Northumbria Police rated as ‘Good’ in latest inspection report

22 Mar 2018 08:00 AM

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“PROTECTING the vulnerable in our communities and ensuring they are fully supported are our top priorities.”

That is the message from Northumbria Police after receiving an overall rating of ‘Good’ in the latest independent report into how effective the Force is at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

Following the inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), four possible ratings were available: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires Improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’.

The Force already holds ‘Good’ ratings from a previous inspection when it comes to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, and tackling serious and organised crime.

In the latest areas to be assessed, it was graded as ‘Good’ for investigating crime and reducing re-offending, and classed as ‘Requires Improvement’ for protecting vulnerable people.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, Darren Best, said: “We are pleased inspectors have recognised we do a good job when it comes to keeping people safe and reducing crime.

“They have also praised a number of initiatives, most notably where we work with partners to protect and support vulnerable victims.

“However, we are obviously disappointed where areas have been identified for improvement. I can reassure the public that a great deal of progress has already been made to address these – but we are far from complacent and this work continues at pace.

“I want to make it absolutely clear, that protecting the vulnerable in our communities and ensuring they are fully supported at every stage are without a shadow of a doubt our top priorities.”

He added: “While it is absolutely right we focus on the areas HMICFRS has identified for improvement, it would be wrong not to recognise where the Force continues to make significant strides and is providing a high standard of service.

“This is a testament to the dedication of our hard working officers and staff who continually go the extra mile to make sure Northumbria remains one of the safest places in the country to live and work.”

There was notable praise in the report for officers and staff who were described as having a full understanding of vulnerability and know their responsibilities when dealing with vulnerable people.

This was further reflected in the excellent work highlighted with partners to protect and support vulnerable victims. This includes acclaim for the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs), which bring together key agencies under one roof to ensure the most appropriate response is provided to individuals.

The report also recognises the high satisfaction rates amongst domestic abuse victims, with around 94 per cent satisfied with the overall service they receive.

A ground-breaking initiative, spearheaded by Northumbria Police and the Force’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, will ensure the level of service offered to domestic abuse victims continues to improve. The £18 million project, currently in the second of a three-year programme, involves six forces and is intended to provide a template for how this crime should be tackled by police and partner agencies nationwide.

The report found the Force was good at using its legal powers to protect vulnerable people, while investigations carried out by the specialist Safeguarding Department – which handles such cases as sexual offences and domestic abuse – were said to be of good quality.

There was acknowledgment for the way the Force supports people with mental health problems, including through a street triage team operated with the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. This helps ensure people receive rapid access to appropriate treatment or care plans. As a result, the number of people being detained by police under the Mental Health Act has been significantly reduced.

Considerable improvement was also highlighted in the examination of digital devices, which reflects the Force’s positive response to emerging crime types involving such evidence.

Commissioner Baird said: “As the person charged with close scrutiny of Northumbria Police every single day, I don't agree on this occasion with HMICFRS’s assessment that Northumbria Police, in one aspect, should be classed as 'needing improvement'.

“Northumbria Police is good at protecting the vulnerable and I hear praise for that almost every day from members of the public.

“Although they are modest about their achievements, they accept that there is always room to get even better.

“I want to make clear that my own experiences of the Force are not in line with those of HMICFRS.”

The report identified six areas for improvement.

From these, a clear theme emerges around consistency. While the inspection highlights that good standards are being achieved, it states there are areas were this level is not being met all of the time.

Since the inspection in October last year, significant progress has already been made to address this with additional training and new processes in place.

The Safeguarding Department is now also working towards a new model, developed shortly prior to the inspection. This has seen additional members recruited to the team, with more on their way. The scope of offences dealt with by this specialist unit has also been widened to further make sure victims receive the best service possible.