Commissioner’s response to HMICFRS report: An inspection of how well the police tackle serious youth violence

1.      Police & Crime Commissioner comments:

1.1       I welcome the findings of this report which focuses on the police response to Serious Youth Violence and how working in a multi-agency context can improve Police Response to Serious Youth Violence. The following sections set out how the Force are addressing the report’s recommendations, and I will monitor progress through my Office’s existing oversight mechanisms.

1.2       I have requested the Chief Constable’s view on the report, and he has stated:

I welcome the HMICFR spotlight report ‘An inspection of how well the police tackle serious youth violence’ which was published in March 2023.

Tim De Meyer, Chief Constable for Surrey Police

2.        Overview

2.1       The HMICFRS report is heavily focused on the workings of the Violent Reduction Units (VRUs). Of the 12 forces visited, 10 of them were operating a VRU. The aims of the review were to:

  • Understand how the police work with VRUs and partner organisations to reduce serious youth violence;
  • How well the police use their powers to reduce serious youth violence, and whether they understand racial disproportionality;
  • How well the police work with partner organisations and take a public health approach to serious youth violence.

2.2       One of the national issues for Serious Youth Violence is that there is no universally accepted definition, but the report focuses on a definition as follows:

Serious Youth Violence as any incident involving people aged 14 to 24 that included:

  • violence causing serious injury or death;
  • violence with the potential for causing serious injury or death; and/or
  • carrying knives and/or other offensive weapons.

2.3       Surrey was not successful when allocations were given out to Forces to convene VRUs despite all the surrounding Forces having Home Office funded VRUs. 

2.4       The VRUs were selected based on statistics of violent crime. Therefore, whilst in Surrey there is a strong partnership response and offer to tackling SV, it is not all formally incorporated. Having a VRU and the funding attached to it would help to address this issue, and this was highlighted as a concern during the inspection. It is our understanding that there will be no further funding to convene new VRUs.

2.5       However, in 2023 the Serious Violence Duty (SVD) is being implemented whereby Surrey Police are a specified authority and will be under a legal duty to work with other specified authorities, relevant authorities and others to reduce serious violence. It is therefore planned that the funding allocated through the SVD will help galvanise the partnership, provide a strategic needs assessment across all the types of SV and provide opportunities for funding projects – which in turn will help Surrey Police tackle serious youth violence with its partners.

2.6       The HMICFRS report makes four recommendations in total, although two of those are focused on VRU forces. However, the recommendations can be considered with reference to the new Serious Violence Duty.

3.      Response to Recommendations

3.1       Recommendation 1

3.2       By 31 March 2024, the Home Office should define processes for violence reduction units to use when evaluating the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce serious youth violence.

3.3       Surrey is not part of a VRU, therefore some of the elements of this recommendation are not directly relevant. However as mentioned above Surrey has a strong partnership model that already delivers elements of a VRU, follows the Public Health approach to tackling serious youth violence and uses the SARA Problem Solving process to evaluate “what works”.

3.4       However, there is a large amount of work being currently undertaken (led by the OPCC) in preparing Surrey for the implementation of the Serious Violence Duty.

3.5       The OPCC, in its convening role, is leading on work to develop a Strategic Needs Assessment to inform the Serious Violence Duty. A review from a police perspective has been undertaken by the new Strategic and Tactical Lead for Serious violence to understand the problem in Surrey and a problem profile has been requested for Serious Violence, including Serious Youth Violence. This product will support both the control strategy and the SVD. “Serious Violence” is currently not defined within our control strategy and work is ongoing to ensure all elements of serious violence, including serious youth violence, is understood.

3.6       Key to the success of this partnership working for the implementation of the Serious Violence Duty is benchmarking current performance to then compare to outcomes once the violence reduction strategy is introduced. As part of the ongoing SVD, the partnership within Surrey will need to ensure that we are able to evaluate activity and define what success looks like.

3.7       As a partnership, work is ongoing to decide the definition of Serious Violence for Surrey and then ensure that all relevant data can be shared to ensure this benchmarking can be undertaken. Additionally, despite a dissimilar funding arrangement, Surrey Police will ensure we link in with existing VRUs to understand and learn from some of their successful and unsuccessful projects, to ensure that we maximise resources. A review is currently being undertaken of the Youth Endowment Fund toolkit to establish if there are any opportunities within.

