Tag Archives: sir peter fahy

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 week in the life of a Chief Constable

What does a chief constable actually do? Well last week was a bit more frantic than most but on the other hand gives an idea of how I spend my time and the range of issues I deal with.

Last Monday started with leaving the house at about 6.15am to get to MediaCity for an ITV interview on the threat from the situation in the Middle East and how to prevent British people from travelling out there to take part in the conflict. Next was a quick change from uniform to a suit and then across to Piccadilly station to catch a train to London. There was then a meeting at the ACPO office with representatives of Police and Crime Commissioners on various national issues. I then fitted in two more television interviews BBC and Sky before making my way to a meeting with fellow chief constables. That made a total of eight TV interviews and two radio interviews on that subject over that weekend. Next there was a two hour meeting between chief constables, the Home Secretary and other Home Office ministers. We covered a number of subjects including the changing nature of demand on the police and the threat from internet based crime.

The Home Secretary gave an input in which she emphasized that the tight control on public spending would continue and therefore more savings would be required. From this meeting it was on to an evening session run by an organisation called City Forum where I was speaking about policing as a profession and how we need to achieve ever higher standards of expertise and professional ethics. There were a number of other speakers there from other professions as well as the Chair and Chief Executive of the College of Policing. I sat next to Vic Goddard who was the head teacher featured in the Channel 4 programme Educating Essex who I found inspirational in his drive to get his students to believe in themselves.

I stayed overnight at my mother’s  house in Essex and the following morning it was back into London for a series of meetings on terrorism issues including the Police Counter Terrorism Board which is chaired by the Minister for Security and where we are held to account for our performance and our use of the funding provided. It was then back on the train to Manchester; a chance to get changed, and then off to a charity event organised by the Manchester City Centre Crime Panel in aid of the Children’s Hospital. The crime prevention panel brings together businesses in the City Centre to work on various projects to reduce crime and in particular supports public information campaigns.

On Wednesday it was in to police headquarters to do some signing and sort a few things out before driving to Preston to meet other chief officers from the police forces in the North West. With the budget pressures on all of us it is important that forces collaborate to share specialist functions. So we all supported further work on how to share firearms capability and strengthen the fight against organised crime. We also have a regional motorway team in the North West and the Underwater Search Unit. The meeting also received an update in the national efforts to combat Internet fraud and a report from Action Fraud which receives such reports from the public and businesses and decides which force will investigate them. It is fair to say that the report was worrying given the increasing level of Internet crime and the attacks from overseas on computer systems. There is need for increasing national capability and just no sense in forces trying to develop this separately. In the afternoon the chief constables met with the police and crime commissioners from the North West to discuss oversight of the various regional functions and a number of national issues. I then had a phone call with the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper to answer some questions she had about people travelling to Syria.

On Thursday I was back in my own office for meetings with various people and updates on force operations and then onto a meeting with the new High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Paul Lee. The High Sheriff is appointed for a year and has a number of functions particularly supporting voluntary effort so we discussed how his work during the year could support our efforts with the community to reduce crime and disorder. I also met a local businessman who does fundraising for the NSPCC Childline about how the force and the charity can work closer together and about charity fundraising in general. In the afternoon the Police Minister paid a short visit to the force and so I spent some time discussing current issues with him. I then had a flag raising ceremony to publicise the force’s support for Armed Forces Day and then did I a radio interview with the BBC Asian Network.

On Thursday evening I went to a reception given by Churches Together for the mayors of Greater Manchester. The Bishop of Manchester David Walker was the host. At the meeting I proposed a joint statement by faith and civic leaders against hate crime. This was driven by a number of recent incidents particularly the desecration of Jewish graves in Blackley. The statement was supported by everyone there.

