Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Steven Mark and Georgina Holmes-Skelton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
Ron Ball, Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
Gareth Pritchard, Deputy Chief Constable, North Wales Police, Lead for the Dangerous Dogs Portfolio, Association of Chief Police Officers
Sara Thornton, Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police, Association of Chief Police Officers
Richard Bennett, Assistant Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police, Association of Chief Police Officers
Jasvinder Sanghera, Chief Executive, Karma Nirvana
Aneeta Prem, Chief Executive, Freedom
Examination of Witnesses
Q 113 The Chair: Welcome to this morning’s sitting. We shall now hear evidence from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and from the Association of Chief Police Officers. Before I call the first Member to ask a question, I remind all members of the Committee that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and that we must stick strictly to the timings in the programme motion that the Committee has agreed. I hope I do not have to interrupt anyone mid-sentence, but I will if necessary. Would the witnesses like quickly to introduce themselves?
Q 114 Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Good morning, colleagues. I want to kick off with a couple of questions about dangerous dogs, and I suspect that my colleague from north Wales, Mr Pritchard, will respond. I want to explore three issues to get a flavour of the clauses in the Bill. The official Opposition welcome the clauses, but we want to explore whether additional items could be considered by the Committee.
We have received from, among others, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs Home and a variety of other animal welfare charities the recommendation that we widen the Bill’s scope to include dog control notices
DCC Pritchard: As part of the Bill, we are looking for an effective preventive strategy. There has been a significant increase in the number of deaths and injuries arising from dangerous dog issues, and we would like an effective preventative strategy. We do, and have for a long time, favoured the introduction of dog control notices as a way of dealing with low-level issues. That preventative strategy would allow things to be resolved quickly and effectively, as happens under animal welfare legislation when a dog control notice is in place.
We are following closely implementation of dog control notices in Scotland, where there has been some success. We favour dog control notices, but we are also cognisant of the provisions in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. We are working with the Home Office on how a community protection notice could be utilised as a preventative tool. We are keen on dog control notices for some specific issues. They would allow specific measures to be taken quickly and effectively to resolve issues.
We have some concerns about keepership and tying the person we deal with in with the dog. In many criminal communities, dogs are quickly transferred, particularly the more dangerous types, so it is important that we have a mechanism to tie the person in with the dog, so that if compliance with the initial preventative strategy is not achieved, we can escalate that. We would welcome dog control notices as a good way of being preventative.
Q 115 Mr Hanson: On the Bill’s antisocial behaviour measures, and reflecting what has been said to me outside the Committee, the animal charities do not believe that that is strong enough, which is why they are pressing us for dog control notices. Do you have any comments on the existing provisions in the Bill, as opposed to the potential for a dog control notice?
DCC Pritchard: We have worked in detail with the Home Office on the existing provisions. On Tuesday, we met dog legislation officers and our experts from across the country. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs officials were there, and we looked at how the guidance could be written. It is important that it makes it clear how the antisocial behaviour provisions can be used for dog control. We are working closely with the Home Office on that.
Q 116 Mr Hanson: I have also had welcome representations about the assisted guide dogs element of the Bill. I welcome the provisions in the Bill, but I have also had representations about whether, as well as aggravated offences for guide dogs and assistance dogs, consideration should be given to animal-on-animal attacks, such as on cats and horses. I am interested in your view of the level of the problem involving cat attacks and horse attacks by dogs, and/or whether any provision would be enforceable if it were included in the Bill, and whether that would be desirable.
DCC Pritchard: We welcome the provisions covering assistance dogs. There have been an increasing number of attacks on guide dogs. It is important that the definition of assistance dog is clear, because people will
There has been an increase in the number of attacks on protected animals, especially horses. Clearly, we are concerned about the volume of attacks and would favour a widening of the provisions if those attacks are aggravated—for example, if somebody is riding a horse and the horse is attacked and there is injury. We would not want the provisions widened substantially, but in certain areas, where there is significant injury, they could be widened.
Q 117 Mr Hanson: I have two final questions. We have had some very serious cases of dog attacks where fatalities have occurred. Can you comment on whether the current penalties are appropriate and whether they could be examined in future?
DCC Pritchard: Yes, I can. Over the last few years, since 2005, nine children and six adults have been killed. Each case is different and the police service looks very seriously at each case and conducts a full investigation. They sometimes use manslaughter provisions to deal with those cases. However, proving manslaughter is extremely difficult in certain dog attacks, so we therefore rely on the provisions covering an out of control dog. Proving that a dog is out of control is easier, but the sanction for that is a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. When an attack by a dog on a person has led to a fatality, I would suggest that two years is a very small penalty. As we have had an increase in deaths, I respectfully suggest considering whether that penalty is sufficient. I am sure victims’ families would have a view on that. When somebody loses a close family member in a dog attack, the maximum sentence is two years, which I think is fairly small for the seriousness of that incident.
