My last blog

So I have come to my last blog for my last week in GMP. After 34 years as a police officer and 13 as a chief constable it is time to move on to a fresh challenge. My past seven years in GMP have seen many highs and lows and many challenges that we have had to face. Sadly the Force is significantly smaller and many dedicated colleagues have left us. We have been through quite a number of change programmes such as PMIT, Optimus and Fit for the Future as we have sought to improve the way we work, while at the same time making the financial savings imposed upon us.

We changed from a police authority to a police and crime commissioner to a mayor. We moved to a new headquarters and opened new police stations at Bury, Rochdale and North Manchester. We had the riots of 2011 and the Rochdale CSE cases, Twitter Day, The Detectives and now The Force. We had Operation Pathway and other significant CT operations and murders which have captured the public attention, such as that of Anuj Bidve and those of patients at Stepping Hill.

A day has not gone by without us being on the local media and few days when GMP has not featured in the national media. We have had Operation Protector nearly every year and whether you are a blue or a red, Manchester is the undisputed world capital of soccer with all the attention that attracts. We can say that the attention has always been about the football and the personalities and never about disorder due to the effectiveness of our policing. We have hosted numerous visits by overseas police forces and we are influencing policing practise in places as far apart as Chile, Qatar, Hungary, Albania, Uganda, Ethiopia and the USA. We have handled many complex protests whether it has been fracking, EDL Palestine or austerity all balancing the right to protest with the rights of others to peacefully go about their business.
We have transformed the approach of the Force from an obsession with property crime, league tables and targets to putting the protection of vulnerable people at the heart of what we do. We are leaders in the way we use restorative justice including restorative conferences. We now have over 400 volunteer youth cadets with many of our staff giving hundreds of hours of their own time to act as youth leaders. Our staff have supported hundreds of community ventures across Greater Manchester whether it is “Nowt to do ” , boxing clubs, community allotments, football activities , dementia watch or job events for gang members. We have colleagues who are nationally recognised experts in so many fields. We have raised thousands of pounds for Retrak but also many other charities besides. We have recruited hundreds of apprentices to show our commitment to the young people of this area and what a great job they are doing.

“We are with people at the worst moments of their lives. We deal with things that everyone else is desperate to read about, but we actually do it.”

Every day we deal with hundreds of incidents from the terrorist threat to lost property and everything in between. We never close, we are always there prepared for whatever the public need us for, able to respond to shootings, fatal collisions, civil emergencies, flooding, snow or just a person in distress needing our help. We are with people at the worst moments of their lives. We deal with things that everyone else is desperate to read about, but we actually do it. There are endless dramas on TV and films about the cops but we are the reality, we live it, we cannot turn off at the end of the episode, we are there for the long term. Our family liaison officers, our staff working with the victims of rape, domestic abuse, modern slavery, CSE are there with people in the darkest of moments and have to live with the often chaotic behaviour which results from the impact of extremes of abuse.

“Like many I was initially sceptical about the introduction of PCSOs but they have been crucial to our style of policing”

There are two things I have been particularly proud of, neighbourhood policing and our capability to deal with serious crime and big events. Neighbourhood policing is about our commitment to work with local people to understand local communities and to solve problems rather than just react to them. It is a fundamental shift of power coming from our belief in policing by consent which marks us out as so different from nearly all other police forces in the world. Like many I was initially sceptical about the introduction of PCSOs but they have been crucial to our style of policing and in an area like Greater Manchester it is so important to have people out there on the street picking up intelligence and information, knowing the local criminals and supporting local people to solve their own local problems. They have turned out to be one of the best developments I have seen in policing over my career. It has also given me enormous satisfaction to see the increase in the number of Special Constables both in GMP and nationally but more than that to see the increase in their professionalism and contribution. The fact that so many ordinary people can step forward and play their part in policing says a lot about our openness and our commitment to active citizenship.

Greater Manchester like most big metropolitan areas in the world has a long standing issue with organised crime and gang activity. The extremes of deprivation and the concentration of activity, creates the conditions where those prepared to use or threaten extreme violence can create networks of followers and foot soldiers. They spread misery and intimidation among those who don’t have a lot in life. We have outstanding staff who show enormous determination and persistence, great expertise and presence of mind to take on the most serious and violent criminals who themselves are constantly trying to undermine our methods. The problem is that we cannot tell the story of much of what they do because it would reveal our tactics but I have been constantly reminded of the risks that they take, the ridiculous hours they work and the fast moving decisions they have to make.

GMP is so much more than just the police officers. Over the past seven years we have expanded the range of roles that police staff are engaged in both in specialist roles and in support of our neighbourhood teams. It is so much a team effort. This is not just about operational roles. A Police Force is no good without vehicles, radios, computers, clean accommodation, security, transport, phones, feeding, uniform and equipment and so much more in support. We have tremendous staff who perform these roles around the clock. They do not get enough appreciation.

“After Fiona and Nicola I did not receive one e-mail from a member of staff asking for more officers to be armed.”

Obviously the most painful event of my time in GMP was the murder of Fiona and Nicola. Again in the midst of a horrendous event our staff responded magnificently. I remember the evening of the murder going to Ashton Police Station and finding that Specials had turned out to lend a hand despite the violent event that had occurred hours before. During that time I did not receive one email from a member of staff asking for more officers to be armed. Our staff just continued bravely going out there, preserving our style of policing just as they have in the face of the increased terrorist threat.

While the loss of Fiona and Nicola was particularly traumatic many other colleagues have also passed away. I never realised that as a chief constable I would become an expert in writing letters of condolence. The most common factor sadly has been cancer which has taken so many fine brave people. It has been incredibly moving to be with sufferers and their families confronting their own mortality but on the other hand not having a precise idea on how much time was  left to them and what further pain they would have to go through. On the other hand before I arrived the Force had an awful record in officers dying in collisions on the road. Without the work of the Driving Standards Board and the support of the Federation we would probably had more fatalities but in my seven years we have not lost one member of staff in this way.

“The police have to deal with society as it is and not how we would wish it to be…those who…freely comment on what we do and criticise us are tucked up in their beds…”

I could say a lot about the changing nature of politics and the way policing is viewed by politicians and the media, the level of scrutiny we are now under and the failings and weaknesses of the police complaints system but this is not the time or the place. The police have to deal with society as it is and not how we would wish it to be and when those who would freely comment on what we do and criticise us are tucked up in their beds we have to be out there dealing with the real world. Certainly one of my main worries is that the gap between national politics and national journalism and the reality of the world that we see on the streets of Greater Manchester is getting greater.

