Police Accountability Board Minutes 14 September 2021

1. Welcome and introductions


PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

DCC Simon Nickless (SN)

ACC Pauline Sturman

D/Chief Supt. Paul Rymarz

D/Supt. Richard Tompkins

Supt. Emma James

Colleen Rattigan (CR)


Apologies were accepted from

CC Nick Adderley and ACC Simon Blatchly


SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Previous minutes and action log

  • Minutes of previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers. No changes have been requested
  • Outstanding actions from the Action Log have been updated.

3. Positive Outcomes

In January 2021 the Commissioner received a report from the Chief Constable at an accountability board relating to positive outcomes. The Commissioner expressed his concerns about progress being made in relation to the improvements in these. At that time, it was agreed that an update would be provided at the September meeting.

The Commissioner therefore requests a paper that outlines progress that has been made since this time in relation to the improvement in positive outcomes and the work still ongoing.

The report should also cover the current year to date and last 12 month rolling data for positive outcomes for the following crime types.

All Crime


Rape and serious sexual offences


Domestic Abuse

Knife Crime


The report should also show the national and MSG position in relation to these and any direction of travel relating to these comparators

  • An overview of the report was provided by D/Chief Supt. Paul Rymarz
  • Northamptonshire is seeing improvements in the national and Most Similar Group (MSG) positions for most types of crimes.
  • The improving national position is due to both the positive work conducted in Force, despite a small increase I overall crime and the deteriorating national outcome rates.
  • Performance data for the last 3 months places the Force at 3rd in our MSG and 12th nationally
  • For crime recording the Force was 30th. The rolling figure however is improving; 28th past 12 months, 25th past 6 months and 22nd past 3 months.
  • There is now a much stronger focus of Positive outcomes, with officers making effective use of OOCD’s and increased use of charges and cautions.
  • The Commissioner sought reassurance that the improvements are sustainable and that the Force is on target to meet the Chief Constable’s 14% Positive Outcome target for 2021/2022.
  • Since ‘Outcomes’ became a ‘matter of priority’ for the Force, the detection ratio has increased to 16% in the 3 months to July 2021, but due to the previous increase in recorded crime levels, the 12-month average is currently 12.3%. It will require some months sustained performance at current levels before the Force sees a significant increase in the rolling 12-month figure.
  • An Outcomes and Delivery Board has been established to embed changes and achieve sustained positive outcomes as part of daily business.
  • The Board is chaired by ACC Blatchly with representation from key thematic areas and departments.
  • There was a discussion about what was meant by a ‘questionable detection’.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz provided examples such as ‘Offences taken into consideration and written off prison offences.
  • There was a discussion about offences where CCTV is available, yet a positive outcome is not forthcoming.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz gave a Shoplifting example where there may be a clear image of a person stealing a sandwich. However, if the person is not known, there is little value in the amount of time that would need to be spent identifying the person for such a low level/risk crime (Proportionate Investigation Policy based on threat, harm and risk). It was however agreed that where there were CCTV images of known offenders this ought to be pursued, within the remit of the Force proportionate investigation policy.
  • There was a discussion about burglary.
  • The Force has improved its ranking from 34th to 22nd
  • The Force is currently ranked 4th in is MSG, an improvement from 7th in July 2020 and 8th in July 2019.
  • The Burglary team has been key to obtaining better outcomes for burglaries.
  • There was a discussion about RASSO where the positive outcome rate is 8.6% although the Force has seen a significant improvement in the rankings to 20th nationally, an increase from 32nd in July 2020 and 36th in July 2019.
  • There was a discussion about an OPFCC funded Business Crime Investigator.
  • Paul Fell confirmed that the investigator has now been appointed and starts on 4th October, and this postholder will be employed as a pilot by Northamptonshire Busines Crime Partnership, working closely with the Force IIT.
  • He will be tasked to assist shops in evidence gathering, exclusively focussed on persistent or violent shoplifters.
  • Paul Fell has also been working with National Busines Crime solutions and joined the Business Crime Partnership who provide useful intelligence on travelling criminal gangs operating in Northamptonshire – didn’t previously know about as not a member.
  • There was a discussion on knife crime where there is no national data available for outcomes.
  • In the past 12 months there were 1,426 knife crime with a positive outcome ratio of 22.7%
  • Greater Inspector oversight, as part of the new knife crime templates will further improve investigative standards.
  • There is greater use of OOCD for low level offences (i.e., simple possession with a young offender)
  • Early indications are that knife crime is beginning to see an improvement and since its adoption as a ‘matter of priority’.
  • There was a lengthy discussion relating to the Force proportionate investigation policy. The Commissioner made the point that he felt having such a policy was acceptable and appropriate but he was concerned that this was not always being applied or managed appropriately, meaning that opportunities were being lost to deliver positive outcomes for victims.

 Assurance statement:

The Commissioner was provided with some reassurance that the Force understanding of the gaps in positive outcomes was getting stronger and that overall, there was some improvement being seen in positive outcome rates, but this was slow and slower than he would like to see.

The Commissioner made his concerns clear to the Force Chief Officer Team that his expectation was that this progress needed to be maintained and while there were clear improvements being made the public expected the police to undertake effective investigations to try to bring offenders to justice, when they became a victim of crime.

The Commissioner was supportive of the Force having a proportionate investigation policy but remained concerned about the level of positive outcomes and evidence of poor application and management of the policy that he wanted to see addressed.

 4. Firearms Licensing

The Force has suffered in recent times with issues in respect of firearms licensing resulting in backlogs and delays in the processing of applications and renewals of matters associated with firearms.

The Commissioner is aware that the Force is cognisant of this and has a recovery plan in place to resolve these concerns.

The Commissioner requests a report that outlines the workload of the firearms licensing department and how this might have changed over the last 3 years. He wishes to see reported, the average times taken for all applications, renewals and other licensing activity and how this has changed over 3 years.

He also wishes to be updated on the recovery plan to rectify the identified issues with clarity over the ambition for timescales for firearm processes and for clearing any existing backlogs to achieve these.

  •  An overview was provided by Supt. Emma James.
  • The team are responsible for all firearms licencing and legislation.
  • Firearms certificates run for five years – Things can change within that timeframe and the team are responsible for managing this and mitigating any risks.
  • The details of all persons in the county holding firearms, including addresses, are held on Niche.
  • Niche generates approximately 600 notifications per month of incidents that involve persons holding firearms or persons linked to their address.
  • All notifications are reviewed, and risk assessed to check for continued suitability to retain a firearms licence.
  • We are currently the only force in the region to have all records on NICHE with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the process of adding their holders to the Niche.
  • FELU are currently in a ‘peak year’ for renewals.
  • The pattern of renewals fluctuates owing to an historical change from 3 years to 5-year duration.
  • During a peak period, renewals more than double when compared to a normal year.
  • Covid and some staffing issues have also had a substantial impact leading to the current backlog.
  • Changes in firearms legislation this year for some weapons and ammunition has also led to an increase in holders applying for variations.
  • There was a discussion about the number of complaints received this year. (20 versus 6 last year)
  • 19 were low level and resolved quickly; typically relating to an expectation around renewals. (certificates were being renewed 3 months before expiry – holders are therefore expecting the same standard of service and not receiving this).
  • Supt James confirmed no licence holder has exceeded the 5-year licence period. Renewals have been and remain the priority.
  • The Commissioner emphasised his support for the current complaints process which is both robust and fair.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that he would not accept a complaint for non-renewal adding that there is a clear and proper process for complainants to follow and they should do this without exception, this being appeal through the Crown Court.
  • There was a discussion about both system and process improvements which Supt. James is in the process of implementing.
  • The Commissioner was keen to ensure that the FELU was adequately resourced to meet both current and future demand once all system and process improvements have been implemented.
  • Supt James is reviewing Data systems on the market to assess if there are any that can provide greater assurance.
  • The Commissioner suggested that the Police Digital Service could be tasked to look at the FLM process and offered to raise this with them.

Action SM to arrange a discussion with PDS about the feasibility of a product to join up such systems. PF to take forward.

  • The timeline to clear the current backlog was discussed along with demand returning to 2018/19 levels (‘normal years’). The Commissioner was informed that this backlog was planned to be removed by end of the calendar year 2021.
  • The Commissioner was assured that the team are in a much better place whilst accepting that there is still some work to do to resolve the current situation and build in resilience.
  • The Commissioner commended the Force for having all holders on niche, acknowledging that this was considered best practise and that others are now following this example.
  • There was a discussion about the recent incident in Plymouth and the social media associated with the shooter.
  • The outcomes of the review that is taking place including lessons learned are awaited.
  • There was a discussion about whether there are any commercial tools in the marketplace that ‘horizon scan’ social media profiles and/or comments that could potentially be considered a cause for concern.
  • Paul Fell has done some work on this previously and will revisit.

Action – PF to review what ‘Horizon scan’ tools are available

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner welcomed the overview presented to him of how the firearms and shotgun licensing regime worked. He was reassured that the process for granting certificates was robust within Northamptonshire Police.

He was supportive of the approach undertaken during the COVID pandemic; prioritising renewals of existing certificate holders, over and above new grants or variations.

The Commissioner recognised that this approach, along with some staffing issues, had led to a backlog in work and some unacceptable delays in processing these applications.

The Commissioner was assured that there was a robust recovery plan in place to clear this backlog and was informed by the Force that the backlog would be back to pre-Covid pandemic 2018 levels by the end of 2021.


5. HMICFRS report into police response to DA in pandemic

HMICFRS report into police response to DA in pandemic

In June 2021 HMICFRS published their thematic report “Review of policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic 2021”

This report contained three recommendations, all directed to forces.

The Commissioner requests a report that outlines the three recommendations and the actions taken in respect of these by Northamptonshire Police. The report should clearly outline any changes made or required as a result and where not completed the timescales for that completion, as well as outlining and explaining any direct references to Northamptonshire within the report.

