, it couldn’t provide assurance that it was providing a consistent and appropriate level of service to all victims. We assessed this as an area for improvement. We are pleased to see that it has now fully addressed this issue and is collecting accurate data to protect victims. This means its work can be compared with other forces. By referring to this data during this inspection, we were able to determine that North Yorkshire Police protects most victims of domestic abuse through the appropriate use of arrest powers. Its domestic abuse arrest rate is higher than the England and Wales rate for 2017/18. The force also refreshed its domestic abuse procedure in January 2019, giving confidence that positive action to keep victims safe remains a priority.
Data provided by the force shows that it makes positive use of pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases compared to the England and Wales rate. However, it has a backlog in finalising crime records and so it can’t be clear how many domestic abuse cases result in charges or summons. The force is acting to reduce this backlog and monitoring its performance through its crime data integrity improvement board, chaired by the deputy chief constable. It also conducts surveys to receive feedback from domestic abuse victims, to learn and improve its service for other victims.
Supporting vulnerable victims
North Yorkshire Police supports vulnerable victims well. Neighbourhood teams help to keep vulnerable victims safe in their area. Police community support officers (PCSOs) are trained in dealing with domestic abuse and given guidance on safety planning and how to carry out effective safeguarding visits. Most officers and staff we spoke to understood where responsibility for safeguarding lies in domestic abuse cases. This enables clear support to be given, reducing the potential for further harm.
In our 2017 inspection, we observed that the number of DVPOs and DVPNs applied for and granted had reduced. We are pleased to see that the force now has good processes for dealing with DVPOs and DVPNs. Superintendents are trained to assess applications. It has appointed a domestic abuse court presentation officer to make sure that applications are consistent. The presentation officer works closely with domestic abuse co-ordinators and legal services to present applications and breaches at court. Since the role started in December 2018, the force has secured 35 of its 36 applications for orders and notices and proven 13 of the 14 breaches that it reported. It monitors all applications made and informs its workforce when new orders are granted. This supports vulnerable people living within the force’s area.
Clare’s Law applications are made through the control room, with disclosures being considered and made, where appropriate, through domestic abuse co-ordinators. Data collected by the force shows the number of requests made each month is increasing. The force received 145 right to know and 90 right to ask applications in 2017/18 and it acknowledges that it could make better use of this process.
Through the multi-agency safeguarding team and vulnerability assessment team, the force works closely with partner organisations to keep people safe from harm. It participates in monthly vulnerable, exploited, missing and trafficking meetings and undertakes multi-agency problem-solving initiatives. It shares information about cases with other forces and agencies, where appropriate. It also contributes to MARAC processes, but our inspection found that not all high-risk domestic abuse cases are referred to MARAC. The force is aware of this issue and has commissioned further work to establish if this is due to demand or because the risk has been thoroughly assessed, negating the need for further referral.
Registered sex offenders (RSOs) are well managed. The force uses both the Risk Matrix 2000 and the active risk management system to systematically understand the risks posed by offenders. At the time of our inspection, there were no backlogs in the assessment or management of cases. The force had the resources needed to manage current demands and workloads appeared reasonable. The force has also invested in technology to support officers making visits to offenders. The offender management unit (OMU) uses prevention and detection software to monitor those who pose a risk online. This is supported by triage and route detection technology.
Electronic monitoring is used to tag some RSOs who are subject to a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO). It is also used on a voluntary basis for some offenders who are managed by the OMU on a case by case basis. This helps to proactively manage the risk they pose. Local officers are briefed when RSOs are released from custody or move into their area. All RSOs are given a ‘notify’ and ViSOR flag on Niche which allows any officer to check who has moved into the area they police. Public protection officers can also work from local neighbourhood stations. We found evidence that this supported neighbourhood officers’ knowledge. The force has appointed a dedicated criminal and civil orders officer in its OMU. The officer assesses those offenders who present a risk of further harm and applies for civil orders contained within the legislation – SHPOs and sexual risk orders.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 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Understanding the threat and responding to it
The force has an adequate understanding of the potential harm facing the public. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is 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.
There are two areas where the APSTRA could be improved:
- it would benefit from stronger analysis and intelligence regarding armed criminals who present risks in North Yorkshire and neighbouring forces; and
- it does not 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.
Last year, we identified an additional area where the force’s APSTRA could be improved. The force had not published its own APSTRA and was reliant on an assessment of threats and risks affecting several forces in the region. This has now been rectified.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. The majority of armed incidents in North Yorkshire 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 North Yorkshire Police has good arrangements in place to mobilise specialist officers should their skills be required. On these occasions, agreements are in place for the capabilities to be provided by the regional counter-terrorist unit.
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.
North Yorkshire Police has effective arrangements with forces in Yorkshire and the Humber region to provide armed policing. This means that the standards of training, armed deployment and command of armed operations are assured in all forces in the region. It also brings certainty that armed officers can deploy flexibly and rapidly into neighbouring police force areas.
We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in North Yorkshire Police are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, North Yorkshire Police 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, we also found that North Yorkshire Police 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