We are certainly not perfect, we have got things wrong and some of our own staff have let their colleagues and the public down. There are people out there in the Force and outside very angry with me because of some of the decisions made. We have however made progress on many diversity issues, we have more senior women, more ethnic minority staff and more openly gay staff, we have much stronger relationships and trust with minority communities but there are still painful issues and history hangs heavy upon us. I would like to think that GMP is a more open organisation, less obsessed with rank and hierarchy more open to challenge but we still have a long way to go to be a more people centred organisation at ease with itself. Sometimes our desire to be seen to be fair and to follow policy and procedure loses sight of the fact that there is a real human being at the end of it. In the future we will have a smaller workforce and it will need to be a more capable workforce where the best is made of the contribution skills and talent of every individual. One of my few regrets is that I was not more ambitious and radical in this area and that there has been so little workforce reform at the national level. The Home Office talks much about police reform but I have not seen a lot of it, we still have 43 police forces and we are still stuck with a criminal justice system designed for the last century.

“Boss I was only doing my job.”

Over the past seven years I have given out thousands of long service medals and certificates and recognised many acts of bravery and great police work. Nearly always the recipient says “Boss I was only doing my job “. They always play down what they have done and talk about all the others who deserve awards.  The fact is that we have a remarkable workforce who do not realise how good they are. This is not that GMP staff are better than those  in other forces but rather that few other forces have the range and volume of serious incidents that we have, the number of big events and active organised crime groups or the level of deprivation and diversity in their local communities. There are so many promising staff with huge potential for future development and I will watch their progress with interest but from afar. It has constantly uplifted me to see the dedication of our staff, their patience and compassion and whenever I felt a bit beaten down a visit to a local nick has lifted my spirits when I see again the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff. My many times out on patrol have inspired me, working alongside staff who love their job so much and show such professionalism and care. Wherever I have gone in GMP I have been met with a warm welcome and constant offers of brews but also friendliness and openness and that has meant a huge amount to me.

“Police officers are world experts in moaning and I am no different.”

Police officers are world experts in moaning and I am no different. There are many frustrations in the job but it is still the best job in the world because no other job has the variety and the challenge of not knowing what’s coming next. I am always struck by the fact that we can pump out positive stories about arrests and figures and big operations but when you talk to ordinary members of the public it is those occasions when an officer or other member of staff went out of their way to help or offer reassurance that sticks with them. It was the times they were in distress and did not know what to do and they called the police and we calmed them down and helped them think straight and put their world back together. As an officer myself, while I remember the big events I also remember the cot deaths, the fatal collisions and the suicides and wonder what happened to those families and did they ever recover. So whatever irritation we feel about the way policing is portrayed and the unfair criticism the fact is that every single day we have hundreds of opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives, to offer that reassurance and compassion even though it may feel  like a very minor interaction to us. As the saying goes – they won’t remember what you said, they won’t remember what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.

So I now hand over to Ian Hopkins who I have worked with for the last 10 years and I know will provide continuity, but also bring his own ideas and style of leadership and he will do a great job. There will be lots of challenges ahead but also lots of opportunities coming from the devolution agreement and the chance to work very differently with other agencies as a Greater Manchester team able to work on what suits folk here best. I move on to my new challenge of Chief Executive of Retrak sad to leave the many fine people of GMP but also very excited by the chance to work in a new field. Thank you for all your support.

Recognising the staff of the Counter Terrorism Unit and Security Services

The news that Abid Naseer had been convicted of a plot to set off bombs in Manchester City Centre in 2009 brought back memories of how it felt dealing with the case at the time. I was still fairly new as chief constable of GMP and not had huge experience of this sort of decision. The officers from the Counter Terrorist Unit and the Security Services were sure that a major attack was under preparation but at that stage could not be sure that we had identified everyone involved and all the potential targets. We were faced with a very difficult decision whether to make arrests to ensure that we disrupted the plot or let their planning and preparation continue until we had more evidence of what they were up to but with the risk that an attack could take place.

In the end I had to put the safety of the people Manchester first and have the arrests made. This involved 11 students of Pakistani origin and of course arresting this number in the context of such a plot caused enormous press interest and some public concern. I could not reveal to the public the nature of our investigation or the means by which we had obtained the intelligence because this would have betrayed our methods to Al Qaeda and caused problems for the security services overseas. Our officers did a great job pulling together all the evidence but there are time limits in legislation on how long we can keep terrorism suspects in custody and they have to be brought back before a court at regular intervals.We got to the point where the Crown Prosecution Service would not support a further application to the court for detention and decided there was not enough evidence to support a charge. We challenged that decision but they are the prosecuting authority and so reluctantly we had to release the suspects into the custody of the Immigration Service so that they could be deported. The American authorities made a request for extradition in respect of Abid Naseer and that is how he he ended appearing in a New York court after a prolonged legal process.

The CPS are there to do a job and to be independent of the police and I accepted the decision they made at the time. The New York court had access to evidence from a co-conspirator and also evidence from the raid on Bin Laden’s house. It is a different legal system. The conviction does show that there was a real threat to Manchester and indeed to New York and our staff did an magnificent job in disrupting the plot.

There was a lot of criticism of our action at the time. I had to try to explain that it is actually when you are not sure of the nature of the attack being planned but you know it would have catastrophic consequences that you have to act sooner. I also had to explain that there is a difference between intelligence which justifies the arrest and evidence which justifies a charge. When we have intelligence that someone is planning a terrorist act we have to intervene we cant wait to see what happens.

The case raises some important issues. The terrorists want to undermine out basic freedoms and so it is important that in fighting terrorism and violent extremism we do not undermine those freedoms. This becomes a balance between security and liberty but when you have an extreme threat then the balance has to swing a bit more to security. What do you do when you have people you suspect are planning terrorist acts or encouraging others to do so but you do not have enough evidence to prosecute them? There are measures to put restrictions on such people but how stringent should those measures be? There is an active debate on how far the Police and Security Services should have access to such e mails and to social media. The trouble is that this is how those planning attacks or trying to brainwash people communicate and indeed it has got far harder to access this material since 2009. Where does the balance between security and liberty lie here?

At the end of the day this is a matter for politicians and the public not the police. Beyond all this debate I just want to recognise the staff of the Counter Terrorist Unit and the Security Services for their dedication and professionalism in this investigation. There are people alive today because they foiled this plot and ensured that a dangerous man was eventually brought to justice.

Sir Peter Fahy

Events in Paris

When I first heard that two police officers had been killed in a gun attack in Paris I immediately thought of our two murdered officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes. The news had a particular resonance for GMP because their loss was so painful for the force and particularly her colleagues. When the next day we heard that a third officer a female had been shot then it resonated again because we lost two female officers. I think it was because of this that we wanted to show our support for our French colleagues. Could we get every force in the country to do it ? From a few phone calls and particularly the support of the Police Federation on the Wednesday evening the day of the attack every force paid tribute at 10.30 the next morning and we got pictures of all the ceremonies which have been sent to France. Just before those ceremonies took place word came through of the second shooting.

How do you make sense of such an event and all that has happened since, the violent events of Friday and the two sieges and sadly more people dead and then the incredible march in Paris on Sunday. The issues involved are not new, they are in our minds all the time as we deal with the terrorist threat and the balance between liberty and security.

We saw the diversity of the police officers killed – one white, one Muslim one black but united in that they were part of our profession driven by the desire to serve. As the days passed you heard from their families, you heard about them as people off duty the real person behind the uniform. Sadly from our experience we know that the pain of their families will last way past the time that the headlines have moved to other stories. We pay homage to Clarissa Jean-Philippe, Franck Brinsolaro and Ahmed Merabet officers who understood the risks they were taking but stepped forward.

We saw the great bravery of the officers who dealt with the two sieges and the complexity of the situation they were faced with and how difficult it must have been to assess what they were dealing with and who was inside and to be able react quickly and decisively to try and protect the lives of the hostages.

We saw the way that people were cruelly gunned down – one group for being journalists, cartoonists or police officers and one group because they were Jews. There can be no hierarchy of victims they are all human beings mourned by their loved ones but the killers put a label on them and they were murdered as a result. I suppose one issue is that a journalist can decide to go and do another job out of fear but a Jew cannot stop being Jewish and we understand the particular level of fear in that community. On the other hand journalists are vital to our democracy and civilisation and too many have been killed in the various trouble spots of the world and too many have been imprisoned.

There has been huge debate over many years on the subject of Jihad and radicalisation. We have talked often about the power of extremist ideologies and the increasing threat of how this is piped through social media. On the other hand I look at the killers involved in the Paris attacks and think is this about some ideology or is it that they have a blood lust and a fascination with guns and a disregard for human life that we see in other dangerous criminals such as the one who killed our two police officers. I am troubled that we give so much attention to their videos where they try and grab their five minutes of fame and try and justify their cowardly actions. When over a million marched to express their commitment to civilisation and democracy why did the News give so much coverage to the views of just one perverted individual who caused so much pain and suffering.

In grieving for the dead of Paris we must not forget that in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other conflict zones many more are being brutally killed every day. It is a cruel irony that these terrorist organisations which claim such adherence to Islam are killing so many Muslims. The situation is frightening when you see the scale of the turmoil in these countries and the brutality involved. The philosophy of these organisations seems a brutal form of fascism which wants to drag us back to the dark ages and abandon all the progress we have made in creating democracies which are open and fair and in particular respect the views and rights of minorities. We cannot be complacent about the nature of that threat. Some don’t like describing it as a war but on the other hand it will need the degree of determination and common endeavour we had in the Second World War if we are to defeat it.

The events in Paris has shown the strength of the fundamental values and beliefs of the French Republic. They are clear that they are a secular state and that symbols of religious faith must be kept out of their schools and public institutions. They have this strong commitment to the freedom of the press and freedom of speech

Egalite, fraternite, liberte the fundamental call of the French Revolution. They see such importance in this issue of freedom to insult who you like and deny any overt expression of religious belief. This has led to the banning of the wearing of the veil in public and in schools which has caused so much resentment within their Muslim community because they feel they are being singled out. This can never, never be any sort of excuse or justification for violence in return but it is something which causes alienation.

The approach in the UK is different. It is not by chance that none of our mainstream media including the BBC had published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed before the Paris attacks and very few since. Some have criticised this as a sign of weakness and some have seen it as a sign of fear and intimidation. I don’t agree. In the UK it seems to be in the fundamentals of our values that we respect other people’s beliefs and traditions and what is important to them as long as they don’t impose it on us. What you might call live and let live. I think it is one of the best things about this country and one of the best things about Manchester where so many people have come from so many different backgrounds and on the whole live alongside one another respecting each other’s traditions. Some have criticised this “multiculturalism’ as a weakness – I see it as a strength.

As a Catholic I believe that a piece of bread ( the host ) is consecrated by a priest during the mass and becomes the body of Christ. I know many not of my faith see this as irrational and ridiculous but it is what I believe and it is very important to me. So I have no problem with anyone criticising the Catholic Church, what the Pope does, what certain priests have done but would see desecration of the sacrament of communion and the host of bread as we call it as very upsetting. Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet the same way. So I want to live in a country where people are free to criticise and speak out and draw cartoons and use satire but I also hope it is a country which respects that some things are very important to some people and as long as they don’t break the law or impose their beliefs on others why would I want to go out of my way to insult those beliefs and upset them.

Of course in reality there is not complete freedom of speech. There are a number of things which it is against the law to say and it is fundamental in our society and most modern societies that you do not have freedom to threaten others to be racist or homophobic or to incite hatred and police officers spend much time negotiating around the boundary of what it is acceptable to say and not.

The events in Paris have meant that important figures have had to step forward and state their position and it has brought about this debate about what are our fundamental values. It has caused many leaders of the Muslim community here and in France to state a clear position that whatever their upset about the cartoons they want to live in country where people have the freedom to draw them and a gun can never be the answer to a pen. I don’t think that such Muslim leaders should almost have to keep apologising for a tiny minority who claim the Muslim faith but pervert their religion but I do think that it is healthy that we have this important debate on where the lines lies between freedom of speech and respect and what are those fundamentals that unite everyone. This cannot be left to the police and that is why I support the Government’s proposals to make preventing violent extremism a duty on all public agencies.

I did an interview with an Asian TV station where an academic said this move to make even nurseries have policies on this issue was heavy handed and draconian. I disagree. We are not asking nursery staff to be police spies to seek out toddlers who may become terrorists but we do think that all educational bodies should for instance train their staff to know what to do if a child is expressing worrying views such as I hate all Muslims or keeps on drawing a picture of a gun killing someone. We are not saying they have to report this to the police but they should know how to seek advice on how to deal with this situation and gather more information. More importantly the draft guidance says that universities should have policies to know who is speaking on campus and what they would do if someone is invited expressing extremist views against the values of that university. This has to be part of the drive for all of us to stand up for our core values and to play our part in challenging extremist ideologies.

If there was one other lesson from Paris it was that this was an attack not just on the office of a magazine but against a whole society and what it believes in and therefore the fight against this cannot just be for the police but the whole of society. As I recently argued in an article in the Guardian the best route to a police state to leave the fight against violent extremism to the police alone.

Ferguson is not another country…

The town of Ferguson, Missouri where the shooting of a black man led to rioting  may seem a long way away and it is easy for us in the UK to shake our heads at some of the things that go on in the USA despite our common language and heritage. On the other hand I am sure that there are many members of the black community irritated if not angry, that there had been so much coverage of the disturbances there while some of the issues of racial disadvantage in this country are not so well covered. They feel that while there are correspondents on the ground in the US to give first-hand accounts not only of the riot but the underlying issues the level of alienation among many of the members of our deprived communities is not so well explored.

Ferguson is at one level the story of a militarised society with an incredibly high level of gun ownership and where increasing instances of multiple killings through use of firearms just leads to calls for more firearms to be available to the ordinary citizens and for less control on open carrying of weapons. One US police chief has seen greater gun ownership as the best way to combat increasing numbers of house burglaries. Various court rulings have endorsed the rights of citizens to stand their guard and shoot first if they fear a “stranger” We can only give thanks for the very tight gun laws in this country and the fact that we have a police force which is routinely unarmed but on the other hand we must be realistic that there is still a significant problem with criminally held guns.

Ferguson and the other cases involving black people and the police in the US is however also the story of an overwhelmingly white police force and an overwhelmingly white criminal justice system exercising power over neighbourhoods that are overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly socially and economically deprived. It is the story of  a country where the prison population is disproportionately made up of black people. It is the story of a country where black people are underrepresented amongst politicians and the media and where many people in deprived neighbourhoods do not bother to vote or engage in the political process.

The problem is of course that while all these are features of the USA they are also features of our country. Black people are significantly over represented in our prison population and underrepresented in the police force, the judiciary and in the students at university. The progress in making the police force more representive is at best glacial. The ethnic makeup of our cities is changing rapidly but the time that police forces will reflect that diversity is so far in the future to be in the Star Trek era. Yes a small number of black officers will fight their way to the top echelons of policing but it will be one or two and we have to be brave enough to say that fine words and sentiments do not break glass ceilings and doing what we have always done will not produce the change we need. To be clear this is not about political correctness or targets it is about operational effectiveness and the sort of workforce we need to build confidence and legitimacy, gather intelligence and information and just understand the population that we are serving. There needs to be a change in employment law to allow forces to balance  the needs of the community and the health of the organisation with the rights of applicants.

Ferguson is also the story about a crime control form of policing in the US which has become increasingly militarised. The terrorist threat and concerns about officer protection has led American forces to procure military specification hardware including armoured vehicles. Many Americans have expressed concern that they did not recognise the Ferguson response as their idea of policing. In the UK we have also seen some of this trend with the adoption of Tasers and more robust protective gear for officers which can look like combat standard. It is right that we protect our staff and for me anything below a gun is better than having more armed officers but through this the routinely unarmed nature of UK policing must be preserved along with the notion that an officer’s best protection is their mouth and powers of reasoning to calm volatile people and situations.

There are many good example of community policing in the USA but at its worst it can seem that the role of the police in some American cities is to keep the “bad ” people in the ” bad ” areas. Some American cities are highly economically segregated and some commentators have described the “doughnut city” where there is a gleaming city centre, pleasant affluent suburbs but an inner city scarred by deprivation that the “haves” drive through on their way to work or entertainment while bypassing the “have nots”. We have to be careful that this does not happen by default in our cities. The focus of the public service reform programme in Greater Manchester is to enhance the skills of the residents and reduce the numbers who suffer from complex dependency and are trapped in worklessness and welfare. This is a critical issue of social justice and even includes how businesses are committed to develop innovative programmes to employ local people and engage in projects which develop skills and reduce the reliance on benefits.

This is also about the position that policing occupies in our society particularly at a time of growing inequality and at a time of continuing cuts in funding to police and other public services. We could easily retreat to a crime control and suppression model where the police focus on their core responsibilities and go back to the fire brigade models of policing I experienced when I joined policing in 1981. Over the subsequent years policing made a fundamental shift to the neighbourhood policing model which is much more than just a locally based beat officer but is about a shift in the balance of power where local teams work with local people to solve local problems rather than do policing to them. This is far from perfect. Surveys still show that Afro Caribbean’s have a lower level of confidence in policing than other ethnic minority groups but matched with other initiatives such as greater local accountability and the commitment to deal with hate crime and more black officers is the best hope we have of fairer policing and greater trust.

Simplistic crime control models tend to feed more and more people into the prison system incurring huge cost and often making them better criminals when they come out. Now let’s be clear dangerous and serious criminals need to be punished and need to be detained for public protection but there many others on that conveyor belt of poor upbringing, poor education, drug and alcohol use and offending where we need to break the cycle at an earlier stage. When police are measured on simplistic crime and detection targets then again this tends to reinforce social deprivation and lead to greater use of stop and search and removes the discretion of individual officers. Some of the simplistic zero tolerance approaches so lauded in the USA has led to large numbers of young black men being imprisoned which further destabilises some inner city areas because children are growing up with no fathers and no positive role models.

Crime will always be a key part of police work and the criminal law is a crucial part of any democratic society.  The role of the police however should be broader and I would argue should be about working with other agencies and local people to make areas better places to live in through reducing crime and criminality but also reducing dependency and promoting social justice including promoting equality between different ethnic groups. This is also the best way to reduce the demand on public services long term, through reducing dependency and getting the public to take more responsibility and ultimately being able to sustain what will be the significant spending cuts in the future.

This notion of social justice is also about what the police see as priorities and how those priorities are framed. Crime is defined through legislation and often whether something is a police responsibility and priority depends on whether it is a crime or not. I would argue that the police role should be broader in working with other agencies and local people on what is causing harm in that community. Now often the police role will still be to concentrate on crime but if what is causing harm in the community is for instance loan sharks or the level of truancy then this should be a police priority. If there is an issue which is reinforcing social disadvantage and alienation then the police should consider the role that they can play in tackling this.

