DORSET PCC PUBLISHES INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO OUT OF COURT DISPOSALS
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, today published the results of an independent review into Out of Court Disposals (OoCD) at Dorset Police.
An audit was conducted into the use of Out of Court Disposals in 2014/15 in order to examine the scrutiny and governance of OoCD, to identify best practice and to ensure decisions are victim focused and fall in line with national guidance.
Dorset Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have accepted all twelve of the review’s recommendations and the Force have set out how they intend to implement each of them. A series of actions have already addressed several of the review’s recommendations. All of the remaining recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible.
The review came about after concerns were raised to the PCC by three constituents over the way some out of court disposals were being carried out. The PCC, having spoken to the Chief Constable and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) therefore commissioned the review.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill said “We police in this country by consent. By virtue of this fact, scrutiny and confidence in policing are both paramount . If the police charge a person with an offence, their actions are examined and scrutinised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the Judiciary and/or the public acting as magistrates or jurors. How the police deal with people when an offence is committed and no one is charged is intrinsic to the whole issue of confidence and accountability. I decided to test the system, and establish whether Dorset Police act ethically, transparently, and with due consideration for victims”.
The key findings of the independent review include:
Out of Court Disposals Audit
For this report, over one hundred crime records were reviewed and interviews were conducted with Chief Officers from Dorset Police. The report found that the quality and supervision of Out of Court Disposals is variable for adults in Dorset, but strong for youth and that too often decisions are made to caution offenders, with little victim engagement. The report recommends that Dorset Police establishes mechanisms to ensure that for simple cautions, victims are consulted before any disposal is considered along with greater training and accreditation for supervisors.
The report however, highly praised the decision making on out of court disposals in complex, serious or unusual cases and stated that despite the lack of victim engagement, the level and nature of offences for which people receive simple cautions is appropriate and proportionate.
Since the publication of this report, training is now being rolled out across the Force to all supervisors and Community Resolution training is underway. This will be followed by Community Resolution roadshows around the Force. All police staff now have access to a quick reference guide for each adult OoCD and a comprehensive flowchart will be used when considering Community Resolution.
The report welcomes the establishment of a Community Remedies Hub to improve decision making, consistency and scrutiny of Out of Court Disposals. It also recommends that Dorset Police reviews who provides the overarching scrutiny to OoCDs and to draw on best practice from the Youth OoCD team.
Since the publication of this report, following each OoCD Scrutiny Panel an internal Newsletter is now produced which recognises any good work as well as providing any updates on national recommendations / guidance.
The report highlighted the leadership shown by the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Deputy Chief Constable of Dorset Police in managing Crime Data Integrity, risk and ethical crime recording as an area of good practice. However, the report identified the need for Dorset Police to examine its auditing function in order to drive up standards of decision making and supervision. It also recommends strengthening the Out of Court Scrutiny Panel through the appointment of an independent Chair, which has occurred since the publication of the report.
For this report, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill wrote to ten victims and ten offenders to seek feedback on their experiences. Four victims replied and their accounts were included in the audit. The report highlighted the need for Dorset Police to review its processes around informing victims of crime regarding the arrest, progress and disposal of their cases to ensure that they are fully aware of how their case is progressing.Since the publication of this report, victims have been given a voice on the panel through the attendance of a member of staff from Witness Care.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “I welcome the report findings. The good practice found should be celebrated, as should the learning points identified, which will help us deliver policing in Dorset in a more joined up and accountable way. I am of the view that some of these learning points could be useful on the national stage, and I have therefore sent this review to HMIC and the Home Secretary.