Written evidence submitted by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (POP0055)






1. As the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee as part of its inquiry. 


2. Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is the largest police force area in England.  It has a population of 1.79 million and a diverse geography spanning urban centres, rural geographies and coastal towns.  Whilst our area has one of the lowest rates of recorded crime in the country it is not without significant challenges, including those posed by delivering policing services to our resident population and the millions of tourists who visit our area every yearMy 2021-2025 Police and Crime Plan is focused on creating safe, resilient and connected communities and prioritises action on four key issues: preventing violence; tackling drugs; improving road safety; and addressing anti-social behaviour. 


3. Before addressing the questions posed by the Committee, I would like to highlight an issue which is of fundamental importance to all of the questions: understanding and addressing the needs of victims at each and every stage of the police’s work and across the wider criminal justice process.


4. Being a victim of crime is one of the most terrifying things that can happen in your life.  First and foremost it is essential that policing is focused on understanding the needs of victims, in supporting them to cope and recover from their ordeal and in assisting their journey through the criminal justice system.  This victim focus is key, right from the first contact that is made.


5. Ensuring the needs of victims are understood and addressed is not just a matter for the police service but for all parts of the criminal justice system and as chair of my Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) I am working with partners from across the justice system to secure this.  It is incumbent upon leaders of all agencies to ensure that the right culture, training and support is provided so that officers and staff have the required skills, focus and confidence to ensure that victims are at the centre of everything. 


6. Police and Crime Commissioners as the victims champion locally have a central role to play in this area and need to be supported following the PCC Review to carry out their convening role and to work across agency boundaries as part of the LCJB to deliver for victims of crime.  Locally, our area has been the first in the country to introduce a dedicated Victims Code of Practice scrutiny process within the LCJB, with agencies coming together to examine the extent to which the rights given to victims in the Victims Code of Practice are being met and to identify and roll out learning. I welcome the commitment given in the PCC Review to place LCJBs on a statutory footing and to enshrine the Police and Crime Commissioner convening role as Chair and I look forward to seeing further details about how this approach will operate and its timing. 


7. I have also welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a Victims Bill and have provided comments on the draft Bill to the Justice Committee as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny.  It is vital that the work of the criminal justice agencies and their performance in supporting victims is open and transparent so that the public, elected politicians and others can gain confidence in the system and hold agencies to account.  The proposals to give Police and Crime Commissioners a clear statutory role in monitoring delivery is a positive recognition of the key role they have to play and will be strengthened by the planned new statutory footing for LCJBs. 


8. With regards to therapeutic and support services for victims of crime, the announcements made earlier this year to move to longer term funding for victims services are welcome.  However there remain significant capacity and capability challenges within the service sector and the costs and complexity of delivering high quality and tailored support to victims cannot be underestimated and will require continued and sustained national supportWithin Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, in April 2020, I established a new 10 year, £20 million, strategic partnership with Victim Support focused on delivering long term stability for victims and for the sectorAlready, that relationship is allowing us to innovate and evolve our support to victims including through the establishment of a new victim advocate service for all victims of crime – drawing on the key principles around independent advocacy that underpin the Independent Sexual violence Advocate and Independent Domestic Violence Advocate roles.


9. In my view ensuring that the needs of victims are understood and addressed within policing and right across the criminal justice system must be central to any consideration of policing priorities and to actions required to improve levels of confidence and conviction rates. 


A modern police service, fit for the 2020s and beyond


10. The requirements for a modern police service are varied and complex. It must be well equipped both in terms of capability and capacity.  It must understand the crime and disorder challenges facing its communities and respond to them effectively – both in terms of prevention and investigation.  As referred to above it must be victim focused and it absolutely must be open, transparent and legitimate - building a culture of inclusion and an intolerance to inappropriate behaviours with misconduct within its ranks dealt with swiftly and robustly.  Police and Crime Commissioners have a key governance and accountability role in this regard and must hold the Chief Constable to account not only for performance on tackling crime but for the totality of the policing service that is provided. 


11. I would like to highlight to the Committee an area which I consider to be one of the fundamental building blocks for a modern police servicethat it must deliver sustainable, consistent and strong neighbourhood community policing.


12. Policing has an incredibly important role to play in our society.  In order to achieve its objectives, policing must first and foremost have the confidence of the public.  The long tradition of British policing is one of policing by consent and to secure this consent the police must be consistently engaged with and present in the communities they serve.  This not only includes visible, accessible, personnel but also a visible and accessible police estate.  


13. Implemented effectively, neighbourhood policing brings a range of benefitsIt provides a vital flow of intelligence to policing, to help prevent and detect crime.  It increases confidence and feelings of safety within communities and by building trust and confidence can increase both reporting and intelligence flows.  Alongside these benefits a visible policing presence within communities can also directly prevent crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour (ASB) from taking place as is highlighted by the growing academic evidence on the benefits of hotspot policing. 


14. High quality neighbourhood policing requires a sustainable visible personnel presence in communities.  Police officers have a unique role in society and their sworn powers and expertise are important in securing safety within communities.  Operating alongside Police Community Support Officers, special constables and other roles such as our local Tri Service Safety Officers, they provide a blended workforce.  Good neighbourhood policing requires investment of time and effort.  Devon and Cornwall Police has established a bespoke Neighbourhood Policing Academy in recognition of the importance of building the specialist skills and knowledge that are required to do it well.  As part of that academy, this year all neighbourhood officers have received external training on anti-social behaviour supported by ASB Help, an issue of concern for many of our local communities.


15. Within my local policing area, and in direct response to the public’s wishes, we have prioritised the expansion of neighbourhood policing and response teams.  The government’s investment in 20,000 new police officers has been an incredibly important step in this regard which I welcome.  I have supplemented this locally over the past three years, through the use of the council tax precept, to increase officer numbers further so that by the end of 2022/23 our area will have 3,610 police officers, the highest number of police officers since the force was established.


16. We also work with partners to deliver a uniformed presence to our more rural communities through initiatives such as the Tri Service Safety Officers in Cornwall.  Our 13 Tri Service Safety Officers provide a visible uniformed presence for all three emergency services in areas which are hard to reach. They have policing powers to tackle ASB and are trained as a fire officer and as an ambulance first responder.  Based predominantly in rural fire stations (and funded jointly by Devon and Cornwall Police, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, Cornwall Council’s ASB Team and the SW NHS Ambulance Trust) their role is to provide early intervention and prevention and an operational response.  Their duties include responding to 999 emergency calls for fire and ambulance calls as well as dealing with community safety and ASB matters and resolving complex neighbourhood policing issues.  


17. Locally, we have also been growing our use of hotspot policing as a tool for preventing crime and disorder and for building public confidence in known areas of concern.  For example, in Torquay, where dedicated evidence led hotspot policing patrols are part of our Safer Streets Fund 4 programme with Torbay Council to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour associated in the town centre. We have also been able to adapt and apply some of the key theory and principles behind this approach in Keyham where, following the terrible shootings in August 2021, the Home Office have been assisting us with funding to provide a dedicated community policing team for Keyham to support the community at this incredibly difficult time.   


18. Alongside visible personnel sits the police estate.  The opportunity to have face to face contact with the police is something that the public of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly frequently tell me they want.  To them, like a visible uniformed policing presence, it signifies a police force that is present in their community and that is open and engaged.  In response we have begun investing in the re-opening of front desks in a number of police stations which were closed during periods of austerity in the mid 2010s when we were left with just 10 police enquiry offices across our 4,000 square miles.  An additional six police station front desks will be opened by the end of 2022/23 with Tiverton Police Station in Devon the first to reopen earlier this month.


19. Consistency in neighbourhood policing is key in achieving connection with the community and there are two specific challenges I would highlight to the Committee:

20. Investing in strong and sustainable neighbourhood policing to ensure that policing remains part of the community it serves is central to any consideration of policing roles and priorities and to improving levels of confidence and conviction rates. 


The balance between preventing and solving crime and other police functions


21. Policing holds a wide range of responsibilities which will always need to be balanced.  These include responsibilities in preventing crime and disorder, solving crime, preserving life and property and keeping the public safe in situations which do not necessarily constitute criminal offences.  One of the key challenges associated with stating what that balance should be between functions is the securing of the public’s safety.


22. The preservation of life is a fundamental responsibility of policing and responding to emergency calls for service must always be a priority for the police.  As is evident from police data both locally and nationally, such calls for service are in many instances not about crime per se but about public safety, including dealing with individuals who may be suffering from a mental health crisis or to locate and safeguard a missing person. These types of response can be complex and lengthy and can often require the dispatch of multiple units.


23. To secure a greater focus on preventing and solving crime, action is needed to ensure that the wider system response to mental ill health and public safety is in place


Health and social services: The primary responsibility for securing the health and care of vulnerable individuals must rest primarily with health and social services, albeit with support from other agencies like the police.  Initiatives like the Joint Response Units operating in our local area where Joint Response Units comprising a police officer and a metal health practitioner jointly respond to calls for service which are assessed to relate to mental health related matters is a good example of how partnership approaches can provide better outcomes.  I would also highlight work taking place nationally to roll out a wider use of Mental Health Treatment Requirements as part of community sentences within the courts. The experience in our own area is that these can be incredibly positive in helping to ensure offenders get the support that they require to address their underlying mental health issues and reduce the likelihood of future offending. 


At the local level Police and Crime Commissioners have an important role to play in convening partners and working with leaders from across the system to ensure a collective focus and to encourage investment and innovation in services to support those who are suffering from mental ill health. The roll out of mental health related initiatives under the NHS Long Term Plan, such as 24 hour mental health helplines, are still awaited in many respects at local levels and there must be a renewed and joined up approach nationally across government on investment and outcomes in these areas to support and enable local convening and innovation. 


Fire and rescue services: Looking more broadly across community safety I believe that the recent Fire Reform White Paper offers an important opportunity to consider the scope for fire and rescue services to increase the role that they play within public safetyLike police officers, firefighters are a highly skilled, visible and trusted presence within their community and as a statutory member of community safety partnerships and a responsible authority under the new Serious Violence duty they are well placed.  In Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we already have a high degree of collaboration between policing, fire and rescue services and the other blue light services due to our isolated peninsula position – as our services need to rely on each other more than may be necessary for more urban or central locations.  We have an excellent track record of collaboration which is focused on enhancing the service provided to the public and making best use of our collective resources, such as the Tri Service Safety Officers referenced above.  


In my response to the Fire Reform White Paper I welcomed and encouraged further national changes which might enhance and enable collaborative opportunities between the emergency services. In my view there are a range of areas where there is potentially a strong case for greater involvement from fire and rescue services in view of their skills, expertise and locality.  These include the role undertaken by fire and rescue services in dealing with road traffic collisions, missing persons, dealing with mental health crisis and suicide prevention.  The government’s consultation closed in summer 2022 and a response is still awaited at this time. 


Actions to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces


24. I have already addressed above two of the most important areas for action: ensuring that policing is victim focused; and strengthening and investing in neighbourhood policing.  I would however like to highlight three further areas in this submission: transparency and accountability; tackling misconduct and inappropriate behaviour swiftly and robustly; and sustaining investment in policing.  


25. Transparency and accountability: visible, tangible success in tackling crime, bringing offenders to justice and reducing reoffending is an important part of securing public trust in the policing service. It is central to this that there are high levels of transparency on performance within policing and across the wider criminal justice system so that the public, elected politicians and system leaders can understand performance and hold leaders to account.  As I have mentioned above LCJBs have a key role to play in this regard and I welcome the government’s decision under the PCC Review Part 2 to place these on a statutory footing and the wider publication of performance data from across the criminal justice system in areas such as rape and serious sexual assault.  I also support the proposals set out in the draft Victims Bill to give criminal justice agencies clearer duties regarding transparency of performance in relation to the Victims Code of Practice and to give Police and Crime Commissioners a central role in the monitoring of their progress. It will be important in these reforms to ensure not only that Police and Crime Commissioners are empowered and supported to access performance data but also that information on performance is directly accessible to the wider public to build their confidence in the system.