An example of this is that the police can be proud of the part they have played in promoting the use of cautions and restorative justice and their contribution to the Youth Offending Service which has seen a huge drop in the number of young people including young black people being sent to custody. This has not led to an increase in youth crime indeed the very opposite.  In Greater Manchester we are working on a project to reduce the number of women sent to prison. As black women are disproportionately more likely to be sent to prison then this will disproportionately have a positive benefit for them.

We also know that certain issues have been the focus of complaint from ethnic minorities particularly stop and search and deaths in police custody. Improving the use of stop and search is about improved training and accountability of officers but also better intelligence systems which ensure that activity is directed against those who create most harm and remove the practise of officers randomly targeting young people on the basis of appearance. Sadly many deaths of black people in custody have been about those suffering from mental illness being taken into police custody because there were not alternative health facilities. Work that we have carried out in Greater Manchester with the NHS has led to a 90 per cent reduction in the number of people being detained because of mental illness and use of Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

The Americans have put great store by the introduction of body worn video cameras to increase the accountability of police officers. Others have pointed out that some of the tragic encounters in the US between police and black people have been captured on video but this has not made much difference to their behaviour or accountability in the criminal justice system.  There is some evidence that body warn videos mean that officers use less discretion and common sense because they fear how the camera might interpret their actions and this could have a negative impact on the public. On the other hand there have been many critical incidents scarred on the history of policing where the availability of video evidence may well have clarified matters at a far earlier stage. So much of this is about the perception and the use of body worn video gives a strong perception of accountability and creates safeguards for the public and for police officers.

No one can challenge that officers must be accountable under the law in the  same way as any other citizen. The reality however is that the law does provide protection to any citizen trying to defend themselves or making an arrest and a police officer has no more protection than any other citizen. There has to be some consideration however of how we ensure justice for families, drive higher standards for police officers and fundamentally learn lessons for the future. The trouble too often is the learning of lessons is often lost in the heat of blame, hurt, suspicion and legal advice and the pain of families and their personal experience is lost. In other situations alternatives have been tried such as truth and reconciliation commissions and this needs further consideration. In Greater Manchester the Police and Crime Commissioner has introduced an independent ombudsman to provide another element of oversight into the investigation of complaints and it is good that the Home Office now recognise this as a possible way forward.

The austerity is a real threat to social justice and community cohesion. Research shows that ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately during the recession and it is not a political argument to say that over recent years inequality has grown and the use of food banks and other signals of deprivation have mushroomed. The austerity will see further cuts in public services and neighbourhood policing is under serious threat due to staffing reductions. We can head the American way and end up with a more crime control form of policing and other public services can retrench to the core activities which will inevitably see deprivation , alienation and racial disadvantage grow or we can seize the opportunity to organise the public services including the police in a different direction to focus on the underlying causes and to promote social justice.

A key issue in reducing the alienation felt by many deprived communities is to increase  the degree to which people get involved in local community life, to encourage volunteering and to regenerate local democracy. We have to be concerned not only at the low number of people who vote in some elections in socially deprived areas but also the number not even bothering to register for voting. Public services need to join up at the local level in a way which engages local people, community groups, charities and faith groups and gets local people solving local problems. The recently agreed devolution of power to Greater Manchester is a step in that direction but clearly needs to carried through to local streets so that residents feel that they have a say and are drawn to get more involved so that we don’t have the level of alienation that we see in Ferguson.

So drawing together my arguments what needs to be done –

  • Amendments to employment law to allow the significant under representation of black people in the police and criminal justice system to be addressed by allowing greater consideration of the need to balance the needs of the community with the rights of individuals.
  • Joining up the public service at the local level to work with those families and individuals trapped in the cycle of poor upbringing, poor skills, worklessness and the revolving door of prison.
  • To allow the police and other public services to focus on the broader role of promoting social justice balancing the need to cut crime and criminality with the need to address those issues local people see as causing most harm in their neighbourhoods.
  • To recognise the damage caused by simplistic measures and targets which through  their narrow focus can draw certain types of crime and offending into the web while bypassing others and through this reinforce economic disadvantage.

Addressing those issues which historically have brought police and ethnic minorities into conflict by keeping the vulnerable out of police cells, seeking alternatives to imprisonment where appropriate and eradicating random use of stop search in favour of more targeted multi agency approaches to persistent offending.

Developing a more effective speedier way of investigating those critical incidents which cause significant damage to the confidence of communities focussed more on learning lessons but with no reduction in the accountability of individual officers but also recognising where police forces need to take organisational responsibility for the systems staff work under.

A conscious effort to devolve power and responsibility to the local level of get more people involved in the life of their community to reduce alienation and to strengthen cohesion between different groups.

December update

A very busy time of the year and that’s not counting my non-existent Christmas preparations.

We have had some very busy days operationally with a number of murders and other serious investigations. We have now had 39 murders over the past twelve months compared to 25 for the previous same period.

We continue to see a significant rise in serious sexual offences and domestic violence. Some of this increase is because we have changed our recording practices but it is also clear that more victims have the confidence to report cases to us and there are more historic cases. Many of these cases are complex and require many hours of work.

There have been a series of inspections and reports by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary which takes up considerable time and produces recommendations which need to be considered and implemented. The national report on crime recording generated much publicity over the line that the police were under recording large numbers of crimes. There is no question that mistakes have been made by forces and individual officers but we also know that there are issues of how the rules are interpreted in individual cases and a change in approach by HMIC. It is fair to say that there is now considerable confusion after the Chief HMI Tom Winsor said that officers had no discretion and where a victim reported a crime it must always be recorded and only “no crimed” where there is evidence to suggest that no crime occurred. We await some clarification on this but in the meantime we stick to our force policy and the training officers have already been given.

I have written many times about the dangers of the league table and target culture and that officers must have discretion to “do the right thing’. The public do not believe the crime figures or statistics in general and who can blame them when the National Crime Survey shows a 16 per cent drop in crime while police recorded crime is showing an increase ( in GMPs case an 8 per cent increase ). It is really important to monitor the performance of the force but the level of crime and detections is only one measure. We are just as interested in the level of victim satisfaction, public confidence in policing and how we are dealing with the greatest threats, harm and risks. Our key priority is protecting vulnerable people.

HMIC are also publishing new PEEL assessments of each force and GMP was rated good in two areas with room for improvement in crime investigation. This relates principally to the increase in rapes and the fact that we need more staff to investigate those offences. There are many positive comments in the report and in another report on Integrity and Leadership.

Much has been happening on the political front with the announcement that more powers will be devolved from Westminster to Greater Manchester with the eventual creation of an elected mayor for the whole area with interim arrangements from next April. The responsibilities of the Police and Crime Commissioner will eventually be rolled up in the duties of this new mayor. This is an important development for our area and means that we will have a greater ability to work with local authorities and local people on what is best for Greater Manchester rather than what is best for the politicians in London.  It will give greater impetus to our work to fundamentally change the way we work across the public sector, sharing information, creating integrated local teams and ensuring we send the right professional with the right skills to reported incidents. This better way of local working has led to a 90 per cent reduction in the number of mental health cases coming into custody but there are a number of other areas where partner agencies place unfair burdens on the force or where we feel they don’t meet their responsibilities.
Among the various community events I have attended was the memorial service for Alan Henning. This was a very moving occasion held in Eccles parish church.

Some people may have thought that Alan was naive and misguided in wanting to travel to Syria with his Muslim friends to deliver aid to the children there. What came across is that he gave it very careful thought, that he was aware of the dangers, had been there before but was driven by his sense of compassion and service. Just before he left he asked his two children whether they would prefer him to stay with them for Christmas but they knew how much it meant to him to put the Syrian children before himself. It was clear this was a remarkable family and showed yet again that you just can’t make assumptions about people. During the service a letter was read from one of the other hostages who was released by the terrorists.  He said how much Alan had lifted the spirits of the other hostages by telling funny stories and inventing card games.
Alan’s widow Barbara gave a tribute to Alan but the first thing she said was her deep appreciation of the support her family had received from the Family Liaison Officers from GMP. Indeed when she met the Prime Minister it was the first thing she said to him. There are many unsung heroes in GMP and among them are our FLOs who are there during the darkest days of a family who have lost a loved one through murder or a fatal road accident and indeed in this case from the point it was known that Alan had been kidnapped. Of course when I thanked the officers they said they were only doing their job and praised the courage of the family.

I attended a dinner given by the Senior Women in Policing network at the Chill Factor. This was attended not only by our own senior female staff but those of neighbouring forces. At the moment in GMP we have three female ACCs and a number of female chief superintendents as well as senior female police staff. Superintendent Serena Kennedy has recently been selected as a chief superintendent by Cheshire so good progress is being maintained all around and there are some excellent role models for staff younger in service.

We cannot say the same for ethnic minority staff. At an event organised by the Black and Asian Police Association we could only reflect that little progress has been made. While the make-up of the population we serve is changing rapidly the percentage of BME staff has not moved forward despite fine words and noble intensions. Of course it is now much more difficult to change the make-up of the force as we doing so little recruiting and the number of promotions has also reduced. With my long involvement with this subject at local and national level I could write the book on past mistakes and missed opportunities. Since about 2009 I have advocated a change in employment law but this is unlikely to happen any time soon and we can only work within the existing structures. As I have said in the past this is not about targets for their own sake or about political correctness but about a clear operational need that we need a workforce which understands and can build confidence with our increasingly diverse population. This requirement to understand and identify with the diversity of the local community will be a sharper feature of the recruitment that we do carry out as we ensure we use the measures which are allowed in employment law. Sadly the vents in Ferguson, Missouri shows the problems which are caused when a police force looks so unlike the community it serves and cannot identify with the reality of the lives of alienated young people.

I attended Parliament to give evidence to a group of MPs and members of the House of Lords looking at women in the penal system. There is a paradox that while crime has halved over the last ten years the number of women in prison has gone up. Around 83 per cent of these women are there for non-violent offences serving short sentences. In Greater Manchester we have started a project to offer alternatives to locking up women basically because it does little good and means their children go into care and they themselves are put on the conveyor belt to crime. We have drastically cut the number of young people going into custody and continued to reduce youth crime and we need to do the same for women. We have introduced a triage system in custody to ensure that in suitable cases women can be released on bail and are referred to a woman’s centre to work up an alternative to going to court. There is also now a problem solving court for women in Manchester and Salford with magistrates being given alternatives to custody.

Some of this is about the fundamental role of the police and whether we are here to just narrowly enforce the law or whether we have a wider mission to promote social justice. As the austerity bites further and hopefully we become more developed and mature as a society then we have to question whether continuing to react to social problems rather than to try and fix them can be the purpose of policing. There will always be a role for the courts and for punishment but continuing to feed the machine of young people going into the prison system only to come out more damaged and better offenders can be afforded or justified. From all our work we know that a poor upbringing and particularly being exposed to domestic violence in your family has a huge impact on brain development and life chances. We know that many families and individuals constantly follow this cycle from generation to generation and that some young people have their futures mapped out for them before they are born. As the police, do we just accept this and work within the system? Or try to change it for the benefit of the public and to try and end this waste of money and waste of human potential ? This is not new to GMP the great work done with other agencies and local people to end what was an awful tide of shootings of young black males and street gangs shows that this broader approach to solve a problem rather than react to it actually saves lives.

So moving away from simplistic statistical targets and working in a different way with other agencies offers us the chance to concentrate on protecting the most vulnerable in our society and shift the previous narrow focus on property crime. It allows us to concentrate on the most persistent offenders and most dangerous organised crime groups rather than the previous focus on detection rates for individual types of crimes.

There has to be a hard edge to this. Enforcing the law and progressing cases into the courts will always be an important part of our work but the fact is that many of our victims refuse to go into the court system and the courts cannot solve some of the criminal lifestyles and cycles of alcohol and substance abuse that we see. The courageous work done by many officers to promote the use of cautions, restorative justice and community justice panels often in the face of negative media coverage has given many young people a second chance and has ultimately led to fewer victims of crime and less public money wasted on youth detention centres. 

 

I was reminded of the reality of our day to day work yet again when I went out on patrol with response in Leigh recently. Every job we dealt with that evening was related to vulnerable people mainly through mental health. Every job would have benefitted from access to greater information about the person we were dealing with from other agencies. Certainly two of the jobs were not a police matter as far as I was concerned. One of these was to check on the welfare of a 7 year old girl who had not been to school for two days.  Another was a depressed alcoholic woman who had lost her keys and wanted a crime number so that the housing association did not charge her for new locks. All this shows that while we are undoubtedly short of response officers we have still got too many jobs which do not need our deployment. It shows that because we are the 24 hour service, the public call us because other agencies are closed and therefore we end up inappropriately dealing with social problems. It raises issues of whether our officers are trained to make assessments about whether a child is neglected or not when social workers have three years university level education to carry out their role.

