Commissioner’s response to HMICFRS report: Joint thematic inspection of the criminal justice journey for individuals with mental health needs and disorders

I welcome this HMICFRS report. As the service improves its understanding it is useful to have national and force level recommendations to improve training and processes to enable the service to meet the diverse requirements of individuals with mental health needs.

As Commissioner I have the privilege of seeing different parts of our criminal justice system up close, including courts and prisons. It is vital that we all work closely to together to ensure that where we come into contact with someone who presents with mental ill-health, we are doing all we can in policing to support colleagues in other areas of the system to best support the individual concerned. This means the better sharing of information after someone has been in our custody and a wider understanding of the important role each of us can play in the supporting each other.

I am the national APCC lead for mental health so have read this report with interest and have asked for a detailed response from the Chief Constable, including on the recommendations made. His response is as follows:

Surrey Chief Constable Response

The HMICFRS joint thematic titled “Inspection of the criminal justice journey for individuals with mental health needs and disorders” was published in November 2021. Whilst Surrey Police was not one of the forces visited during the inspection it still provides a relevant analysis of the experiences of individuals with mental health and learning disabilities in the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

Even though fieldwork and research were conducted during the height of the Covid pandemic its findings resonate with the professional views of key internal practitioners in this complex area of policing. Thematic reports offer an opportunity to review internal practices against national trends and have as much weight as more focused, in force, inspections.

The report makes numerous recommendations which are being considered against existing processes to ensure the force adapts and evolves to assimilate identified best practice and resolve areas of national concern. In considering the recommendations the force will continue to strive to deliver the best possible service, recognising the unique needs, of people in our care.

The areas for improvement will be recorded and monitored through existing governance structures and strategic leads will oversee their implementation.

In terms of the recommendations made in the report the updates are below.


Recommendation 1: Local criminal justice services (police, CPS, courts, probation, prisons) and health commissioners/providers should: Develop and deliver a programme of mental health awareness-raising for staff working within criminal justice services. This should include skills to better explain to individuals why they are being asked questions about their mental health so that there can be more meaningful engagement.

The recent HMICFRS Inspection of Surrey Custody in Oct 2021 noted that “frontline officers have a good understanding of what makes a person vulnerable and take account of this when deciding to arrest”. Front Line Officers have access to a comprehensive guide on mental health within the MDT Crewmate App which includes advice on initial engagement, indicators of MH, who to contact for advice and the powers available to them. Further training in this area is in the process of being finalised by the force Mental Health Lead for delivery in the New Year.

Custody Staff have received training in this area, and it will continue to be a regular theme explored during the mandated continuous professional development sessions delivered by the Custody Training Team.

The Surrey Victim and Witness Care Unit have also received training in this area and are trained to identify vulnerability during need assessments as part of the bespoke support they provide victims and witnesses.

At present no training has been delivered to staff within the Criminal Justice Team however this is an area identified by the Criminal Justice Strategy Unit with plans to incorporate into upcoming team training.

The launch of SIGNs in the 2nd quarter of 2022 will be supported by a comprehensive communications campaign which will further raise awareness of the 14 strands of vulnerability. SIGNs will replace the SCARF form for flagging police involvement with vulnerable people and allows fast time sharing with partner agencies to ensure appropriate follow up action and support. The structure of SIGNs is designed to encourage officers to be “professionally curious” and via a question set will prompt officers to explore in greater depth individual’s needs.

The HMICFRS in their inspection of Surrey Custody stated “mental health training for frontline officers and custody staff is extensive and involves service users to share their experiences of criminal justice services” pg33.

It is recommended that this AFI be discharged as addressed and captured within business as usual processes for CPD.

Recommendation 2: Local criminal justice services (police, CPS, courts, probation, prisons) and health commissioners/providers should: Jointly review arrangements to identify, assess and support people with a mental illness as they progress through the CJS to achieve better mental health outcomes and agree plans for improvement.

Surrey is supported by Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion Service personnel within each of the custody suites. These medical professionals are situated at the custody bridge to allow them to assess all detained persons (DPs) as they enter and throughout the booking in process. DPs are formally referred when concerns are identified. The staff providing this service were described as “skilled and confident” by the HMICFRS Custody Inspection report.

