I welcome Surrey Police’s involvement as one of the four forces included in this inspection. I am encouraged by the force’s strategy to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), which recognises impact of coercive and controlling behaviour and the importance of ensuring policy and practice is informed by those with lived experience. Surrey’s partnership DA Strategy 2018-23 is based on Women’s Aid Change that Lasts approach, for which we were a national pilot site and the VAWG strategy for Surrey Police continues to build on recognised best practice.
I have asked the Chief Constable for his response, particular in relation to the recommendations made in the report. His response is as follows:
I welcome the HMICFRS’s 2021 report on the Inspection on Police Engagement with Women and Girls. As one of the four police forces inspected we welcomed a review of our new approach and have benefitted from feedback and views on our early work on our Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy.
Surrey Police took an early innovative approach to create a new VAWG strategy with our wider partnership including outreach services, the local authority and OPCC as well as community groups. This creates a strategic framework over several areas with an engendered focus including domestic abuse, rape and serious sexual offences, peer on peer abuse in schools and Harmful Traditional Practices such as so-called honour based abuse. The intention of the framework is to create a whole-system approach and evolve our focus towards an engendered one informed by survivors and those with lived experience. This response covers the three recommendation areas in the HMICFRS Inspection report.
Recommendation 1: There should be an immediate and unequivocal commitment that the response to VAWG offences is an absolute priority for government, policing, the criminal justice system, and public-sector partnerships. This needs to be supported at a minimum by a relentless focus on these crimes; mandated responsibilities; and sufficient funding so that all partner agencies can work effectively as part of a whole-system approach to reduce and prevent the harms these offences are causing.
The Surrey VAWG strategy is approaching its fifth version evolving through continuous engagement with communities, specialist support agencies, those with lived experiences and the wider partnership. We are building an approach that has three elements running through every level. Firstly, this includes being trauma informed, taking a “strengths-based” framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors. Secondly, we are moving away from a violence model of domestic abuse towards an enhanced understanding of the impact of controlling and coercive behaviour (CCB) on liberty and human rights. Thirdly, we are building an intersectional approach that understands and responds to individual’s intersecting identities and experiences; for example, considering interacting experiences of ‘race’, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, disability, age, class, immigration status, caste, nationality, indigeneity, and faith. An intersectional approach recognises that historic and ongoing experiences of discrimination will impact individuals and is at the heart of anti-discriminatory practice. We are currently engaging with our partnership to build and seek views on this approach before building a joint training plan.
The VAWG strategy in Surrey remains evolving and drives our priorities under the strategy. This includes a relentless drive to increase and improve our charge and conviction data for VAWG related crimes. We aim to ensure more perpetrators are placed in front of the courts and more survivors get access to justice. We have also been approached by the College of Policing to present the Surrey strategy as best practice. We have also engaged the community through multiple forums as well as presenting this strategy to over 120 magistrates in Surrey.
Recommendation 2: The relentless pursuit and disruption of adult perpetrators should be a national priority for the police, and their capability and capacity to do this should be enhanced.
The Surrey VAWG strategy has four main priorities. This includes the improved understanding at all levels of CCB, a focus on improving our response, service and engagement with black and minority ethnic groups for VAWG and a focus on DA related suicide and untimely deaths. These priorities also include moving towards a perpetrator drive and focus. In July 2021 Surrey Police began the first Multi-Agency Tasking and Co-ordination (MATAC) focused on the highest risk perpetrators of DA. The current MARAC Steering Group will encompass this for combined governance to build an effective MATAC. Surrey was recently awarded £502,000 in July 2021 following a bid for an innovative DA perpetrator programme. This will offer all DA perpetrators in custody where a NFA decision is made and all those offered a DVPN the ability to undertake a funded behavioural change programme. This links to our Stalking Clinic where Stalking Protection Orders are discussed and a specific stalking course can be mandated through the order.
Wider perpetrator work includes the evolution of Operation Lily, a Sussex initiative focused on repeat adult perpetrators of sexual offences. We have also undertaken funding exercised for public spaces prevent based work to target and disrupt perpetrators. In addition we are working with Educational authorities to build a joint response to the September 2021 Ofsted report for peer on peer abuse in schools.
Recommendation 3: Structures and funding should be put in place to make sure victims receive tailored and consistent support.
I am pleased that the HMICFRS inspection on VAWG in July identified that we have strong relationships with the outreach services in Surrey. We have also recognised the need to be tailored in our approach. This is reflected in our continued work in response to the HMICFRS and College of Policing report into victims of DA with insecure migration status (“Safe to Share” super-complaint). We are reviewing with community groups how to improve our service led through groups such as the Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum which is engaged with over forty community groups. We also have survivor improvement groups for victims who are LGBTQ+, male victim and those from black and minority ethnic groups.
Within the policing teams we have new DA case workers focused on contact and engagement with victims. We also have funding for embedded outreach support workers to increase our engagement at an early stage. Our dedicated rape investigation team has specialist staff who engage and contact victims as a single point of contact. As a partnership we continue funding new services included recently an outreach worker for LGBTQ+ and separately a bespoke black and minority ethnic survivor outreach worker.
The detailed response from the Chief Constable, alongside the strategies put in place, give me confidence that Surrey Police is tackling VAWG. I will continue to have a close interest in supporting and scrutinising this area of work.
As PCC, I am committed to increasing safety of adult and child survivors and putting relentless focus on those who commit offences and in my role as chair of Surrey Criminal Justice Partnership I will ensure the partnership focuses on improvement needed across CJS. Working closely with support services within the community, as well as Surrey Police, my office has secured central government funding to be able to significantly increase provision in Surrey for both perpetrators and survivors and local funding has been dedicated towards developing a new advocacy service for stalking victims. We are listening to views of residents captured in Surrey Police “Call it Out” survey. These are informing work to increase safety for women and girls within our local communities.
Lisa Townsend, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey