POP0001

 

 

 

Written Evidence submitted by NPCC and College of Policing (POP0001)

Follow Up Questions from Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Policing Priorities: Joint NPCC and College of Policing Response

 

Q: An explanation of why the proportion of recorded crimes being closed is at its “lowest ever level”

1. A: The police and the CPS both have key roles to play in charging.  The police are responsible for undertaking effective early investigations to collate the key evidence required to make informed decisions in cases. Where the police proceed to charge, they will assess the case to determine:

2. The police consider if there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect. Some cases need to be referred to the CPS to determine whether the suspect is to be charged.

3. It is the role of the CPS to decide which cases should be prosecuted, determine the appropriate changes in more serious or complex cases, and advise the police during the early stages of investigations. They also prepare cases and present them at court and provide information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.1

 

4. As the Institute for Government have highlighted, the proportion of recorded crimes which result in charges fell to 6% in 2021-22, continuing a declining trajectory going back to 2014-15.1 This trend has partly been driven by the increase in volume of crimes recorded, but also the continued fall in the absolute number of charges. The reasons why charging rates have declined is due to a variety of challenges across the criminal justice system that are stretching policing’s limited resources in all directions. These include: 

 

5. Growing complexity of crime.  The composition of crime is changing so that a greater proportion of crime reported to the police is complex and often difficult to prosecute. Fraud is now the single largest category of crime in England and Wales comprising 41% of all crime against individuals, compared with 30% in the year ending March 2017.2 80% of all fraud is computer-enabled and these are often complex crimes that require specialist skills to solve.3  Perpetrators are also frequently based overseas which can also frustrate attempts to bring charges.  


6. Police forces are also receiving increased reports of high harm crime such as rape (reports of which have more than doubled since 2015) and domestic abuse, which also require specialist skills and are often difficult to prosecute.4 Increases in high harm crimes, will often result in lower harm volume crimes receiving less priority from the police which translates into lower charging rates. 

 

7. The broadening of the policing mission has pulled resources away from traditional law enforcement activities such as detection. Significant increases in non-crime demand from individuals with mental health problems, drug addiction and homelessness as well as children missing from care uses up officer time that could be spent on investigation, case preparation and victim support.   

 

8. Policing is also increasingly expected to take a proactive role in the long-term safeguarding of people from harm, and to seek out ‘hidden harms’ such as modern slavery and child sexual exploitation that would not necessarily be surfaced through calls to the service. In 2014-15, HMICFRS made protecting those vulnerable and safeguarding victims a key pillar of its effectiveness inspections.6  

 

9. Capability and skills shortages. There are fewer detectives to investigate cases. The shortage of skilled investigators across the service widened in 2021 to just over 6,851 from 4,974 the year before.7 More cases that require specialist skills are being led by junior officers working with minimal supervision. This was cited by the Home/Office Ministry of Justice End-to-End review of rape prosecutions as a factor in chronically low charging rates for rape cases.8 In August 2022, HMICFRS also attributed low charging rates for burglary, theft and robbery to a lack of specialist skills, effective supervision and digital forensics capacity.9   

 

10. Delays and backlogs: Investigations are taking longer, which means there are fewer cases ready for charges at any one time. The median number of days to close cases with a charge/summons has risen steadily since 2018 from 14 to 44 days. Some cases, such as rape cases, take much longer than others to be charged.10  

 

11. Lengthier investigations reflect the impact of skills shortages on more complex investigations, and also the impact of labour-intensive pre-charge redaction obligations and Covid backlogs in the courts. The impact of these and possible solutions are discussed further in answer to the last question.   

 

12. Long investigations are also believed to be a factor in victim disengagement.11 The proportion of cases recorded where victims did not support police action has grown from 8.7% in year-ending March 2015 to 26.5% year-ending March 2022.12 

 

What can be done about it? 

 

13. Tackling non-crime demand – in both the NPCC and the College’s written evidence it was submitted that the volume of demand placed on policing by individuals as a result of other agencies failing to address their needs requires cross-Government working.  

 

14. Strong multi-agency partnerships with schools, social services and health services to manage demand related to safeguarding and early intervention upstream targeted at individuals vulnerable to victimization or criminal exploitation.  

 

15. Training and In-Work CPD are the biggest levers for transforming the productivity of a workforce. The curriculum for all new entry routes equips new officers to do much more than was the case previously, particularly with regard to investigation. The new training contains significantly expanded and improved content on investigative skills and preparing cases for charge and prosecution. On top of that, the College has introduced a Detective elective for new recruits on the Police Degree Apprenticeship and has worked with forces to create a Detective Direct Entry Scheme.  

 

16. Forces are strongly encouraged to send more officers in-post on the specialist training provided on investigating the most complex cases and to ensure widespread engagement with digital skills CPD, Operation Modify, which covers the core elements of digital case building and disclosure. To galvanise uptake of CPD, the College is reforming promotion criteria to make career progression conditional on CPD. 

 

17. More effective supervision – With a young, less experienced workforce, it is more important than ever that junior officers receive strong support and guidance, especially when carrying out complex tasks such as disclosure and redaction. Through the new National Centre for Police Leadership, a leadership programme is being developed for every rank and grade, including a dedicated programme for first-line supervisors which will give all police constables, special constables, sergeants and staff equivalents the skills they need in their role, including the operational leadership of complex investigations.   

 

 

Q: The role of data and research evidence in helping policing forces to make decisions about priorities.

18. A:  In broad terms, data, research and evidence can help force decision making in three ways. First, it can help a force better understand how resources and processes connect with outcomes, enabling a systematic investigation and improvement of productivity. Second, data and the underpinning analyses enable us to operate more efficiently (e.g. hot spot analysis allowing us to focus resource) and more effectively, as data opens new lines of enquiry and provides new forms of evidence. Third, research allows us to anticipate future threats and develop future capabilities, so that policing is ready for the future challenges. An example of that is the College’s Future Operational Environment 2040, the first national horizon scanning programme across policing that identifies 10 key trends over the next 20 years and outlines their potential impact on society and the service.2

19. Within the NPCC, Professor Paul Taylor is the first person to be appointed to the post of National Policing Chief Scientific Adviser.  The role connects science and technology expertise both in the UK and globally to keep policing at the forefront of best practice. The Chief Scientific Adviser has a science and technology strategy, and his office uses emerging evidence, research and innovation in science and technology, including in both data and behavioural science, to advise policing on both the opportunities and risks to help reduce crime.

 

20. In collaboration with the College of Policing, there is a process for continuously collecting ‘what works’ examples of how data, research and evidence help force productivity and crime reduction.  The ‘What Works Centre’ housed within the College of Policing (its recent activity and impact on policing is set out in more detail in Appendix 1) promotes and embeds evidence-based practice across policing.  

A selection of some examples include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Q: Examples of police forces around the world that have got to grips with some of the new challenges facing policing

 

30. A: As set out above, evidence-led policing will help ensure that innovations from across the world are harnessed to ensure UK policing stays at the fore front of global policing. Many of the challenges we are facing are faced in other jurisdictions. The British model, and UK policing more widely, is considered to be at the leading edge of responding to these challenges, and we collectively receive a large amount of interest from policing around the world to learn from our approach. Some good international examples, however, include:

 

 

 

Q: Is there a tension between the command and control mode of policing and using discretion and creative thinking?

34. A: While there are still some aspects of policing where command and control is vital – e.g. firearms and public order - the vast majority of policing roles do not fully require this approach. Instead, officers require excellent decision-making skills, professional judgment and curiosity. This is widely recognised across policing and service-wide changes have been introduced to strengthen officers’ decision-making and problem-solving skills. These include:

 

 

38. For roles where command and control is essential, there are license to practise requirements which set stringent, prescriptive national standards and have mandatory on-going CPD requirements as a condition of accreditation. Compliance is high across policing, with 35,000 officers currently accredited for high-risk policing roles (firearms and public order)

 

Q: How can the Criminal Justice System be improved?

39. A: The NPCC and the College have set out detailed answers in our written evidence as to how policing can work with other partners to ensure that justice can be better obtained.  In our answer to question 1, we have set out some of the challenges within the Criminal Justice System and so in this answer we will focus on the points not already made. NPCC supports the Government’s manifesto commitment to have a Royal Commission into the criminal justice system or given associated timescales with Royal Commissions, and would support an independent review.  In the meantime, addressing the following issues would have a significant impact on case progression, partnership working and the pressures that are building up at different pinch points across the system.