Q 118 Mr Hanson: Clauses 98 and 99 relate to entry to premises. Are there any tweaks or amendments that you would consider to defences? For example, a canvasser could knock on a door and be invited in for a cup of tea. The dog could bound up to the canvasser, knock them over and action could be taken. [ Interruption. ] It does not happen in Cambridge; it is a north Wales thing, obviously. Animal charities have made representations to me about that. Without yet forming a judgment myself, I wanted to get a view from ACPO as to whether clauses 98 and 99 are sufficiently well defined to allow proper prosecutions while allowing reasonable judgment.
DCC Pritchard: We welcome clause 98 and the provision to allow householders to protect themselves, although we have some concerns. There has to be a reasonable approach to this. There are cases, for example, where a drug dealer might be in a house and using a dangerous dog to protect themselves and their criminal assets. They might be subject to frequent assaults in their premises. I would hope that police officers are protected under the clause that refers to the householder believing there is a trespasser, because you could have a possible defence where a drug dealer might say, “I thought I was being attacked again.” The police would not be trespassers, because they would have a warrant and be on the premises
DCC Pritchard: There is a reasonable test. The guidance needs to be defined to identify clearly the will of Parliament. Every case goes to the Crown Prosecution Service, where it needs to pass the evidential and public interest test. I think that some guidance on the will of Parliament with regard to the provision would be helpful.
Tony Lloyd: I assure you it is a brief return. I want to supplement Gareth Pritchard’s remarks. I met Shirley and Michael Anderson, the parents of Jade Anderson. Obviously, they would make the point that prevention is what this should be all about. They make the obvious point that the first line in all this is to look at the lack of resourcing around things like dog wardens; that is important. The point that would then be made, and where the dog control notice comes in, is about what happens if the police are informed about the existence of dogs that are out of control. At the moment, in Greater Manchester, if the police ring through and there are not the resources available, that is a problem. Even if the resource is there, it is not obvious, without the provisions of a dog control notice, that the authorities can act against the owner to make sure the dog is restrained. The dog control notice is a logical part of an armoury that allows the police and other agencies to protect the public.
Tim Passmore: I want to make one comment. I welcome the legislation regarding dangerous dogs. However, we need to look, in the future, at a longer-term solution that is actually enforceable. It is important that we have a system where we can deal with dangerous dogs, but also that we recognise the needs of people in Suffolk and other rural areas who have working dogs on farms and in other places, so that they are not unfairly penalised. Once again, the problem, of course, is with the people who own the dogs—not the others—and how we are controlling them. There is, I am afraid, a question of resources when it comes to being able to deal with dogs that are apprehended by whomever it may be.
Ron Ball: Likewise, I welcome this legislation; in fact, a lot of the stuff we are looking at in this Bill will, I think, be welcomed, but both my colleagues have mentioned resources, and I think they will be mentioned on a regular basis. I have Leamington Spa in my area, and we have the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association training school there. Two months ago, it brought a guide dog to the office, and I spent half an hour walking round Warwick with it. That emphasised just how vulnerable you are—I was wearing a really effective blindfold. The thought of being in that situation and having your dog attacked by another dog is absolutely terrifying, so I really welcome the clause concerning attacks on assistance dogs. I was specifically asked by the RSPCA to emphasise that.
Q 120 Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): I want to ask a couple of questions to pick up on the themes Mr Hanson mentioned. Deputy Chief Constable Pritchard, you mentioned 15 people—nine children and six adults—who had been killed by dangerous dogs since 2005. In how many of those cases do you know the penalties that were placed on the owners of the dogs?
DCC Pritchard: Obviously, each situation was very different. A number of the children were attacked in private premises, so there was great difficulty in proceeding. Although no charges have been brought in certain situations, many of the other cases have been around a dog out of control. Obviously, we are moving to a new area now, with additional powers that will allow us to investigate and gather evidence in private premises, which we have not been able to do. It is time to look afresh at the sentences and at how we effectively deal with this and have a proper preventive strategy. I can get an analysis of those 15 cases, but in a lot of them, there have been no proceedings because they have been in private premises.
Q 121 Richard Fuller: That would be useful for us, because many members of the public would be shocked to know that someone could be attacked and killed by a dangerous dog and that the maximum penalty that could be imposed at the moment is, I think you said, only two years. Is that correct?
DCC Pritchard: They would be shocked. But in terms of the legislation, the law is as it is and we would like to strengthen that; moving to have coverage in private premises increases public safety substantially.
Q 123 Richard Fuller: Are there are any lessons that we can learn from the legislation in place in other jurisdictions in north America and Europe, and from the ability to enforce legislation there, that could help guide us in understanding how we can strengthen the provisions in the Bill as they relate to attacks by dangerous dogs?
DCC Pritchard: Closer to home, there has been legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland in recent time. We are following closely how the Scottish model is working—it has dog control notices. We have people checking on how that legislation is applied. The Welsh Government
Q 124 Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): The Government’s intention in changing the antisocial behaviour laws is to streamline the powers, but that has unintended consequences. For instance, if I look at the Government’s impact assessment on the community protection order and the community trigger, in the first year it is about changing the names of things; for example, a litter clearing notice will change to a community protection notice, and a crack house closure order will change to a closure order. That sounds simple enough, except the impact assessment also says that police officers will have to be in training for 152,000 hours. Is that good use of police time?
