Suffolk Constabulary protects vulnerable victims but ‘requires improvement’ – HMIC report
22:52 14 December 2015
Suffolk Constabulary has been praised for protecting vulnerable victims and tackling domestic abuse incidents in a new watchdog report.
But the force received an overall rating of “requires improvement” by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which assessed every police force’s effectiveness at protecting vulnerable people from harm.
Inspectors examined how forces respond to and safeguard those who are vulnerable in some way, with a focus on missing and absent children, victims of domestic abuse and how well prepared they are to tackle child sexual exploitation.
The ranking was the second-worst out of four possible ratings.
Zoe Billingham, who led the investigations, said: “Suffolk Constabulary is committed to protecting vulnerable people from harm and the force generally provides a good service to vulnerable victims, such as children at risk of harm and victims of domestic abuse, although there are areas for improvement.
“It is clear that protecting vulnerable people is a high priority for force and we were particularly impressed by the dedication and commitment in protecting some of the most vulnerable people.
“Police officers attending domestic abuse incidents have a good knowledge of how to assess risk and keep victims safe. They understand the importance of listening to victims and take the right steps to protect them.
“It is disappointing, however, that frontline officers do not have routine access to either body-worn video cameras or digital cameras to capture important evidence. The force has acknowledged our concerns and work is already under way to address them.”
She said the force has taken action after the inspection found “high” workloads in specialist teams investigating rape and child abuse reports.
She added: “The force needs to do more to ensure that it provides a consistent and co-ordinated response to missing and absent children.
“It is reassuring that it has now provided training to all ranks to ensure greater awareness of the risks faced by missing children.”
Detective Superintendent Dave Cutler, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “A huge amount of work has been carried out to improve the way we respond to cases involving vulnerability and this has been recognised by the inspectors.
“We have valued the recommendations made as part of the assessment, and have immediately taken these forward, building them into our plans for re-design and process improvement.
“The demand faced by our teams dealing with these types of offences has increased dramatically, in line with police forces nationally. We are receiving far more reports of crime involving vulnerability, such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation.
“But we will continue to improve how we work with our partners to ensure we provide the most effective response.”
Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “We accept the report, but we had pre-empted it through a number of investments, including raising the (council tax) police precept (by 1.997% in January) to create an extra 12 police staff posts to help tackle domestic abuse and we gave a £1.2million grant to the Lighthouse Women’s Aid (a charity which helps domestic abuse victims).
“Significant progress has been made since then, but we will monitor performance over the coming months.”