Swift Justice

40. Delays impact on conviction rates as both victims and witnesses may drop out and therefore positive outcomes are harder to obtain. One of the main factors fuelling delays across the criminal justice system is the court backlog, particularly in the Crown court where the mean number of days from charge to case completion is 294 days, a reflection of the ongoing legacy of the Covid and long-standing issues stemming from the ageing judicial workforce and a shortage of new recruits coming forward.

 

41. These delays have profound knock-on effects across the system. The support needed to maintain engagement with victims and witnesses provided by police witness care units has increased enormously. Not only has the caseload each witness care officer holds increased, but also in the contact each case requires. Further, the CPS have to service the cases in the system, thus reducing their capacity to service new referrals from the police service, leading to delays and frustration at the ‘entry point.’  

 

42. HMCTS is taking steps to address the backlog including lifting the limit on the number of sitting days at the Crown Court, increasing the sentencing powers of the magistrates and raising the judicial retirement age from 70 to 75.

 

43. Further steps that could help would be to reduce the number of cases going to courts in the first place, through making greater use of out of court disposals. Increasing capacity for in-custody charging decisions, including non-remand to custody cases would also help speed up the process. Courts should also continue to make greater use of technology to speed up processes and have digitally enabled court sittings we well as increased number and length of sitting days to help tackle the backlog of cases

 

44. Just focusing on conviction rates can create perverse incentives within the system. In particular, efforts that forces make to reduce crime by pursuing out of court disposals that have a diversionary element are not formally recognised as a successful outcome, yet they take energy and effort to achieve, have the victim at the heart of the process and can help reduce crime by forcing offenders to change behaviour. There are a number of such schemes in operation but until full credit is given for this work, it is less attractive than it could be for forces to invest in. 

 

Partnership Working

 

45. The relationship between policing with the CPS at a strategic level is strong, with a jointly chaired Operational Improvement Board which directs national work focused on improving performance across a range of areas. The challenge remains the local relationships between forces and the local CPS prosecution team. Where there is a strong and supportive relationship, this is usually reflected in positive performance but there is still too much inconsistency across England and Wales and this is something that the further development of CJ scorecards will highlight. 

 

46. When CPS staff were co-located within police stations this led to a positive and constructive relationship and allowed quick time discussions to be had and informal advice to be sought.  This contributed to improved file quality and a wider appreciation of what could legitimately be put before the courts.  Currently, many forces feel there is a disconnect between the police and the CPS,   and that more frequent informal conversations would help improve communications between them.    

 

Attorney General Guidelines  

 

47. Another major stumbling block for case progression is the extent of redaction required to comply with data protection legislation. Investigators are required to redact any personal information not necessary for a charging decision before the case material is sent to prosecutors. This ties up police resources for a protracted period of time, extending the length of investigations and possibly fuelling increased rates of victims dropping support for police action.   

 

48. In recent months, the police and CPS have published revised joint redaction principles, but these have to reflect the law as it currently is. The Attorney General has recently issued revised guidelines that concept of proportionality in some limited circumstances. This is welcome but has yet to be tested fully.  Policing has argued for the creation of a ‘redaction bubble’ which would allow the police to share unredacted material with the CPS at pre-charge advice stage. This could be explored initially through a pilot.

 

49. The NPCC suggests that if simplification of the disclosure processes could be achieved, this would free significant investigative capacity and help improve performance.   The NPCC also supports more robust application of rules intended to ensure defendants provide the substance of their defence as early as possible, so that trials therefore focus on the material issues, would also help target energies.  

 

Victim-Focused Approach 

 

50. The whole criminal justice system must take a victim focused approach.  Cases put forward must be victim led and barriers to justice such as ‘rape myths’ must be dispelled.  More accessible training is being developed for all frontline officers involved in rape cases that takes a victim-centred approach and tackles rape myths head on. Forces should ensure that all officers working on these cases take the training in order to deliver a consistent awareness. Elements of the training have been co-produced with the CPS to ensure consistency not just across forces, but across agencies.

 

October 2022