PCC puts spotlight on Merseyside Police’s response to Violence against Women and Girls
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has put the spotlight on the force’s response to violence against women and girls at her second public Scrutiny Meeting.
At the meeting which was live-streamed yesterday to enable members of the public to watch, Emily Spurrell challenged the Chief Constable, Serena Kennedy, and her leadership team about the police’s response to crimes including homicide, rape, domestic abuse and sexual offences.
In the wake of the two devastating murders of Malak Adabzadeh, 47, and 12-year-old Ava White in Liverpool last Thursday, the focus for this meeting – the Commissioner’s second priority of ‘Supporting Victims; Safer Communities’ was more relevant than ever.
Emily took the decision to focus her second meeting on this priority to ensure the issue of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) remains in the public spotlight and to mark the UN campaign for the Elimination of VAWG which started on Friday and runs for 16 days.
During the meeting, Chief Officers detailed how the force is currently undertaking a two-month domestic abuse intensification programme to review the outcomes from reports of domestic violence and do everything possible to increase the number of successful prosecutions, including proceeding with evidence-led cases which are not supported by the victim. It was detailed that this has been a key finding from recent reviews into domestic homicides.
Chief Officers detailed how Merseyside Police is in the top 5% of forces using Domestic Violence Prevention Orders, which are used to put protective measures in place in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident. It is also one of the biggest users of ‘Clare’s Law’ which allows police forces to disclose a person’s history of abusive behaviour to those who may be at risk, with the aim of protecting potential victims.
The Chief Constable also explained how seriously crimes such as exposure and voyeurism are taken, recognising incidents are potential precursors to more serious offences. She said the force has undertaken a significant commitment to ensuring officers receive regular refresher training to ensure they know how to respond appropriately.
The Commissioner also questioned the force about any allegations of domestic abuse and sexual violence made against Merseyside Police’s own officers and staff and how they have been handled.
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley detailed that 38 referrals have been received in the past five years. He explained that all reports are treated as a high priority with investigations being led by dedicated officers supported by the Professional Standards Department. This has led to a number of dismissals and some cases going to court.
The Chief Constable also spoke of her commitment to embedding the right culture across the organisation since taking up the post eight months ago, making sure any unacceptable behaviour is challenged and a zero tolerance approach is taken when any employee does not meet the high standards expected by the force.
She also reiterated her advice to the public about how to verify the identity of a police officer if they have any concerns when stopped, including asking to see an officer’s warrant card and, for further reassurance, asking to speak to the police control room on the officer’s radio to verify their identify.
Other topics covered during the three-hour meeting included the police’s response to the recent spate of spikings in the city centre, the incidences of LGBT+ hate crime in the summer, anti-social behaviour and the use of stop search.
Emily said: “This was an extensive meeting which covered a wide-range of topics, with a strong focus on the police response to crimes of violence against women and girls.
“Given the devastating events of last week, this was particularly timely. It is vital that we look at everything we are doing to try and prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again in our region.
“The Chief Constable and her leadership team gave very detailed and thorough explanations into their work to respond effectively to reports of crimes including rape and sexual violence, domestic abuse, hate crime and the exploitation of children, and the support they offer those who have been affected. As well as responding to my scrutiny, they went into detail to answer questions submitted in advance by the public.
“We know that women’s trust in the police across the country has been shaken in the light of the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, so it is essential we demonstrate exactly what is being done to tackle these issues, to support victims and survivors and bring perpetrators to justice here in Merseyside.
“I hope by listening to the extensive work which is undertaken by Merseyside Police to assess the risks posed to individuals and communities and put appropriate measures in place to safeguard the vulnerable and keep people safe, members of the public who watched this meeting will feel reassured.
“Crucially, it was clear from the answers provided by Chief Officers that they are not complacent. While a huge amount of good work is done across the organisation every day, they were open and transparent that there is still much more to be done and they are committed to continually improving the service offered to our communities.
“It is my job to hold the Chief Constable to account on how all of this work is delivered and I will continue to monitor this closely through my scrutiny programme.”
The Police Commissioner’s quarterly Scrutiny Meetings are part of a wider range of accountability arrangements which also include regular one-to-one meetings with the Chief Constable.
Today’s meeting, which was held at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority chamber in Mann Island, was recorded so members of the public can review it at any time.