HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have published a report in response to the super-complaint submitted by Liberty and Southall Black Sisters about the practice of the police sharing of victims’ information with the Home Office.
A joint investigation by HMICFRS, the CoP and the IOPC found that the current system was causing significant harm to the public interest. As a result, these bodies have made recommendations for the police, the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure victims of crime are always treated as victims first and foremost, regardless of their immigration status. The report also includes actions for HMICFRS and the College of Policing regarding their own work.
Safe to share? Report on Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status can be downloaded here
Further details on the super complaint can be found here
Our response to recommendations made in the report – December 3, 2021
Northamptonshire Police submitted a joint response with Northamptonshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) to HMICFRS on 3 December 2021. Responses to recommendations made in the report are detailed below.
Recommendation 1: To Chief Constables
“As an interim measure, where officers only have concerns or doubts about a victim’s immigration status, they immediately stop sharing information on domestic abuse victims with Immigration Enforcement. Instead, police officers should link the victim to a third party that can provide advice and assistance.”
Amending practice: Northamptonshire Police implemented an immediate change in practice to allow a separation between the response to a victim’s report of domestic abuse and the handling of their immigration status. There has never been a bespoke process which dictates that officers and staff should share immigration concerns with the Home Office.
The amendment to practice was effectively communicated to staff internally and delivered/reiterated within core Domestic Abuse training. A clear communication of the expectations was disseminated – domestic abuse and being a victim of crime will always take priority over upholding immigration law. Where officers only have concerns or doubts about the domestic abuse victim’s immigration status, they will not share information with Immigration Enforcement.
Building relationships with third party agencies that can provide advice and assistance to victims: Northamptonshire Police has shared its position and expectations on staff who deal with migrant victims of domestic abuse, with all relevant local support services and through to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (where all high-risk domestic abuse cases are addressed by key partners including Northamptonshire Police).
Recommendation 4: To Chief Constables
“Take steps to ensure that all migrant victims and witnesses of crime are effectively supported through safe reporting pathways to the police and other statutory agencies.”
Safe reporting pathways: Safe reporting pathways for all migrant victims and witnesses are provided by Northamptonshire Police’s Control Room, website and importantly via our local support services. Support services have been advised on how to relay reports of domestic abuse to police and have been reassured that information is not and will not be shared with Immigration Enforcement.
Communication to migrant victims: The report found that immigration and data sharing with the Home Office were significant deterrents to migrant victims reporting domestic abuse. Northamptonshire Police have actively publicised its position through a press release, highlighting that domestic abuse and being a migrant victim of crime will be dealt with sensitively and robustly, reiterating that it is a confidential process. For those with an insecure immigration status who still have concerns about speaking to the Police directly, support services have been listed as an alternative reporting mechanism. This has also been shared with support groups so that the message can be shared with members of their communities and those individuals they are working with who are affected by immigration status concerns.
Recommendation 5: To Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners
“In consultation/collaboration with local or national specialist organisations, chief constables and police and crime commissioners should take steps, to promote migrant victims’ and witnesses’ confidence in reporting crimes to the police through safe reporting pathways, without fear of prioritised immigration control.”
A joint communication was sent out to all local support services on behalf of the Chief Constable and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) to promote that domestic abuse and being a migrant victim of crime will always take priority over upholding immigration law. In this communication, safe reporting pathways were encouraged through direct contact with the police and via support services. Additionally, engagement was made with support services via the OPFCC, to seek support as to how this message could be more firmly and widely strengthened in relevant communities.
Recommendation 6. To police and crime commissioners
Conduct an assessment of local access to specialist victim support organisations or networks and take any necessary steps to build up such networks.
Response from the Office of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire
The Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has considered this point in some depth with VOICE in the County. VOICE is an arm’s length company, wholly owned by PFCC for Northamptonshire, set up to deliver the PFCC statutory responsivities in relation to victims. VOICE has a number of routes that can provide a wide range of generic and specific services across a range of victim’s needs and requirements. This assessment has satisfied us that individual needs and requirements can be met, either through directly supplied services or through effective signposting to external services, such as:
- The Sunflower Centre (supporting male and female victims of domestic abuse),
- Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS),
- Eve (Christian domestic abuse charity in Northamptonshire),
- Dostiyo (voluntary organisation providing advocacy, advice, information and support services to Asian women and girls),
- Pearls of Peace (women’s community and development group run by a group of dedicated Muslim women),
- Community Law Service (a charity and independent provider of specialist social welfare advice)
- and Northampton Bangladeshi Association (working for the communities of Northampton).”