Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angelique Foster has scrutinised a new report highlighting the force’s effectiveness at tackling violence against women and girls.
As part of her work to hold the Chief Constable to account on behalf of the public, the Commissioner sought a progress update from Derbyshire Constabulary on the work being undertaken to increase the safety of women and girls across the county – a key priority in her Police and Crime Plan.
The report, presented at the Commissioner’s latest Performance Scrutiny Meeting, sets out the improvements the force has implemented to reduce the risk of abuse and violence and ensure vulnerable victims are safeguarded early.
It reports on the impact of the Commissioner’s investment to improve the investigation and response to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) including the provision of a new Stalking Co-ordinator post and two Stalking Advisors which are helping to increase the number of civil orders secured and ensure incidents are properly risk-assessed.
Other achievements include the force’s provision of a new Detective Chief Inspector for VAWG to co-ordinate activity and the development and implementation of a multi-agency Derbyshire-specific strategy, instigated by the Commissioner, which is closely aligned to the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) national framework and now fully embedded into the force.
Commissioner Angelique Foster said: “As Commissioner, my role is to ensure I hold the force to account to ensure that it delivers the highest standard of policing for local people. This includes the effective protection of women and girls and the safeguarding of children impacted by VAWG crimes.
“Offences such as sexual violence, domestic abuse, stalking and harassment, female genital mutilation, exploitation and forced marriage have no place in our society. The force has shown its readiness to respond to VAWG-related crime with the improvements it has made over the past 12 months to identify and implement best practice to prevent such offences.
“It is critical that victims are first and foremost in everything we do. It is encouraging to see the efforts being made to prioritise their needs and learn from their experiences.
“VAWG, including exploitation, is not just an issue for the police. It is a shared responsibility that stretches across society and our communities which is why I brought partners together earlier this year to create the VAWG strategy and ensure we are maximising our collective power to make a real difference to women and girls’ safety.
“Earlier in the year, the report on child sexual exploitation in Telford was shocking and I know that many people will have been angered at the failings of the authorities there and what has happened to these young girls for the last 10 years, while authorities and the police ignored guidelines surrounding information sharing between partners and perpetrators identification. I sought reassurances from the Constabulary about the measures in place to avoid this type of disgusting behaviour in Derbyshire. I am quite clear that investigations into exploitation must never be downgraded due to potential cultural sensitivities – as we saw in Telford, Rotherham and Rochdale.
“I am reassured that the force has made a number of changes, centred on the recommendations in the report, to ensure its processes are robust and based on best practice. For example, all the information available from different agencies is now held in one place, vastly increasing the ability to identify potential problems.
“As a result, partnership referrals have risen by 93%, meaning that vulnerable children are better protected. Gangs must not be allowed to prey on vulnerable children and young adults and I urge anyone who suspects something is ‘not quite right’, to report their concerns.
“Tackling VAWG, in every way remains a key priority and I will continue to provide the necessary resources to make Derbyshire safer for women and girls. There is clearly much more work to do and protecting women and girls will remain at the top of our agenda here in Derbyshire.”
During the meeting, the Commissioner sought reassurances from the Chief Constable that a new national report into police vetting standards from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) was being addressed.
The report, which reviewed hundreds of police vetting files, found too many cases where people should not have been allowed to join the police, including officers with criminal records or links to organised crime, and concluded that a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour towards female police officers and staff still exists.
The Chief Constable confirmed that in Derbyshire the force deals robustly with any officer falling short of expected standards of behaviour and that there is a clear programme in place to improve conduct standards including the creation of new independent reporting mechanisms.
Further highlights from the meeting include:
- The merging of the Neighbourhood Safeguarding Teams and Risk and Referral Unit to form a force-wide Safeguarding Co-ordination Hub to improve the speed at which safeguarding assessments are made and address previous backlogs in child and adult referrals
- An improved operating model through the introduction of a new Missing and Exploitation Team which promotes partnership working to better identify victims and offenders and prevent situations of exploitation.
- The launch of a Domestic Abuse Review Team (DART) which went live in November last year and delivers secondary risk assessments of all domestic incidents to ensure the right resources are allocated to respond to the risk posed and that appropriate support services are provided.
The public are invited to send topical questions to the Commissioner ahead of the meeting. The responses, from the force and Commissioner, are given during the meeting and posted on the Commissioner’s website, alongside a video of the full meeting. Full details can be viewed here: https://www.derbyshire-pcc.gov.uk/homepage/performance-scrutiny-meeting-focusing-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-3-november-2022/
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