 

So police officers will always being involved with social problems and will be agents of social change through our problem solving work but we are not social workers and we do not have access to the case histories and the training that social workers have access to. That is why a key part of the change programme is the way we work with other agencies so that we are clear on our respective roles, use our strengths and what we are good at and work together to change people’s lives not just react to the latest crisis.

 

So back to those Christmas preparations I have not started yet. One thing which is under way is our GMP Christmas appeal. Last year we collected food for elderly people in our community which was a great success so we are going to do the same this year. So please bring in your donations of food and goodies and get involved. We are also supporting the Key 103 Christmas toy appeal so again when you are out shopping buy an additional gift if you can to donate to the appeal and the collections at our police stations and force HQ.  Sadly in our day to day work in GMP we see many vulnerable needy old people and children and this is a great way in which we can make their Christmas a bit brighter.

Sir Peter Fahy
Chief Constable
Greater Manchester Police

A problem police cannot solve alone

The report by Ann Coffey into Child Sexual Exploitation is a very good piece of work and worth reading. She is clear that this issue is one not only for all agencies but for wider society. She is clear that GMP has improved its response but that the problem is far more complex than the police can solve on their own. Of course this did not stop some sections of the media merely focussing on the police contribution.

Runaway children are not just a Greater Manchester issue but one that affects every part of the country and indeed every part of the world. The report highlights however that children who are in care make up a huge proportion of the reports the police receive. This is not surprising in that the reason many children are in care is because they have had troubled upbringings and have had to suffer the trauma of being taken away from their parents or being abandoned by them. Many people seem surprised by the sheer number of reports of missing children that the police deal with, but this is the reality of the situation we face.

There are more than 200 children’s homes across Greater Manchester, with quite a number who take in children from other parts of the country. The fact that young people run away is not because the care is not good, but because running away is often a symptom of deeply rooted problems in their lives and the isolation of being in care.

All parents at some point face the challenge of a child or young person who does not want to do what they are told, and, in seeking more freedom or peer approval, put themselves at risk. This may exhibit itself in wanting to be out late at night, to congregate with mates in parks or on street corners , or to meet up with people that the parent or carer does not view as suitable.

Parents will try reasoning and negotiation, may get to a point where they have to exert greater control and in some cases they may be driven to physically stopping their child going out. The care worker in a children’s home is in no different a position apart from the fact that the child they are dealing with may have particular problems of low self-esteem and risky behaviour which brought them into care in the first place, and are only allowed to use physical restraint in the most extreme of circumstances. The amount of care homes and the frequency of reports of missing children are just an indicator of a much broader issue of the number of vulnerable children in the country who are not thriving and who have had bad starts in life.

Running away puts young people in a particularly dangerous position as the report points out. An area like Greater Manchester has many late night venues and takeaways, with easy transport links and a vast concentration of people – some who are only intent on harm. Combined with an increasingly sexualised society – where extreme images are readily available online, and where young girls in particular are conditioned to see themselves as sexual objects – and this increases the danger even further.

The report has some powerful testimonies of how some young women view themselves and their relationships with men, and how some young lads seem to think they need to be controlling or abusive to get respect. There are then older men who have blurred the divide between young girls and young women, and don’t understand the nature of consent and respect. These people are abusers and exploiters who need to be challenged and wherever possible – convicted.

Some of the publicity has pointed out the gap between the number of sexual offences we record and the number of convictions. Well the first thing to say is that we know that sexual offences are very significantly under-reported, so in effect the gap is even greater. Ann Coffey’s report points out the real complexity of investigating these offences and some of the attitudes prevalent in the criminal justice system; some of which the police have been guilty of in the past. She is careful again to say that sadly these are attitudes prevalent in wider society which then feeds into the jury system and then makes prosecutors cautious of taking cases forward for fear of how the victim will be viewed. She points out some of the awful experiences that victims have had in court when as she describes how they are confronted by bullying behaviour by defence barristers. She calls for consideration of a different way of presenting this sort of evidence in the court process, which is more of a search for the truth, rather than a battle between two different sides, with the victim caught in the middle.

There will always be aspects that GMP needs to continue to improve upon and a key starting point is looking at basic attitudes and ensuring that we recognise the vulnerability in many of the young people we come across on the street, and in particular those who constantly run away. As with domestic violence it so important we recognise the power of an abusive relationship and the way it destroys the self-esteem and self-control of the victim and how so many victims do not identify themselves as such. We need to be proactive in seeking out places where young people are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by abusers such as late night food places, transport hubs and those quieter places young people like to gather, We need to do all we can to challenge harassment such as what is experienced by some girls leaving schools. However, this is a huge task given the ground we have to cover and that is why Ann Coffey makes it clear that it is not just the job of the police alone.

GMP is also playing its part in trying to deal with the underlying issues of why there are so many vulnerable young people who don’t get the right start in life. The Troubled Families initiative is working with hundreds, if not thousands of families across Greater Manchester that have histories of poor school attendance, chronic health issues, domestic violence and drug and alcohol use.  We know that these aspects can often create the conveyor belt which takes a child from a lack of love, care and affection in early years to disruptive behaviour,  doing poorly at school, exclusion and involvement with social services, leading to risky behaviour and vulnerability. On every borough we will have a multi-agency team working on all vulnerability issues, sharing information day to day and deciding who is the best professional or service to deal with a particular case.

There has been much discussion about the need for officers to recognise vulnerability and to be able to engage and generate confidence with victims and potential victims. Many of our officers are very good at this but we have to recognise that this is extremely complex – that is why social workers receive three years’ university training to give them the skills to recognise the factors at play and the underlying psychological causes.

We have to give children and young people the right help at the right time. We have to question at what point the police officer ends and the social worker begins.

Sir Peter Fahy
Chief Constable

A complex problem

A huge amount has been written and spoken about in reaction to the report about child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. I am not going to comment on the specifics of what happened there but would say that this is obviously not a new problem. The issue of young people out late at night on the street being targeted by men has been highlighted some years ago by other police forces and was the subject of news reports and documentaries. In Oldham there has been Operation Messenger for many years and in Manchester the Protect team both involving police and social workers focussing on this issue. In Rochdale successful prosecutions have been achieved and other cases are still being investigated.

It is inevitable and understandable that we seek simple answers to what are complex and emotive issues surrounding those in abusive relationships, the abusers themselves and the way the police and the wider criminal justice systems deals with sexual offences.
Those not involved with these issues find it hard to understand why the police and social services cannot protect vulnerable young people and arrest and convict abusers.