26. Tackling misconduct and inappropriate behaviour swiftly and robustly: The recent high profile cases on police misconduct are of significant concern to the public and the vast majority of police officers are equally shocked and appalled by some of the behaviours that have been brought to light.  Policing must have the highest ethical standards and must seek out and address inappropriate, unethical and unlawful conduct amongst its officers and staff.  The police complaints and misconduct regime requires further examination to ensure that systems are robust and that action can be taken in a timely manner and I welcome the review announced by the Home Secretary in October 2022 into conduct and standards processes. It is also important that police forces invest in their own internal standards systems and processes to deliver a strong culture and to ensure that such behaviour is identified, escalated and addressed.  


27. Sustained investment: Policing must continue to receive adequate funding to be able to deliver across the broad range of its responsibilities and to sustain a visible and engaged presence in the communities that it serves.  The current police funding formula is out of date and needs to be replaced.  The government has committed to reviewing the formula in this parliamentary term and that work is underway and is welcomedAny revised formula must not only consider factors that relate to the drivers of crime but must also reflect a true understanding of the wider demands faced by policing and the realities of the geography in which they police.  Without this the risk is that the public will lose confidence that they are receiving the policing service that they are paying for through their national and local taxes.


28. Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is the largest police force area in England – covering 4,000 square miles and including five inhabited islands.  Delivering policing services across such a large geography requires additional resources in recognition of the distances that policing units need to cover and sufficient resourcing to deliver visible and accessible policing is an important factor that needs to be considered.  Our area also has the highest tourism levels in the country outside of London with over 44 million nights stayed on average each year and a long summer period that runs from April to September but is only funded on the basis of its resident populationWe experience seasonal variations in both crime and incidents which are considerably higher that the national average and the need to surge to meet these increases over a long summer period inevitably affects the services that can be provided to communities during these long peak periods.


Steps to improve national conviction rates


29. Again I would highlight to the Committee the importance of a strong and sustained focus on understanding and addressing the needs of victims is critical to improving national conviction rates.  Too many victims do not support prosecution and too many cases take too long to get to court.  We must continue to improve the investigative and criminal justice process to ensure that the needs of victims and their rights under the Victims Code of Practice are well understood and addressed.  The adoption and roll out of initiatives such as Soteria Bluestone which is currently being introduced in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is a good example of the changes that we need to see across our criminal justice system to help ensure that victims stay engaged with the criminal justice process and that offenders are brought to justice. 


30. We must also recognise and address some of the issues that we know exist with crime recording rules and acknowledge that the national systems which have been put in place have an impact on conviction rates.  Reporting of crime when it occurs is incredibly important and we must continue to do everything we can to encourage victims of crime to report it – so that we can assist them to get justice, support them to cope and recover from their ordeal and prevent reoffending.  Standards and consistency in reporting systems are equally important and there is a need for clear national processes and for good adherence to them


31. I do however consider that current national recording systems and processes need to be re-examined, in particular to help the public, government and system leaders to properly understand conviction rate performance and then to hold those responsible to account on them.  To highlight some of the challenges in this area I would draw the Committee’s attention to two issues:

32. Ultimately securing improvements in conviction rates is a shared responsibility across all agencies within the criminal justice system.  Effective, open and transparent LCJBs, led by Police and Crime Commissioners in their convening role, have an important role to play in driving innovation and performance improvement on behalf of the publicAs noted above the government’s intention to place LCJBs on a statutory footing to better enable this work is a very positive step and I look forward to seeing more detailed proposals on how this will be delivered and on how LCJBs will be empowered and enabled to take forward their work.


33. Again I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to submit evidence to its enquiry and would welcome the opportunity to discuss any of the points set out above further.



October 2022