Tackling violence against women and girls continues to be a policing priority
The first national assessment of the policing response to violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been published today (Tuesday 14 March).
It follows a commitment made by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing (CoP) in 2021 to be open about how police forces are performing against the national VAWG framework.
It also comes after we recently highlighted the robust action we’re taking to improve culture and standards in Avon and Somerset Police. More information on this work can be found here.
A key area of focus in the national VAWG framework is responding unequivocally to allegations of police-perpetrated abuse and addressing sexism and misogyny within policing.
The national data published today shows that during the period between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022, 653 conduct cases against 672 individuals were flagged as relating to VAWG by police forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police (BTP). In the same period, 524 public complaint cases against 867 individuals were recorded. A total of 1,483 allegations were recorded nationally – as each case can have several allegations attached to it. (*further explanation in note below around the definition of a complaint and conduct allegation).
In Avon and Somerset, 20 public complaint cases were recorded against 30 individuals, with nine conduct cases being recorded against 10 individuals. This generated a total of 33 separate allegations, of which 20 related to public complaints and 13 related to conduct.
A total of 70 per cent of the public complaints related to use of force – in these cases, women will have complained about the use of force in handcuffing or arrest, for example.
A total of 85 per cent of the public complaints resulted in the service level being found to be acceptable, a finding of no case to answer, or the complaint was withdrawn. Three allegations resulted in a finding that there was a case to answer – one of these resulted in a meeting with no further action, and the other two are subject to reflective practice review processes.
Of the 13 conduct allegations, six relate to sexual assaults and other sexual conduct – five of these are still live, with the other one resulting in an officer being dismissed following a misconduct process.
Of the remaining seven allegations, five relate to discreditable conduct and two relate to use of force. Three of the discreditable conduct allegations have been finalised with one resulting in a final written warning, the second resulting in a reflective practice review and the third found to have no case to answer. Two remain live. Both use of force allegations remain live.
Assistant Chief Constable Joanne Hall, our VAWG lead (pictured below), said: “Tackling the significant issue of violence against women and girls continues to be a priority for us.
“We fully recognise if we are to have legitimacy in dealing with VAWG in our communities, we must stamp it out from within and the publication of this data today is one example of how we are working to root our those who betray our values and damage the public’s trust and confidence in the service we provide.
“We are committed to being open and transparent about the number of complaints and conduct matters relating to our officers, however, it’s important to note the data released today is intended to provide a benchmark that will enable us to assess our performance and progress over time. It does not cover the number of complaints or conduct matters we are currently dealing with.”
On the wider issue of tackling VAWG, ACC Hall added: “Violence, abuse, and intimidation against women and girls in any form is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
“Eradicating VAWG continues to be a policing priority for us. We’ve already adopted the national VAWG strategy for our own strategy, and this is driving us forward in our ambition to create an environment, both within policing and in our communities, for women and girls to pursue their lives free of fear and harassment.”
Action we are taking includes:
Improving background checks and vetting capability – We have increased the number of investigators in our Counter Corruption Unit and staff in our vetting teams to help us identify and get rid of those who have no place in policing.
Identifying and addressing misconduct – We proactively publish all the outcomes of any police officer misconduct hearings and challenge decisions to retain someone we believe undermines our culture and the standards the public rightly expect of us.
Ensuring we have a culture to be proud of – We’re adopting the national VAWG strategy framework – a priority of which is to challenge sexism and misogyny in policing. We’re also working with partners, including the Women’s Independent Advisory Group, and Bristol Women’s Voice to provide us with an impartial assessment of our performance to help us shape our approach.
Training and best practice – All officers who have direct contact with the public must take mandatory College of Policing training on abuse of position for a sexual purpose. We’re also working with academics on a training package to help managers spot behaviour commonly associated with acts of sexual violence.
*A complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction with a police force that is expressed by or on behalf of a member of the public, while a conduct matter is any matter which is not and has not been the subject of a complaint, where there is an indication that a person serving with the police may have committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings.
They are categorised against a range of definitions from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which includes sexual harassment, discreditable conduct and sexual assault.