The first thing to say is that there have been advances in child protection across the country and many successful prosecutions and other cases where families and children are helped to put their lives back together. On the other hand there are a number of important policy issues for which there are no easy answers.

The cases in Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere involve young people who often have a number of different problems in their lives and get drawn into inappropriate relationships with men which then lead to serious sexual abuse. It is in the nature of an abusive relationship that the victim does not recognise the danger they are in and don’t want to leave the abuser.

When parents, teachers, social workers or police officers try to get them to end the relationship and stop meeting the abuser they often refuse and of course the abuser will still try and get to them. The answer seems obvious that if a child is in danger and refuses to protect themselves and other strategies fail then they should be placed in secure accommodation for their own protection. The problem is that this is obviously a drastic step which requires specialist facilities. More importantly we know that such a step can have a very damaging impact on that young person and often for the rest of their lives because they are removed from their family, their school and their friends. Of course the better course would be to try and remove the abuser but that takes a lot more time and is linked to the second major policy issue, how the court system deals with sexual offences.

Our experience of dealing with girls who are victims of child sexual exploitation is that it takes on average around nine months for us to build a relationship with that young person to the point where they are willing to complain about their abuser and support a prosecution. The problem is that in many cases without that prosecution it is often very difficult to control the activities of the abuser. The challenges don’t end there. As I have said many of those who are abused have serious problems in their lives, may have had drug or alcohol issues, may have told lies to protect their abusers and will have been involved in what some would call promiscuous behaviour. The problem is that these “weaknesses” will be ruthlessly exploited in the court process to try and damage the credibility of the victim.

It is the harrowing nature of this process for the victim with the chance that the abuser will be found not guilty which causes police officers, social workers and prosecutors to agonise as to whether a prosecution will be in the victim’s best interests or indeed whether a prosecution can succeed given the way the court system works. Included in this consideration will be the fact that cases take many, many months to get to court.

There have been some changes made to the court process to make it a bit easier for victims giving evidence. There are proposals to enable victims to give pre-recorded evidence and to be cross examined by only one defence barrister. This will help but will not prevent many questions being asked about the lifestyle of the victim some of which others would consider have nothing to do with the facts of the case but just seek to destroy the character of that witness. Sadly, as we know some victims have committed suicide after such an experience. There are many cases that do not get near the court process because they just cannot get to the threshold of “beyond all reasonable doubt.”

The conviction rate for rape overall is about 10 per cent of all reported cases and so the question should be not what are we doing for this 10 per cent but what are we doing for the 90 per cent of other victims.

This can sometimes be interpreted as police officers not believing victims of rape and abuse but the issue is often not whether an officer believes the victim but whether they think a jury will believe the victim against this standard of “beyond all reasonable doubt.”

In my view there has been too much focus in success being seen as getting cases to court. This creates a mind-set that if a case has little prospect of getting to court and certainly where a victim does not support a prosecution then interest is lost in the case overall. Many victims are put off from seeking support because they fear they will be “persuaded” to go to court when they feel that the court process will not solve the problem in their lives. There needs to be a far greater balance in favour of protection of the victim rather than prosecution of the offender.
Protection in these cases can only be provided if all the agencies involved work in a fundamentally different way. In Greater Manchester, all the public services recognise that most of the people who need our protection and care have a complex set of needs and are part of wider families who themselves have complex needs. Many of these families have many years of chronic dependency, constant interactions with the public services and the same patterns of behaviour repeating themselves. They take up a large proportion of the public spend but often this spend is not solving their problems. We are developing new ways of working which put teams of staff from the different agencies working in the same office sharing information on a daily basis to make sure there is a joined up strategy to protect vulnerable people and look at the issues for the whole family. This is the best way to try and ensure children have the best upbringing that problems are identified early and it is less likely we will young people vulnerable to abusers in the future.

The past week has been difficult for police officers and social workers and I am sure many have shouted at the radio or television as they feel that much of the coverage just does not recognise the complexities of the job they do and the real difficulties they face working in deprived communities often with families and individuals with chaotic lifestyles and long term histories of need. I can understand why many journalists and commentators do not appreciate this as often these communities are hidden and I myself only have an understanding of this because of the job I do and the opportunities I get to go out on the front line.

The problem with this atmosphere is that it will get more and more difficult to attract the best people into social work or to get police officers who want to get involved in child protection work. It also means that social workers and police officers “play safe” and don’t show the degree of innovation and imagination needed to succeed in this work and in particular what is needed to capture determined abusers. A siege mentality develops where public servants strive to do their best but feel unappreciated and undervalued by the society around them. It is not that social workers and police officers do not appreciate what life is like in deprived communities rather that they understand it too well.

And what about the race issue? Some have said that the reason this issue has not been confronted was because of fear of being labelled racist as many of the abusers in these cases are Asian men. I have never been convinced of this argument but rather feel it is easier to talk about the race issue than the more complex issues of the care system and the court system. I do think that there are some fundamental issues about the rights of women in our society that some minority cultures need to confront but on the other hand the levels of domestic violence in this country suggest that we all need to confront this issue. I also think there are some issues about the licensing of taxi drivers and take away premises which need to be reviewed as these have featured in a number of CSE cases. At the end of the day abuse is about criminality and we need to focus on the criminals and seek them out rather than label whole communities.
There is much more that I could say. The risk is that the current hiatus about Rotherham will fizzle out quickly to be replaced by another news story and while outrage will have been vented the fundamental policy issues involved will not have been confronted.

For me these fundamental issues are:

  • Clearer guidance and research on the whole issue of children in care and the criteria when secure accommodation is to be used
  • The creation of a network of “safe houses ” which young people at risk of abuse or who keep running away could use knowing their own welfare would be the primary concern
  • The creation of a legal process which police officers and other professionals could access which would provide immediate protection for a vulnerable child or immediate control of a suspected abuser without the need for a conviction or charge beforehand.
  • A clear statement that the prime duty of a police force is the protection of vulnerable people and long term measures to reduce the level of abuse and that this should take precedence over property crime.
  • A radical realignment of public services in line with the troubled families initiative to create local teams of professionals from the key caring agencies with a focus on reducing complex dependency and providing joined up strategies to protect vulnerable people.
  • The promotion of the concept of British values to generate a wider debate about the rights of women and children in our society and its relation to cultural norms in minority communities and the impact of the increasing sexualisation of young people

Sir Peter Fahy,
Chief Constable