Friday morning was devoted to AGMA the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities basically the local councils, the police, fire service and NHS. We have an ambitious programme of how we can have greater impact on the various economic and social challenges facing Greater Manchester and how we can work much closer together. We are all dealing with the same families, the same vulnerable people, the same streets and communities. From all our work we have learnt that a relatively small number of families place a significant burden on all the public services and we must integrate our work in dealing with them to reduce duplication but also to actually try and solve their problems. One of the big challenges is on adult social care and the growing number of elderly people. During the morning I gave an update to council leaders on the performance of GMP and current policing issues. I also discussed the proposed statement on hate crime with them. I explained how our current top priority is people being attacked in their own homes both in terms of domestic violence between people known to one another and attacks by intruders. Afterwards I had meetings with individual chief executives on some local issues including the protests against the building of a new mosque in Bolton.

It was then off to Bolton Police Station to talk to some staff there and then go out on foot patrol with one of the local officers in the town centre. We talked about the current problems of crime in the town and how officers are working with the shops to reduce shoplifting. Bolton is changing and lots of new people have moved into the town some are immigrants and asylum seekers and some are students as the university expands. I could see how that created concerns for some local people and pressure on services. We also visited the skateboard park which is to be expanded and the young lads using it acknowledged that the police officer I was with had played a key part in getting the new work carried out.

Friday evening was the Chief Constable’s Excellence Awards held at the Midland Hotel Manchester all paid for by businesses and other organisations who support the event.  The staff present had been nominated by their colleagues for their dedication and commitment in a number of categories such as police officer of the year, PCSO of the year, the partnership award and leadership. The bravery award went to two officers who were attacked by a man with a knife with one of them being stabbed a number of times in the head. It was a great night, very uplifting to be able to celebrate the work of staff who take their responsibilities to the public very seriously. Andy Tattersall won the lifetime achiever award for having investigated around 400 murders. Special Constable Lyndon Riley was recognised for 45 years of service voluntary service. I was also very pleased to recognise the work of the team who have recruited and trained our 300 new volunteer youth cadets.

I was at home during the day on Saturday a chance to catch up with some chores and also to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. In the evening it was off to Old Trafford Cricket Ground for the Urban Hero Awards recognising young people who have overcome adversity to make a difference in their communities. The event was run by the Message Trust a remarkable Christian organisation started by a local businessman who sold his clothing factory and started a band to spread the Christian message to young people. The Trust now works in schools and prisons, runs youth buses and has converted a disused factory into an enterprise centre for offenders coming out of prison who want to rebuild their lives and get a trade. There were about 700 people there and I said a few words at the beginning about the importance of local community effort and the need for churches in particular to give a lead in helping those who are in need.  An inspiring end to a busy week.

Throughout the week there were many emails and phone calls to deal with and updates received on current operations. It is a 24hour a day responsibility as chief constable but you will see that it is a huge privilege to see so many different aspects of community life in Greater Manchester and to have so many dedicated highly professional staff. There are inevitably many meetings at force, regional and national level. This is a busy time of the year for events and it is unusual for me to be out five nights in one week and not a good example in terms of work life balance but as we get towards the summer holidays I know it will calm down a bit and I will get more time to get out on patrol which is the part of the job I enjoy the most.

 

Sir Peter Fahy

Chief Constable

Greater Manchester Police

 

My three-year vision of policing in Greater Manchester

This week the Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd held a scrutiny session to examine my plan for the next three years of GMP. I have been chief for five years now and I was recently given a three year extension to my contract. We are going through the most challenging time GMP has ever faced due to the economic situation and the cuts to our budget. We have already been through two years of budget reductions which has seen us lose 1800 staff posts. Based on  the projections made by the Chancellor we have a further four years at least of cuts and the total amount of savings by April 2017 will be £130m. Given that for the previous 30 years there has been an uplift in spending each year this is a huge change around.

About eighty five per cent of our budget is spent on staff costs so the total reduction in staff over this period will be about 2700. Back in 2010 we had a total of about 12,500 staff and we will go down to about 10,000. At the same time we are seeing new operational challenges with the changing nature of crime and increasing numbers of vulnerable people that we have a responsibility towards. One of our key responsibilities is managing the risk presented by crime and by dangerous people and the public appetite for risk is certainly not diminishing.

The huge budget reduction creates a need for constant change and reorganisation to cope with fewer staff and to introduce new ways of doing things. This in itself creates upheaval and uncertainty for staff. There is a reduction in opportunities for promotion and huge numbers of good people who want to join the force but with few places for police officers available.

How are we going to get through this ?

The foundation for effective policing is the relationship with the public and our understanding of what is going on locally. Over recent years we have put more staff into neighbourhood teams to build that knowledge of local people and particularly local criminals. We want to strengthen that approach and expand those teams to include colleagues from other agencies because we are all dealing with the same people and the same streets. Through this approach we can be more efficient in solving local problems and thereby reduce demand.

Our neighbourhood teams work hard to deal with the local problems of crime and anti-social behaviour but they need to be supported by specialist teams who can deal with more complex issues or particular peaks in demand. This may be the major investigation team, the traffic unit or the squads that deal with organised crime. We also have experts who deal with forensic examinations, digital evidence or financial investigations to take assets off criminals.

As we are going to have a smaller workforce we have to ensure that we get the best out of all the talent and dedication of our staff and remove the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy and checking and trust our staff to use their expertise and professionalism.  We will have to reduce further the number of managers and give more responsibility to front line staff. We will have to ensure that the maximum amount of our budget is spent on policing and so for instance reduce the amount we spend on buildings.

It will be crucial to encourage more involvement from the public. Policing is a team effort and works  when local people play an active part in helping solve local problems, looking out for one another, volunteering to help young people or the vulnerable and taking responsibility for their own conduct and looking after their property.

We will not get through this by doing  the things we have always done in the way we did it when there was a lot more money. There will be some difficult choices and some difficult conversations with the public and local businesses and we try to agree what we should concentrate on. Over the past week for instance we have highlighted the huge cost to policing of alcohol misuse and the pressures created by the extended licensing hours. There are many other issues we will place in focus over the coming months so there is more public awareness of what police officers spend their time doing. We will need to deal with more issues over the internet or on the phone. We will need to make sure that police officers spend their time on tasks and issues which need the particular expertise, skills and powers of a police officer and use other colleagues for other tasks. We will need to make best use of technology and information and that is why we will be investing in a major new computer system. We will need changes in legislation to help us deal with the more persistent and the more dangerous criminals and to help us keep up with the fact that more crime and planning for crime takes place on the internet.

Given that there will be less money spent on policing there has to be a change in the level of public expectation and acceptance that GMP needs to concentrate on the greatest threat, harm and risk to the community. We have to continue the move away from simplistic statistical targets and take a broader view of how to measure police effectiveness. When tragedies occur when things go “wrong” we need to react by learning lessons, not seeking scapegoats or just introducing more bureaucratic processes. We need to consult and involve the public but also very importantly consult and involve our own staff.

If we are not able to make the fundamental changes we need to make if we are not able to change the way we do things then we will revert to what used to be called “fire brigade policing ” just responding to emergency calls or investigating crime after it has happened. All the benefits we have gained from neighbourhood policing and more targeted and intelligence led approaches to dealing with crime and criminals. We will be there as the safety net to deal with crises caused by cuts in other agencies’ services.

Confidence in policing has been shaken recently by cases of police misconduct and incompetence sometimes from many years ago. Policing needs to be more transparent and accountable and resist short term pressures aiming for the highest ethical standards. We encourage staff to report instances of poor practise or misconduct by colleagues. We are there to safeguard basic human rights and protect the individual from those who want to exert their power through greed or extremes of violence. We must aim for the highest standards of professional conduct and the minimum use of force.

I am an optimist although the challenges created by austerity make for some bad days. There are four reasons to be cheerful.

  1. We have a great workforce committed to the protection of the public
  2. The public support us and believe in what we do
  3. Hard times force hard choices so difficult issues have to be confronted
  4. We are good at what we do.

