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Improvements recommended in handling police-perpetrated violence against women and girls

14 Oct 2022

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and College of Policing have today published a review of themes, learnings and recommendations on police-perpetrated violence against women and girls.  

The review builds on previous work by the College of Policing, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary & Fire and Rescue Services and the Independent Office for Police Conduct report on the Centre for Women’s Justice super complaint into police perpetrated domestic abuse. 

As part of a national police framework to improve the response to violence against women and girls launched in December 2021, police forces were asked to conduct an urgent review of sexual misconduct, domestic abuse and other VAWG-related offences against officers and staff and to share their learning with the NPCC and College of Policing. These reviews were analysed to provide an overview of themes, learning and recommended improvements. 

National Police Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth said: 

“It is imperative policing is ruthless in removing any officer who undermines the integrity of a force, rebuilding the confidence the public should rightly have in us.  

“Strong leadership is needed to challenge the pockets of culture in policing that do not hold our values, that quieten victims and discourage people speaking up.

“I hope this learning review contributes to a greater understanding of the current strengths and weaknesses of the police misconduct system alongside significant independent reviews and inspections. It identifies improvements that will ensure police forces are robustly and systematically responding to reports of police perpetrated violence against women and girls.” 

The review shares various examples of effective practice.  It also makes a number of recommendations including:  

Chief constables should immediately act to ensure professional standards departments have a good working knowledge of current criminal investigation practice and access to expertise from rape and sexual assault investigators.  They should also ensure effective joint working when misconduct and criminal investigations are being conducted by different teams.  The review found investigators working on parallel criminal and misconduct investigations were not always sharing information and expertise effectively. 

Chief constables should regularly review live cases to ensure that statutory guidance on managing parallel misconduct and criminal procedures is being followed.  The review identified that some misconduct investigations may be unnecessarily delayed because they are paused to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings when statutory guidance says “the presumption is that action for misconduct should be taken prior to, or in parallel with, any criminal proceedings”. 

NPCC and College of Policing to provide new guidance and training to professional standards departments to improve recording and analysis of police misconduct and complaints data.  The review identified some knowledge gaps in data recording and collection, and records were not being updated throughout the lifecycle of a misconduct investigation inhibiting forces’ understanding of the scale of problem. 

The review also called on police chiefs to continue to prioritise giving officers and staff the confidence, support and mechanisms to call out and report any abusive, inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour they see in policing.  NPCC will work with Crimestoppers and partners to expand the police integrity line to the public by 2023 allowing them to report allegations of police misconduct anonymously.  

Chief Constable Andy Marsh QPM, CEO College of Policing said: 

“In order for the public to have trust in the policing response to violence against women and girls in society as a whole, it is essential that we show that we can tackle it effectively in forces. When the College of Policing published the findings of the super-complaint into Police Perpetrated Domestic Abuse, we were clear that forces had some way to go to get their own houses in order. 

“This learning review builds on the work of the super-complaint and commits the College, the NPCC and policing more widely to taking important steps to restore and build the confidence of our communities. 

“Strong policing leadership is required to drive the changes needed and ensure that officers and staff are confident they will be listened to and supported when complaints are made.” 

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Misconduct, Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: 

“Addressing the areas of learning identified in this review will see high standards in misconduct and criminal investigations, fewer unnecessary delays and a fuller picture of the threat within policing from those who seek to abuse their position or harass or discriminate against women. 

“There are many positive examples of where professional standards departments are already tackling the issues included in this learning review. The NPCC Portfolio will continue to work closely with the College and Staff Associations to improve standards across the system." 

In December 2022, NPCC and College of Policing will publish the first performance report against the national VAWG framework. This will include a national assessment of the scale and nature of police perpetrated VAWG including misconduct and complaints data, the formal outcomes of misconduct and complaints and the timeliness of investigations.