CJLDs help DPs access a range of community services. They also refer individuals to the police led Surrey High Intensity Partnership Programme (SHIPP). SHIPP supports vulnerable people who regularly come to police notice and provides intensive support to prevent or reduce their reoffending.

Demand on CJLDs is considerable and there is an ongoing aspiration to increase the number of DPs they assess and therefore provide support to. This is an AFI identified in the recent HMICFRS inspection of custody and is captured in the force action plan to progress.

The Checkpoint process involves an individual assessment of need which captures mental health however the process for formal prosecutions is less clear cut and during the file build stage there is no specific emphasis on flagging suspects with MH needs. It is down to individual officers in the case to capture within the relevant section of the case file to alert the prosecutor.

The role of CJ staff will need therefore need to be developed and progressed and is intrinsically linked to the outcomes of recommendations 3 & 4 in the report which should be deferred to the Surrey Criminal Justice Partnership Board for consideration and direction.

Recommendation 5: The police service should: Ensure that all dedicated investigative staff receive training on vulnerability which includes inputs on responding to the needs of vulnerable suspects (as well as victims). This should be incorporated within detective training courses.

Surrey Police train a victim centred response to crime focussing on the needs on those most at risk. Public protection related investigations are a core feature of the ICIDP (initial training programme for investigators) and inputs on vulnerability are also included in many of the developmental and specialist courses for investigators. CPD has become an integral part of the ongoing learning for investigative staff and responding to and managing vulnerability is included within this. Staff are trained to identify vulnerability in both victims and suspects and encouraged to work in partnership with key agencies to reduce offending and protect those most at risk of harm.

Following a structural change this year newly created Domestic Abuse and Child Abuse Team are now dealing with investigations involving the most vulnerable leading to greater investigative consistency.

Recommendation 6: The police service should: Dip sample (outcome code) OC10 and OC12 cases to assess the standard and consistency of decision making and use this to determine any training or briefing requirements and the need for any ongoing oversight.

It is proposed that this recommendation is referred to the Strategic Crime and Incident Recording Group, chaired by the DCC, and is subject to a formal audit by the Force Crime Registrar to determine any training or briefing requirements in relation to cases finalised as either OC10 or OC12.

Recommendation 7: The police service should: Review the availability, prevalence, and sophistication of mental health flagging, to enhance this where possible, and to consider what meaningful and usable data can be produced from this.

At present the available PNC flags are crude. For example, neurodiversity is currently only recordable via a mental health flag. Change to PNC flags requires a national change and is therefore beyond the scope of Surrey Police to resolve in isolation.

There is greater flexibility within Niche flagging. It is proposed that the extent of Niche flagging in this area is subject to a review for consideration as to whether local changes are required.

The development of Custody and CJ Power Bi dashboards will allow more accurate analysis of data in this area. At present the useability of Niche data is limited.

Recommendation 8: The police service should: Assure themselves that risks, and vulnerabilities are properly identified during risk assessment processes, particularly for voluntary attendees. They must ensure that risks are appropriately managed, including referrals to Healthcare Partners, Liaison and Diversion and the use of appropriate adults

In relation to Voluntary Attendees there is no formal provision and no risk assessment takes place other than the officer in the case assessing the need for an Appropriate Adult. This matter will be referred to the next CJLDs Operational and Quality Review meeting on the 30th December to scope how VAs could be referred and assessed by CJLDs.

Risk assessments within custody, both on arrival and pre-release, are an area strength with the HMICFRS commenting in the recent custody inspection that “the focus on the safe release of detainees is good”.

Recommendation 9: The police service should: Police leadership should review MG (manual of guidance) forms to include prompts or dedicated sections for suspect vulnerability to be included.

This is a national recommendation, intrinsically linked to the development of the Digital Case File Programme and not within the scope of individual forces. It is recommended that this is remitted to the NPCC Lead in this area for his consideration and progression.


The Chief Constable has provided a full response to the recommendations made and I am confident that Surrey Police are working towards improving training and understanding of mental health needs.

Lisa Townsend, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey

January 2022