Over the last ten years crime has halved in Greater Manchester and the city has lost its reputation for gun and gang violence. We have seen significant increases in public confidence in policing. We are not going to give this up easily.

Crime, justice and football

The weekend of May 11 and 12 saw the scout Streetwise event in Manchester’s City Centre. This was used by Manchester East Scouts to highlight the experience of street children in Africa and a number of the explorer scouts built make-shift shelters from plastic and cardboard so that they could sleep out under the stars. I agreed to join them and slept out in a tent on the green outside the old Corn Exchange. The noise of the city through the night was incredible and eventually the sound of revellers, taxis and car horns was replaced by the rubbish lorries and street sweepers. Then on the Sunday I welcomed Bear Grylls the chief scout to Manchester. Although the weather was not great it was good to see so many young people joining in enthusiastically with so many activities. Unfortunately I did not do that well either in the sack race or tug of war but I was wearing full uniform at the time. We have been working with the scouts to support them setting up new scout groups in the more deprived areas of Manchester and I met some of the new members of these groups and they were really enjoying it.

Away from the scouts one issue being discussed by some politicians at the moment is the use of Restorative Justice (RJ) and cautions. Some have argued that the greater use of cautions and RJ is because of the budget cuts which is just wrong. We have made a conscious commitment to look at each individual case and do what is right for the victim and for the offender. In appropriate cases RJ has a greater impact on the offender and results in more satisfied victims. They feel they have had the chance to confront the offender with the impact of their crimes which does not happen if the offender pleads guilty in court. In any case we know that the bar is set very high by the Crown Prosecution Service for a prosecution and they have supported the greater use of cautions. The Home Office have made it clear that they want to see officers having more discretion and I know most officers like the fact that they are trusted to use that discretion in suitable cases. Some people have argued that cautions should not be used for “serious offences” but we also know that there is a big difference between an armed robbery at a bookies and a lad threatening another to hand over his dinner money. It is right that we don’t criminalise young people unnecessarily and give them a second chance where it is justified.  And where a victim does not want to support a court prosecution using a caution at least gets the offender some sort of record. Overall this is a good news story. Appropriate use of cautions and RJ and work with the Youth Offender Service has led to a big reduction in the number of young people going into custody while crime has continued to reduce.

Crime continues to reduce overall in Greater Manchester but there has been an increase in burglaries in the southern area of the force and particularly in South Manchester. What is striking from the analysis is that a high proportion of these burglaries are from insecurities where burglars are able to get in through open windows and doors to grab easy to dispose of property such as iPads, iPhones, cash or vehicle keys. What I find depressing is that many of those that we are arresting for these crimes have long careers of burgling and have already served prison sentences for this type of offending. The Government have announced plans to reform the Probation Service and ensure that all prisoners get some sort of support on their release. We already work very closely with the Probation Service to monitor very closely those who come out on licence or who are seen as a particular risk. These are often complex cases and many of these people would struggle to get a job or stick to a training regime. Some, although by no means all, commit crime to fund an alcohol or drug habit and even if they have been clean in prison quickly revert to old habits. There is no secret formula to changing these people around and probably there needs to be both more carrot and more stick. If they choose reoffending it is the job of the police to get them identified and arrested as soon as possible. I certainly hope that all the disruption the Probation Service will go through won’t damage the existing strong joint working which has contributed to the reduction in crime.

My various trips around the Force included a visit to the Serious Crime Division. One of the units there is the section which deals with getting evidence from mobile phone and Internet communications. Their work has been crucial in many successful prosecutions. Serious criminals on the whole are not stupid and are constantly seeking to frustrate our tactics. More and more communications are going over wireless networks rather than mobile phones and use emails and messaging systems. The Government is committed to bringing in new legislation to assist us by requiring service providers to hold on to records of Internet usage. Opponents have called this a “snoopers charter” but all the police service is asking for is that we are able to hold on to the capability we have at present to gather evidence from communications used in the planning or commission of crime. Chief constables have argued that there is now a pressing operational need and in this regard I gave evidence to the House of Lords but our opponents have argued that we are getting involved in politics when we make the case. I disagree we are only trying to paint the operational picture for the public to understand. In any case the new legislation was not included in the Queen’s Speech and so there will be a further delay until this growing gap is filled.

