Agenda item

Themed Item - Violence against Women and Girls

The PCC to present a report on how he is holding the Chief Constable to account in tackling violence against Women and Girls.


A background report is provided by the Panel’s Scrutiny Officer.    


The PCC reported that his Police & Criminal Justice Plan set out a number of priority areas, both within policing, across the wider criminal justice system and with local authorities that aligned with the Governments definition of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). The definition included:- Rape & Sexual Violence, sexual harassment, Stalking, Honour Based Abuse, Female Genital Mutilation, and Forced Marriage, Domestic Abuse, VAWG in public places, VAWG carried out online and prostitution and sex work


The PCC informed the Panel that whilst there was not a separate priority for VAWG in his recently adopted Police and Criminal Justice Plan, other priorities in his plan, covered VAWG and addressed the issues.


Discussion took place on the VAWG becoming a major national issue, and although the PCC’s Police and Criminal Justice Plan was endorsed by the Panel at its meeting in June 2021, there were concerns expressed at the omission of VAWG as a key priority.  


The PCC informed the Panel that VAWG was an important issue which TVP took very seriously and although it was not one of his five key priorities detailed in his Plan, he asked that women across the Thames Valley be reassured that TVP considered the prevention of VAWG as a priority.


Members’ Questions


1.             How is the PCC holding the Chief Constable to account to tackle the rise in drink “spiking” of young women in bars and nightclubs? Reference was made to a cluster of incidents within Cherwell District and the PCC was asked whether he thought these offences were underreported.


[The PCC replied that this was a complex area, particularly around needle spiking and he was not aware of there being evidence of such incidents occurring in Thames Valley. He encouraged all women who had been concerned they might have been needle or drink “spiked” to contact the Police. TVP were equipped with test kits which could identify if an offence had been committed.


The PCC said that generally there had not been an increased in sexual assaults as a result of “spiking”, which could be due to lack of reporting, but he acknowledged that there could be a fear of this crime for women.]


2.             As the Chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board what improvements will need to be made to bring perpetrators of Violence against Women and Girls to justice?


[The PCC reported that conviction rates in Thames Valley for Rape, for example were good, although this crime could be a difficult crime to get convictions for. The PCC acknowledged that there needed to be improvements made to bring perpetrators of violence against Women and Girls to justice and referred to the recent change of Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames Valley. The PCC informed the Panel that he would hold a meeting with the Chief Crown Prosecutor to discuss the possible expansion of the recent pilot scheme operated in Aylesbury to speed up domestic violence prosecutions. The approach of the judiciary needed to be looked at to improve outcomes for victims.


The PCC agreed with a comment made that timeliness was important as well as the quality of investigations at the outset. There was a problem with disclosures, so file quality had to be improved. During lockdown there had been improvements made but this needed to be maintained.   


The PCC noted the comments made around the Crown Prosecution Service and a Criminal Justice Plan to make improvements. The Panel was informed that this would be the responsibility of the Local Criminal Justice Board, but the PCC said he would raise this and report back to a future Panel meeting.] 


3.             A Member referred to some domestic violence which was not reported but was tolerated, particularly in certain communities. However, there was a problem of victims not being kept informed in a timely fashion on reported domestic violence and this needed to be improved.


[The PCC agreed with the statement and said he would take up the matter with the Chief Constable. It was obviously important that Police Officers attended domestic violence incidents promptly, however resources were sometimes the issue, however, victims had a right to receive timely updates on cases, although some cases were complex.]


4.             How is the PCC holding the Chief Constable to account to ensure the restoration of trust in TVP Police Officers following recent media coverage of crimes committed by Met police force officers, particularly the murder of Sarah Everard?  How will the PCC hold the Chief Constable to account the enable women to report crimes against them?


[The PCC replied that performance needed to be driven up and support for victims had to be improved.]


5.              Could the PCC give the Panel assurances that TVP have robust vetting procedures in the appointment of Police Officers?


[The PCC reported that HMICFRS would be undertaking an inspection of police capability and capacity to vet and monitor officers and staff. Members were informed that every potential police officer recruit goes through a thorough vetting stage as part of their application process. This included disclosing checks on family and friends. The vetting process also included measuring the person against the College of Policing's Code of Ethics.


The PCC commented that the inspection would look at whether the present standards were sufficient. Reference was made to the difficulty in ensuring that all existing Police Officers upheld the required standards, although in TVP, unacceptable behaviour was generally reported by fellow officers, although this could not be 100% guaranteed.]


6.             Does the PCC have Freedom of Information statistics for the number of sexual offences committed by TVP Officers in recent years.


[The PCC reported that in 2018 there had been 14 investigations into sexual misconduct, with 7 complaints from the public. In 2019, it was12 investigations and 4 complaints; 2020 9 investigations and 9 complaints; 2021 16 investigations and 4 complaints.


The OPCC Governance Team, which is responsible for undertaking formal reviews of police complaints on behalf of the PCC, have an oversight on performance and outcomes of the Force’s Professional Standards Department.


The PCC commented that the key thing was the processes which were in place, although there was an issue assuming that all allegations made were true, which was incorrect. TVP had a good record of dismissing officers if they have committed a crime.]


The Chair of the Panel commented that it was important to note that the overwhelming majority of Police Officers were honourable and the recent events which had diminished the publics’ confidence in the Police had been demoralising for the Force.


RESOLVED - (1) That the information provided in the report and from the witness session be noted.


(2) That the PCC be asked to consider adding Violence against Women and Girls as a sixth key priority in his Police and Criminal Justice Plan, in view of recent national developments on the issue.  


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