By Andrew Petherbridge, specialist in public law and civil liberties actions against the police at Hudgell Solicitors
The Humberside Police force is under pressure.
It has been quick to defend itself in the wake of a damning report which has identified failings in many areas of its work.
An inspection carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in June 2015 identified many issues of concern.
It revealed a high percentage of 101 calls were going unanswered, and that just 17 per cent of crimes committed in the region ended up in court. Far from a picture of effective policing across our region.
Chief Constable Justin Curran has insisted that the picture is now much different.
She says the report has given a ‘misleading’ overview of the work of the force, insisting that changes made over the past five months have led to big improvements. She insists the public has never been at risk, despite inspectors’ concerns.
However, so stark were the failings identified, the Chief Constable may find it hard to convince the general public that such improvements have been made so quickly. They don’t judge on words, they judge on actions, results, and facts.
The facts are that of 66,363 crimes recorded in 2014-15, just 11,721 resulted in either charges or court summons, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). A total of 46 per cent of crimes reported saw investigations closed without a suspect being identified.
Not having enough patrols at peak times in busy areas, and fewer patrols available to attend incidents due to the its “double crew” policy (where two officers are sent to every police incident when not always necessary) were identified as possible reasons for the ‘inadequate’ level of policing.
So, what happens next?
Without doubt, the pressure is on – both internally and externally, for the force to solve more crimes.
Public confidence will only lift if we are told more people are being caught, prosecuted and suitably punished for crimes committed.
However, that thirst to improve such statistics must not in any way impact on the fair treatment of law-abiding members of the public, and that must be a key message set out from the Chief Constable herself. This can’t become simply about arresting more people, it has to be about arresting the right people.
In my work as a specialist in handling complaints against the police at Hudgell Solicitors, I have handled many cases in which the police have been forced to compensate people who they have wrongfully arrested or detained in the thirst to solve a crime.
Procedures and protocols are at times not followed – and on occasions arrests have been made on assumption. This leads to mistakes being made which can seriously damage the lives of those wrongly accused.
Without doubt, policing can be a very difficult and challenging job, at every level, and this report has highlighted how organisation throughout a police force impacts on its ability to successfully police the streets.
It is good to hear changes have been made since the inspection was carried out in summer, and hopefully, by the next time we learn of an inspection, we’ll have evidence of improvements in service, and of more crimes being correctly investigated and solved.