Over the past week we have seen the arrests of three notable fugitives from justice. Stevie McMullen and Ryan MacDonald were recaptured in Salford after they had been “sprung” from a prison van carrying them to court and Andrew Moran was recaptured in Spain. Moran had been missing for four years since he escaped from the dock at Burnley Crown Court while waiting to be sentenced for serious robbery offences. The crimes all three were involved in were extremely violent and terrifying for those they targeted. Their arrests show our determination to make sure that serious crime does not pay and we will be relentless in pursuing those who escape from custody even when they go abroad. Moran’s case shows the close working we have with our colleagues in Spain and the European agreements which mean we can get these criminals back to the UK very quickly.

There has been much coverage of the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Now I am neither a red nor a blue (as it happens I am a Watford supporter) but like many have to pay tribute to Sir Alex’s incredible football achievements. Nick Robinson the BBC ‘s political correspondent argued that Sir Alex is the greatest living Briton. He argued that this is not just about football but about Manchester United being a global brand. This certainly brought to mind my experience when working with street children in Uganda with the charity Retrak where right in the heart of the slums of the capital city Kampala the children who had only rags to their names had all heard of Manchester United and often had a picture or card of their favourite player. Nick Robinson also pointed out Sir Alex’s leadership skills and the balance he had between setting clear standards of discipline and being a hard task master while at the same time having that ability to treat each player as an individual and possessing an extraordinary talent for motivation. In my experience not too many leaders have that balance. Whatever may be the debate about his achievements many in GMP will remember the way that he turned up in the crowd standing outside Manchester Cathedral at the funerals of one of our murdered colleagues last September showing his own personal respect for their sacrifice.

Another issue in the news has been the many cases of historic sexual abuse some involving celebrities some not. There has been some debate on whether arrests should be publicised and in GMP we follow the national guidance that the names of arrested people are not released to the media unless there is a very clear public interest in doing so. We do release names when people are charged and I think that is the right balance. A police officer can make an arrest on suspicion when there is no available evidence which could be used in a court. They can make an arrest based on the allegation of one other person. Given the basic human right of innocent until proven guilty it is right that arrest alone should not be used to raise questions over an individual’s integrity and good name. Some sections of the media have accused the police of making “secret arrests “. Well none of this is secret, every person arrested has the right to a solicitor free of charge and to have another person notified of their arrest. All our custody systems are monitored constantly by CCTV and have independent lay visitors. Our arrests are not secret.

These recent cases have also caused some to question why are so many people coming forward to make allegations about events so long ago. I have heard people questioning their motives and asking why they have kept quiet for so long. Well those who use their power to sexually abuse others do not pick on self confident assertive people they deliberately pick on those who they believe are in a position of weakness and will not complain. They often put fear into their victim warning them of the dire consequences of talking to others about it. Victims think they will not be believed and live with the pain and trauma for many years hiding it from family and loved ones. Sexual abuse is the abuse of power over the vulnerable and those who have rebuilt their lives after abuse have to think long and hard as to whether they will relive it all over again by coming forward. It is an appalling crime and we will continue to encourage victims to come forward whether they are willing to support a prosecution or not.

Last Friday I joined one of our officers PC Steve Phillips for the first 10 kilometres of his run from Hyde to Bournemouth. He was going to run 40 miles that day and the next day and the next running 230 miles in total. Ricky Hatton also joined the start and there was great support from local people. The run is in memory of Nicola and Fiona our two murdered officers and Nicola’s dad was also there. The same day a new housing development in Sale was named after Fiona and her dad was there to lay the foundation stone. I am truly grateful to all those doing so much to keep their memory alive.