3.8       Recommendation 2

3.9       By 31 March 2024, the Home Office should further develop existing joint evaluation and learning for violence reduction units to share learning with each other

3.10     As outlined, Surrey does not have a VRU, but we are committed to developing our partnership to comply with the SVD. Through this commitment, there are plans to visit VRUs and Non-VRUs to understand what good practice looks like and how that can be implemented in Surrey under the SVD model.

3.11     Surrey have recently attended the Home Office Conference for the launch of the SVD and will be attending the NPCC Conference in June.

3.12     The report does mention various areas of best practice from the VRUs and some of these are already in place within Surrey such as:

  • A public health approach
  • Adverse Child Experiences (ACES)
  • A trauma informed  practice
  • Time for Kids and Think Child Principles
  • Identification of those at risk of exclusion  (we have a number of processes which pick up children in custody, those at risk of exploitation and multi-agency working)
  • Risk Management Meeting (RMM) – managing those at risk of exploitation
  • Daily Risk Meeting – partnership meeting to discuss CYP who have attending a custody suite

3.13     Recommendation 3

3.14     By 31 March 2024, chief constables should make sure their officers are trained in the use of Home Office crime outcome 22

3.15     Outcome 22 should be applied to all crimes where diversionary, educational or intervention activity resulting from the crime report has been undertaken and it is not in the public interest to take any further action, and where no other formal outcome has been achieved. The aim is to reduce offending behaviour. It can also be used as part of a deferred prosecution scheme, which is how we use it with Checkpoint and the YRI in Surrey.

3.16     A review in Surrey took place last year and it was shown that on occasion it is not being used it correctly on division. In the majority of the non-complaint occurrences were when a School had taken action and Police were being made aware, these occurrences were incorrectly shown as rehabilitative action having been taken, but because it was not police action, Outcome 20 should have been applied. 72% of the 60 occurrences audited had the Outcome 22 correctly applied. 

3.17     This was a decrease from the compliance figure of 80% in the Audit of 2021 (QA21 31). However the new central team using outcome 22 as part of a deferred prosecution scheme is 100% compliant, and this represents the majority of the use of outcome 22.

3.18     The audit was done as part of the annual audit plan. The report was taken to the Strategic Crime and Incident Recording Group (SCIRG) in August 2022 and discussed with DDC Kemp as chair. The Force Crime Registrar was asked to take it to his monthly performance meeting with divisional performance teams which he did. The divisional representatives were tasked with giving feedback to individual officers. Additionally, Lisa Herrington (OPCC) who chairs the out of court disposals group meeting, was aware of the audit and the application of both outcomes 20/22 and was sighted on it being managed through SCIRG. The Force Crime Registrar is undertaking another audit at the time of this report being written, and further action will be taken following the result of this audit if learning is identified.

3.19     In Surrey, the Checkpoint team close all successfully completed Checkpoint cases as outcome 22 and we have numerous rehabilitative, educational and other interventions for adults, and work with Targeted Youth Services (TYS) to provide these for young people.  All youth offenders go through to the Checkpoint/YRI team except indictable only offences or where a remand is justified.

3.20     The future model for Out of Court disposals for Surrey will mean this central team will expand with the new legislation at the end of the year. The cases go through a joint decision-making panel.

3.21     Recommendation 4

3.22     By 31 March 2024, chief constables should make sure their forces, through data collection and analysis, understand the levels of racial disproportionality in serious youth violence in their force areas.

3.23     A problem profile for serious violence has been requested, and a provisional date for this being completed is August 2023, which includes serious youth violence. The results of this will enable a clear understanding of the data held and the analysis of that data to ensure that the problem within Surrey is fully understood. Linked to the creation of the strategic needs assessment for the implementation of the SVD, this will give a better understanding of the problem within Surrey.

3.24     Within this data, Surrey will be able to understand the levels of racial disproportionality in our area.

4.      Future Plans

4.1       As above, there is work under way to better understand the Serious Violence in Surrey, as well as the Serious Youth Violence to better enable targeted work in hotspot areas. We will be taking a problem-solving approach, ensuring close working between the Force, OPCC and partners to understand the risk and impact of SYV on offenders, victims and the community, taking into consideration the Serious Violence Duty requirements.

4.2       We will work together on a partnership action plan to set expectations and to ensure there is collaboration within the delivery model. This will ensure there is no duplication of work or funding requests and that gaps in service are identified.

Lisa Townsend
Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey