Police Accountability Board Minutes 12 March 2024

Welcome and introductions.



PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Jonny Bugg (JB)

Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

A/CC Ivan Balhatchet (IB)

ACO Paul Bullen (PB)

ACO Colleen Rattigan (CR)

Detective C/Supt Paul Rymarz (PR)

Detective Supt Joe Banfield (JB)

Detective Supt Steve Watkins (SW)


  • SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies were accepted from ACC Ash Tuckley and Paul Fell


Previous minutes and action log

Outstanding actions from the Action Log have been updated.


HMICFRS national report “getting a grip”


Police performance getting a grip. This report was published in July 2023. The Commissioner requires a paper that articulates whether the Chief Constable accepts the recommendations in the HMICRFRS report, as well as confirmation that those where a completion date has passed have been implemented and a progress update on those still to be achieved.


  • The report provided was taken as read, with Colleen Rattigan providing additional commentary using more recent data.
  • The Head of Strategy and Innovation for the Force attends the national flow meetings – strategic planning is a real gap nationally.
  • Most Forces are not looking far enough into the future; mostly 12 months when it should be 2 – 5 years.
  • Northants police is now looking further ahead.
  • HMICFRS PEEL inspection identified that the Force was not effective in using its performance management data.
  • CR confirmed Northants use FMS data really well within the Strategy and Innovation team.
  • It was accepted that there are too many QLIK apps and these are being streamlined.
  • The right Board structure and KPIs are now in place.
  • There is a view nationally that too many Forces are over reliant on the Precept.
  • Northants and the OPFCC have a good process in place which enables the Force to bring good investment proposals to the Commissioner for consideration.
  • There was a discussion about how this could be improved in future, particularly where additional investment is needed outside the initial funding envelope.
  • The A/Chief Constable agreed that this would be welcomed as priorities and risk change.
  • It was agreed that the investment in Poliscope has been beneficial and has really helped the Force to forecast at least 3 months ahead.
  • Legitimacy has improved and was graded as good.
  • Effective financial management was highlighted as good practice.
  • Workloads are manageable in Response and support and training is good.
  • The report states that “The force doesn’t always respond promptly to calls for service” and is therefore currently graded as Adequate.
  • The Force had robustly challenged this view given that it was a moment in time, when calls were being diverted from Leicestershire. Once identified, the issue was resolved quickly, and the Chief Constable of Leicestershire apologised however, the view from HMICFRS was this should have been identified sooner.
  • Despite this, 98 out of 100 calls were risk assessed correctly.
  • The Commissioner asked if CR would share the bullet points, she was referring to.

Action – CR to share the bullet points from her update.


  • Overall, the Commissioner was assured by the report and the additional information provided by CR.
  • He asked for assurance from the Chief Constable that he is now able to collect and analyse data to improve future performance and also evaluate performance to drive improvement activity at all levels.
  • The Chief constable confirmed that he is looking at it but that he was assured.
  • Returning to attendance times, the Commissioner reiterated that he had never agreed with Mr Adderley that response times should be measured against the national target and noted instances where even this extended time frame had not been achieved.
  • The A/Chief Constable advised that attendance times, (Rural, urban and burglary) are on the agenda at National Chiefs Council meeting next week.
  • There was a discussion about officer attrition rates.
  • PB advised that face-to-face exit interviews are now conducted. In addition, a lot of preventative work is underway with stay interviews for any officer who is considering leaving the Force.
  • The main issues identified, particularly for officers who leave in the probationary period are work life balance and the job is not what they expected it to be.
  • The last staff survey showed slightly lower levels of satisfaction, but these were still much higher than a few years ago and higher when compared against the national picture.

Action – PB to send the staff satisfaction data he was referring to, to the Commissioner.


Assurance statement:


The Commissioner welcomed the recognition of the report and its finding by the Chief Constable, albeit they were national findings and did not relate to Northamptonshire Police.

 He stated that he was assured that the Force was better placed than he had previously seen to manage these findings.

 He still had some concerns in relation to response times but he was pleased that this was be further explored and the Chief Constable remained committed to seeing these improve.



Operation Soteria update


Operation Soteria went live with adopter Forces of which Northamptonshire Police is one, on 13th October 2023. One of the early stages in this process is for the Force to complete a self-assessment in relation to the six pillars and criteria beneath them.  This was required by early to mid-January.


The Commissioner requires a report that confirms that this self-assessment has been completed, the gaps that it might have identified where areas for improvement exist, actions to be taken as a result and the timescales for the implementation of any required action and activity.


The report should include as an Appendix a copy of the self-assessment.


  • The report provided was taken as read, with D/Supt. Joe Banfield providing additional commentary.
  • The team have completed a deep dive into 42 cases.
  • Whilst Op Soteria went live with adopted Forces, of which Northamptonshire police was one in October 2023, the Force had already identified that it needed a dedicated rape team 2 years earlier and as such, was already significantly ahead.
  • All investigations sit within the PVP area with linked expertise to ensure investigations are appropriately managed.
  • These arrangements have already been identified as Best Practice and will be shared nationally.
  • The team is at full establishment in the North. Six staff have been seconded to the West but in a way that does not impact on other areas.
  • Work is underway with HHJ Lucking QC to review the end-to-end process for rape cases as victims can wait years for justice.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that a national shortage of RASSO qualified Counsel was highlighted at the recent Local Criminal Justice Board meeting; resulting in cases being re-listed and trials delayed.
  • It was noted that the time it takes from the offence being committed to getting a charging decision is getting shorter however the time from charge to trial is enormous in this county.
  • Unfortunately, Northants is in a geographical area that struggles to get prosecution Barristers.
  • The average time from charge to trial is around 350/400 days.
  • This creates an additional challenge for both the Force and for Voice who have to manage the expectations and welfare of both victims and witnesses.
  • There was a discussion about the teams focus on suspects and identifying potentially dangerous perpetrators at the earliest opportunity.
  • The Force also has a Rape Investigation development programme and is rolling out refresher courses to ensure officer knowledge is of the highest standard.
  • The Commissioner asked if this will address the Cause of Concern regarding the young workforce.
  • It was confirmed that more time is being spent with the front-line response officers on how to prepare a package to pass to a skilled investigator.
  • The Force is also looking at how it can automate data into Qlik.
  • D/Supt Steve Watkins provided an update on the Digivan which is currently meeting all priorities for digital offences.
  • Victims have their devices returned within 24 hours.
  • For perpetrators, the time frame for retaining devices is typically longer as they tend to be more reluctant to provide encryption details.
  • A revised investigative strategy for digital devices is currently being written to reflect the individual nature of cases and the complexity of the encryption on the latest devices.
  • The Commissioner asked if there was a backlog of cases awaiting digital evidence.
  • D/Supt Watkins confirmed there was a backlog of cases where the suspects device had not been examined and this is likely to grow for the reason previously outlined.
  • The Commissioner asked if the backlog is likely to grow, is there anything that the Force could invest in now that would make a difference.
  • D/Supt Watkins confirmed the team are constantly looking at new technologies and this is under continual review.
  • The Commissioner commended the work of the Force and asked for a further update at the August Accountability Board given that the Transformation plan is due to be signed off in July.


Assurance statement:


The Commissioner was both pleased and assured that Northamptonshire Police and the Chief Constable had identified early, and ahead of this report. He commended the Force on the implementation of dedicated rape investigation teams, which had been positively noted following the self-assessment.

He was pleased with progress in the areas that the Force could progress themselves and looked forward to a further update following the sign off of the transformation plan in July.




  •  There were two late agenda items added to AOB
    • Firearms licensing discussion – verbal update
    • Angiolini inquiry and PSD changes – verbal update


Firearms licensing


  • The Commissioner requested an update on the backlogs within the team
  • He reminded the Force that they had previously advised that these would be in a good position by the end of March and that he had repeatedly offered additional funding for automation to speed up what is essentially a paper-based process.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz reminded the Commissioner that the backlog for Temporary Permits was a disaster last year with Northants being in the top 5 of worst performing Forces.
  • This position has improved to 34
  • The Force is issuing a small number of temporary permits.
  • The backlog of Grant applications has reduced from 600 to 192 and this is decreasing week on week.
  • The Force has not utilised the overtime budget to achieve this.
  • Of the 192 Grants in the pipeline, all are being worked on, but the Force will never sacrifice risk over speed of service and the threshold for approval is very high.
  • The 192 is just a small part of over 12,000 licence holders.
  • On Renewals, these are licence holders who already have a gun. The team have to assess risk and ensure guns are kept in the right physical environment.
  • There is a four-month SLA for these.
  • The backlog has reduced from 1769 to 585 within the 4-month time frame. 300 sit outside the SLA.
  • There is 5x the amount of work required for each Grant versus a Renewal.
  • The Force is looking at digitalising the process and records are now being added to NICHE.
  • Within the next 4 years the whole process will be digitalised.
  • The ambition is to get to a place where both Grants and Renewals are dealt with within the 4month SLA but the Force is fixing the problem in a sustainable way and the Grants backlog is reducing.
  • The A/Chief Constable advised that the way the Force communicates with holders is key to reducing complaints. Most complaints are the result of a licence being refused or some other complication.
  • He is confident that the Commissioner will see a sustainable decrease with an aim to clear backlogs by October 2024.


Angiolini inquiry and PSD changes

  • The A/Chief Constable advised that the Force had already adopted many of the recommendations and a Board had been created to track progress against them.
  • It had identified one gap relating to indecent exposure and as a result was starting an entire review of all indecent exposure cases reported to the Force in the past 12 months.
  • PSD has completed a review of all officers and staff and the suspension threshold has been increased to ensure that any crime committed by a police officer or staff member is investigated by PSD.
  • A confidential local corruption reporting line will replace the bad apple system.
  • There will also be an increase in random drug and alcohol testing.


No further business was raised