  • D/Supt. Richard Tompkins provided highlights from the report provided.
  • There have been five thematic reviews and Northants have performed well.
  • The Force was an early adopter of the Serial Perpetrator Scheme and is highlighted in the HMICFRS report as one of 18 forces that exceeded the number of cases being referred to MARAC when compared to Safe Lives guidance.
  • There was a discussion about delays and backlogs in the Criminal Justice System which are a significant concern nationally.
  • Delays make it much more difficult to keep victims engaged in the judicial process and lead to higher attrition.
  • The Commissioner confirmed he has invested more money into Voice to support victims and keep them engaged in the CJ process.
  • There was also a discussion about the new DG6 legislation which makes it more difficult for officers to charge perpetrators of DV as have to wait for a local CPS charging decision.
  • Concern that whilst the new guidance helps the CPS manage their demand it creates additional risks and delays for the Force.

Action – SM and PF to obtain more information to raise this issue.

Recommendation 1 – Forces continue to adopt online contact methods in respect of DA victims

  • Northants police were an early adopter of the national online reporting system Single-On-Line-Home (SOH) in 2019 using it as an example to report missing person (in addition to telephone contact)
  • Following a recent successful pilot scheme by five other Forces, Northants Police have decided to implement the DA element.
  • This provides the opportunity to safely report abuse on-line, further improving engagement.
  • The DA scheme went live on 25th It will be monitored and reviewed by the SOH task and finishing group.
  • Northants Police is also one of a small number of Forces who volunteered to take part in the pilot of the ‘Telephone initial response scheme’ in 2019.
  • The scheme was extended to all Forces as a result of the Covid pandemic.
  • Due to the necessarily strict criteria less than 2 calls a day are resolved using this method.
  • The Force prefers to utilise dedicated DA scheduled appointment timeslots.

 Recommendation 2 – Forces immediately review their capacity to provide ongoing support and safeguarding to victims of DA whilst awaiting trial at court:

  • This is monitored through the Specialist Domestic Abuse Court Meeting and is chaired by the safeguarding adults DCI
  • D/Supt. Richard Tompkins confirmed we are very joined up in this county and has become even stronger in last couple of years with Voice
  • The Force has a Victims and Witness Group and Fiona Campbell, CEO of Voice, attends this and the DA working group.
  • Over the last two years the Voice service have increased their staffing to ensure that good contact is maintained with victims and witnesses throughout the criminal justice process.
  • The provision of Independent Domestic abuse Advisors (IDVA’s) to support victims has doubled.
  • Despite the challenges the court delays have created conviction rates for DA remain high and above the national average. (79.5% against the national average of (75.7%)
  • In terms of victim satisfaction – DA continues to achieve the highest levels of any crime type measured (90.5%)
  • The Commissioner welcomed the contribution by Voice commenting on the significant progress from the Voice he inherited.
  • The Commissioner confirmed he is currently undertaking a strategic review of Voice to make sure we are utilising the service correctly and that the service is providing value for money.
  • There was a discussion about changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill and the legal obligation on local authorities to provide adequate provision.
  • Nicci Marzec raised concerns that the two Unitary Authorities will take a different approach to DA (one more practical and one more strategic) which will lead to duplication of effort and ultimately an inconsistent service to victims depending on whether you live in the North or West of the county.

Action – Nicci Marzec and ACC Sturman to influence and encourage North and West Unitaries to work together on the DA issue and work towards a single approach.

Recommendation 3 – All forces immediately review their use of outcome 15 and outcome 16 evidence-led prosecutions.

  •  Outcome 15 and 16 definitions involves cases where there are evidential difficulties that led an investigation being filed by police as no further action.
  • Over the last 18 months there has been a drastic reduction and shft between OC16 and OC15 in Force
  • OC16 has decreased from 61% to 46%
  • OC15 has increased from 20% to 37%
  • There was a discussion about Programme PIPA
  • Project PIPA, (Preventing Intimate Partner Abuse) is an early intervention approach whereby, if on first contact a domestic abuse incident meets the ‘low harm’ threshold, offenders are given a conditional caution and must agree to five sessions to help them gain an insight into their behaviours and increase their motivation to make long-term changes.
  • Since the project began,185 DA offenders have completed the programme and 90% have not been arrested again for DA.
  • The Force has also increased its use of Out Of Court Disposals (OOCDs) – a method of resolving an investigation when the offender is known and admits the offence.
  • It is an alternative to a prosecution when appropriate.
  • Evidential review Officers have also been introduced to ensure cases are investigated correctly.
  • Given the age and experience of the workforce (500 Officers with less than 3 years’ service) this is having a positive impact.
  • There was a discussion about PPN’s and schools in Kettering not being notified of DA incidents.

Action – D/Supt Tompkins to check if any issues as a result of new 2 Unitary process, with some PPN not being disseminated to schools.

Assurance Statement:

The Commissioner was provided with a detailed overview of how the Force had responded to the recommendations made by HMICFRS in this inspection report.

The report was a national thematic report and did not relate specifically to any Force. 

The Commissioner was assured in relation to the recommendations contained within the report that they had been completed in Northamptonshire.

6. A.O.B

  • No further business was raised.