The National Police Chiefs’ Council brings together all police forces in the UK to assist the co-ordination of national operations. They enable independent chief constables and their forces to work together to improve policing for the public. The National Policing Lead for Victims and Witnesses is the Council’s representative for victim-related matters. They are an active member of the police force and the post is held by the Assistant Chief Constable from West Midlands Police.

Meeting Date: 19 January 2017

Matters Discussed:

Victim Personal Statement

The Victims’ Commissioner (VC) expressed concern at the low level of offers of a Victim Personal Statement (VPS), as set out in her report published on 18 January. She welcomed the police input into the “common script” for police and other practitioners to use when explaining to victims the purpose of the personal statement.

The Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) agreed that the performance was disappointing. He did not consider it to be predominantly a resourcing issue. He also felt that the data under-reported what was happening on the ground, albeit, the offer of a VPS was not being made often enough. The VC and the ACC discussed options for police capturing data that more accurately reflected what was happening on the ground.

West Midlands Police were developing a victim “wideo” which would be loaded onto police officers’ mobile devices and they could use it explain to victims their rights and entitlements. The VC was very interested in this initiative and wanted to be kept informed on how it progresses.

The VC reported that the “common script” was in the process of being signed off and a victim version of the script would appear on the VC website. It was agreed it was important that police offers were aware of the script and were using it. The police will ensure that it is circulated to all forces.

Response to Henriques Report and the Handling of CSA Cases

The VC asked for an update on the police response to the Henriques Report. The Report recommended that victims of sexual abuse be referred to as ‘complainants’ prior to a successful conviction and that the police adopt a position of neutrality when such crimes were reported, as opposed to the current position of ‘believing’ the victim.

In December 2016, the VC issued a statement making clear that she did not agree with these recommendations.

The ACC confirmed that he understood the College of Policing was considering the recommendations and an official response would be issued in due course.

Witness Care Unit Review

The VC is aware that the police and CPS are undertaking a review of Witness Care Units (WCUs) in England and Wales. For many years, the police and CPS have jointly staffed these units; however, CPS staff have been removed from WCU work, leaving these units to be mostly staffed by police.

The ACC confirmed that discussions between the police and CPS are ongoing. It is important that services provided to victims by WCUs continue to form part of a joined-up service between the police and CPS. The ACC suggested that, at some point, the Victims’ Code will need to be amended to reflect the new arrangements.The ACC undertook to keep the VC informed of developments.

Witness Intermediary Service

The VC is concerned about the provision of registered intermediaries (RIs). The ACC informed the VC that police have highlighted a wide-scale problem which identified the provision of intermediaries is too low, and victims are being left without the essential support they need when facing trials at court. The Ministry of Justice has committed to recruiting a further 100 Intermediaries, however, this process will take some time and given the likely level of demand, it is thought that significantly more RIs will be needed.

The ACC agreed that there was an ongoing problem and that he had written to Ministers to highlight the issue.

The ACC and VC agreed to keep the ongoing issue under review. In the meantime, her office are considering a VC review into the impact of the shortage of RIs and the process for recruitment.

Handling of Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage Cases

The VC expressed concern about allegations regarding the CPS’ handling of Honour Based Violence (HBV) and Forced Marriage (FM) cases. While the rates of prosecution and conviction are continually improving, she remains concerned about the numbers of acquittals or discontinuances and the impact that this may have on victims.

The VC has written to the Attorney General and Home Secretary expressing her concerns and the impact on victims. She will follow this up with them, following their response.

The ACC will ask for a written update from the National Policing Lead and ensure that the VC is sent a copy.

Implementation of Stalking Protection Orders

The VC welcomed the announcement that the Home Secretary is seeking amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill, which will allow the police to impose Stalking Protection Orders on perpetrators. She sought reassurance that the police will take the issue of stalking seriously and will use the Orders appropriately in order to protect victims. Many victims suffer further incidents after reporting, for example during the police investigation and when awaiting any decision to prosecute.

The ACC confirmed the police were very receptive to the proposed Order. He would update the VC at future meetings, having sought an update from the National Policing Lead.