Police Accountability Board Notes 13 September 2022



1. Welcome and introductions


PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

ACC Ivan Balhatchet (IB)

D/Chief Supt. Paul Rymarz (PR)

Colleen Rattigan (CR)

SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

  • Apologies were accepted from CC Nick Adderley and DCC Simon Blatchly

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.
  • In relation to the challenge on Police Uplift numbers, the Chief Constable has provided assurance that the uplift target of 1501 will be met. An additional two cohorts of officers will start before March 2022 to ensure this is the case. The Chief constable is monitoring this via an internal board meeting that he Chairs. As a result, the Commissioner was assured that a plan is in place to address his initial concern

3. Released under investigation (RUI) audit update

In June 2022 Mazars undertook an internal audit of the Force, relating to persons released under investigation. This was a follow up from an audit in August 2021, which only provided limited assurance.

This audit in June 2022, again provided only limited assurance.

The Commissioner requires a report that outlines the Chief Constables views and position on these audit findings and the current position in relation to the management of RUI in Northamptonshire Police.

The report should outline why limited progress has been made, progress against all recommendations made in the June 2022 report and plans to reach a satisfactory level of assurance.

  •  D/Chief Supt. Paul Rymarz provided an overview of the key points raised in the paper that was accepted as read.
  • Northants police has a significant number of ‘live crimes’ being investigated which include:
    • Crimes that are being filed and awaiting an outcome
    • Cases with CJ or CPS
    • Secondary crimes appropriately recorded but linked to a master crime investigation.
  •  Within these ‘live crimes’ will be cases where there is no suspect, or where it may not be appropriate to make an arrest for a variety of justifiable reasons.
  • In cases where there is a suspect then one of four alternative decisions is made:
    • Charged or cautioned
    • Bailed from the police, either conditionally or unconditionally
    • Released Under Investigation (RUI)
    • No Further Action (NFA)
  • Northants police are 6th nationally for the use of bail and has the 5th lowest use of RUI.
  • In 2021 the Mazars review of the RUI process made six recommendations.
  • Five of the six recommendations have seen significant progress with three implemented, two partially implemented and one is a continuing concern.
  • The concern relates to longstanding RUIs where an individual has been in the system for longer than a year.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz provided an example of a case where a number of individuals are linked to a highly complex case investigation. That case is now with CPS for consideration of charges after an 18-month investigation by a dedicated team.
  • All ‘Aged RUI Cases’ now form part of the Senior Officer Review schedule
  • The aim of the review schedule is to ensure there is senior officer oversight to make sure cases are progressing as quickly as possibly under the circumstances and that any delays are appropriate.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz is comfortable that good practice and controls are in place and is confident that the number of aged cases will get smaller and smaller – that is the aspiration.
  • Every ‘live’ crime remains active on an officer’s workload until it is filed or charged/cautioned.
  • Every crime requires a 28-day supervisory review by the officer’s Sergeant, detailing the progress of the crime and an explanation for any delays.
  • In addition, the backlog of cases in the HTCU have significantly reduced following additional investment from the Commissioner and the launch of the new Digi Vans.
  • There was a discussion about the use of bail as a control measure to put protective measures in place for victims.
  • Pre-Charge Bail (PCB) is changing on 28th October 2022, under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
  • The new PCB is welcome and considered to be pragmatic and realistic.
  • The Commissioner was content with the current progress being made against the Mazar recommendation that has been identified as a continuing concern.
  • The Commissioner added that he would not expect to see anything less than satisfactory when the RUI recommendation is reviewed again.
  • Paul Fell added that the point of internal audit is to target the areas where we believe there is a problem or they are considered to be high risk This is what they have done and continue to do.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner received this paper from DCS Rymarz and ACC Balhatchet.

There was a lengthy discussion and challenge over the number of cases subject to live investigations and whether this was an appropriate number of cases. He was assured that this related to an average of approximately 9 cases per investigating officer but sought further assurances from the Force that it could satisfy itself that case management was as effective as it could be.

The Commissioner welcomed the significant reductions in the backlogs of digital devices for examination and was assured those backlogs would be reduced further to a point of daily churn by end of 2022.

The Commissioner accepted that progress had been made but reiterated that at the next RUI audit, he has a minimum expectation that the grading should be SATISFACTORY.

4. Police super complaint update – police use of protective powers in cases of violence against women and girls

HMICFRS have produced a report following a super complaint – A duty to protect, police use of protective measures in cases of violence against women and girls.

This report contained several actions and recommendations. The report should outline the Chief Constables agreement or otherwise to these recommendations.

It should also outline these recommendations and progress to the full implementation of them in Northamptonshire, where they are applicable to Forces.

In any case where the recommendation is not accepted or progress against it is incomplete the report should outline the reasons for this and/or the timescales for completion.

  • ACC Balhatchet provided an overview of the Chief Constables agreement or otherwise to the recommendations and progress to date of the full implementation of them in Northamptonshire.
  • He confirmed that all recommendations made in the report were accepted by Northamptonshire Police and a report was sent to the HMICFRSl which meet the needs of the recommendations in the super complaint.
  • Governance sits with the Force Assurance Board led by the Deputy Chief Constable.
  • Overall, the Force has shown good progress against the recommendations and in some cases the processes/procedures were already implemented.
  • The Forces Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and plan (one of the Chief Constables Matters of Priority) has provided the focus and steer to meet the recommendations made in the report.
  • An additional report provided with the Accountability Board papers gave responses to specific recommendations.
  • In relation to the management of RUI to ensure, as far as possible, that investigations are conducted efficiently and effectively the Commissioner requested that the Force review what was reported in this accountability board paper against what was in the response to HMICFRS to ensure synergy between the two and that work indicated in the former response to HMICFRS had in fact been completed.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz confirmed that the work being undertaken on both current and aged RUI cases is positive.
  • High harm cases of which DA is one are heavily predisposed towards the use of pre-charge bail rather than RUI, which was welcomed by the Commissioner.
  • Stalking and harassment cases similarly use pre charge bail.
  • In addition, the Force enjoys a good relationship with and has excellent support from East Midlands Legal Services who administer the application process for DVPNs, DVPOs, SPOs and other civil orders.
  • There has been a 63% increase in the Forces use of DVPOs

There was a discussion about the use of voluntary attendance (VA) for interviews, the force needs to make sure it is comfortable with use of VA Paul R said it has been over used and would like proper governance around it. It was agreed by all that VA is in the correct circumstances an appropriate way to deal with many matters requiring investigation. The Commissioner asked whether the review of matters dealt with by way of VA, as suggested in the super complaint report had been undertaken in order to identify trends in the issues dealt with in this manner. ACC Balhatchet reported that this was due to take place and findings analysed for trends.

  • There was a discussion about the supervision of caseloads provided to young in service officers by Sergeants,
  • Colleen Rattigan confirmed all Sergeants have undertaken additional management/supervision training and this has been well received and is being monitored.
  • There was a discussion about a new process that the Force is trialling in relation to DAPOs.
  • The new process will allow a far greater level of auditability and analysis from which trends, opportunity and learning can be captured and more importantly, a greater level of bespoke safeguarding and risk management aligned to individual officer responsibility.
  • The Force also have a dedicated SOLAR team along with dedicated Op Kayak resources deployed at weekends to cover the NTE.
  • There was a discussion about the current delays within the Criminal Justice System and the number of vacated trials.
  • The Commissioner requested a couple of examples of recent cases to raise with the newly appointed Minister.

Action PR to provide the Commissioner with a couple of examples of recently vacated trials.

  • ACC Balhatchet confirms he chairs the Internal Criminal Justice Board which is actively monitoring cases in the CJ system and working through the pinch points.
  • The Commissioner chairs the Local Criminal Justice Board which meets every 6 weeks and is well attended.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that from a governance point of view he was assured.
  • The Commissioner added that whilst it is the responsibility of the Chief Constable and the Force to deliver the work, he as Commissioner has to respond to confirm if the response to the super complaint is acceptable and also what his Office will do to support and monitor.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner having received this report was assured that there was a robust governance process in place, within the Force for the receipt, consideration and agreement of super complaints and the recommendations that fell from them. He recognised that this was important in terms of legitimacy.

He was assured that there had been a positive response from the Force to this report and that the required activity was being undertaken to deliver against all the recommendation.

5. Police super complaint update – police perpetrated domestic abuse

On 30th June 2022 HMICFRS, IOPC and CoP published their findings from a super complaint – Police perpetrated domestic abuse.

The report made 7 recommendations. Recommendations 1,2,3 and 7 related wholly or in part to Chief Constables.

The Commissioner requires a report outlining whether the Chief Constable agrees all these recommendations and if so, progress made to implementation of them.

Where they are not agreed or incomplete the report should clearly articulate reasons for this and timescales for completion.

  • Governance for the overall response to recommendations from super-complaints sites with the Force Assurance Board and led by the Deputy Chief Constable.
  • All recommendations made of the Chief Constable in the report were accepted by the Chief Constable.
  • The national framework for delivering better policing of VAWG already required forces to audit live PPDA cases therefore, Chief Constables are required to assure themselves that they have audited all live and recent PPDA cases, irrespective of the gender of the victim.
  • The Commissioner asked if this audit has been completed and if not, when could he expect this to be done.
  • ACC Balhatchet confirmed that the audit was in progress, and he expected the audit to be completed by the beginning of November, which was ahead of the deadline date of end of December 2022.
  • The force’s Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit and RASSO team will continue to investigate any allegation of PPDA as they have the correct skills, experience, training and knowledge to investigate these challenging offences.
  • The Police Professional Standards Department work alongside any criminal investigation to ensure all necessary evidence is secured and preserved for any potential future misconduct investigation.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz added that the Force is working with Lincolnshire Police on a reciprocal arrangement to investigate any cases of high risk. This should be finalised by the end of October.
  • There was a discussion about referrals to Voice.
  • ACC Balhatchet confirmed that the Force is looking at further partnership work and more appropriate referral routes into Voice to ensure relevant partner agencies (including the Force) are notified should a victim not want to report a case of PPDA directly.
  • It was agreed that whilst the Force has other reporting mechanisms such as Bad Apple and Flag it more needs to be done to ensure victims feel that they can confidently and should they so wish, confidentially report such matters.
  • ACC Balhatchet confirmed he has a meeting with Voice to progress DA and wider sexual offences and that he should have some draft options for consultation very soon.
  • The Commissioner added that confidence from public that police will investigate police cases of DA abuse/sexual assault is important and any process agreed should allow everyone to self-refer and that the sharing process is confidential.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner thanked ACC Balhatchet and was assured that there were robust governance processes in place for the receipt, analysis and dealing with recommendations for super complaints.

He welcomed that the activity required under the accepted recommendations was progressing in such a positive way.

The Commissioner supported the developing proposals for the reciprocal arrangements being worked on with other Forces for investigations of each other’s matters in these circumstances, on the basis of openness, transparency and confidence.

6. A.O.B

  • There was a discussion about EMSOU as there is a Regional Budget Discussion on future funding arrangements on Friday.
  • The Commissioner asked for assurance that EMSOU was providing value for money. This question was raised to inform his views in light of potential proposed changes in the EMSOU funding formula.
  • D/Chief Supt. Rymarz confirmed that there are a number of monthly and annual reports to demonstrate value.
  • In terms of Homicide investigations and surveillance, the support given is excellent.
  • The consensus was that Northamptonshire’s 14.8% is equitable but were our contribution to increase, a closer examination would need to be made.