Richard Bennett: First, we very much welcome the streamlining of the powers and the simplification. We believe that that will enable us to respond more swiftly to antisocial behaviour problems. When it comes to resolving antisocial behaviour, the earlier we can act the better.
We recognise that the introduction of new legislation brings with it some real challenges, in terms of both interpretation and implementation. On that basis, what we would very much welcome is ACPO being able to work with Parliament to ensure that we have appropriate guidelines in place, so that we are interpreting the law as Parliament intended and not, as could be the case, with police officers using opportunities perhaps to go beyond what was intended to control these sorts of behaviour. But you are quite right, it is about changes to legislation, and our law-enforcement officers have to understand exactly what the legislation says and to understand the guidance. It would be inappropriate for us not to plan to put a significant amount of training in, because we cannot afford to have what might be very powerful powers used ineffectively due to lack of police knowledge and training.
Q 125 Gloria De Piero: That deals with just the name changes of those same powers. Obviously, there is a bigger change, which is the change from an ASBO, an antisocial behaviour order, to an IPNA, an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance. I thought that that would have required more training, but the impact assessment makes no mention of it, except that “minimal training should be required”. I was looking at Baroness Newlove’s written submission of evidence to the Committee, and she was concerned that the injunction would add to the work load of front-line officers, because of their lack of knowledge of civil law. She recommends that police officers are properly trained in its use. What kind of demand on training would that be? If it is so many hours for a name change, can we assume it would be even more hours for a change in a power, an actual tool?
Richard Bennett: To be fair, it has not just been about name changes, it has been about the bringing together of various Acts. It is about making sure that people understand not about a change from a crack house closure notice to another sort of power, but about how the use of that power could be applied in a whole range
This is a new sort of language. It is a language appropriate to the civil courts, but our staff would need to understand what that means and what is an appropriate interpretation and implementation of that new approach. We accept that there will be a requirement to educate our staff, but I think the potential gains of what the powers will bring to us in flexibility and speed will mean that investment and training will be well worthwhile.
Tony Lloyd: Yes. If I can follow the ACPO line and say clearly that what has been welcomed is the decluttering of the legislation. There are a number of consequences that have to be taken on board. Among those is the fact that at the moment there is a body of case law that applies to the use of the existing powers. That will be swept away and will have to be re-established and will take time.
There is also another consequence. Because the injunction will be action under civil law, where it is deemed appropriate to use the positive powers in the injunction—or for that matter under the criminal behaviour order—there is a question about who will impose those positive powers and what their own experience is. Therefore, there is the need for training for people used to sitting in civil courts who will not have the background in giving criminal penalties and using powers under the criminal law. There is a training issue, not simply for policing but for those who work to effect those powers.
The other point is that there are some specific changes that have been raised with me. For example, under the injunction there is a positive duty to arrest. It has been put to me that that ought to be discretion to arrest, not a positive duty. In other words, it is up to the constable to use common sense and discretion in deciding whether the arrest power is appropriate.
I hope the Committee will reflect on the fact that in a number of these areas there is a change in power; there is a lower threshold for the use of the injunctions compared with ASBOs. That may have merit but, where there is a lower threshold, it has to be underwritten by a
Ron Ball: Before coming here today, I contacted all of the independent commissioners, so I have a collation of views. By and large, the injunctions and the decluttering have been welcomed. The fact that some areas will be decriminalised—particularly in relation to young people—has been welcomed. One area of concern, for me as well, is the definition of
Well, any sort of behaviour will cause annoyance to somebody. Should there not be some definition of a reasonable person? The most curmudgeonly, miserable individual should not be able to determine standards of behaviour in their neighbourhood. There must surely be some test of reasonableness.
Tim Passmore: A brief comment. I welcome the simplification of the process. I would not be too worried about the training. Clearly it will have to be done but a professional police service always undergoes training for new legislation, as and when it happens, and I think it is a natural progression. What we do need to ensure is that officers on the front line and others are able to use their professional discretion in the circumstances in the most appropriate way, rather than having a purely process-driven approach, such as, “If you reach situation X, your response will have to be Y.”
Q 126 Gloria De Piero: On the community remedy, Baroness Newlove said in her evidence that she is concerned that there will be significant force by force differences in the remedies available to victims. She recommends that the Government consult with the police, local authorities and other agencies to develop a list of nationally agreed and appropriate out of court disposals that local people could choose from. What are your views on that?
Tony Lloyd: Talking to my colleagues here, who, between us, represent all the commissioners, it seems like common sense that we would want to have conversations both locally and nationally about what the appropriate penalties are. If there are innovative ways of operating, I would certainly want to know, but the consensus among us all is that there ought to be an attempt to have not necessarily some national standard, as local variation might be appropriate, but, at least, some national framework to which we can refer. I hope that the Home Office will work with us in developing that kind of process.
Tim Passmore: I want to make the point that the very welcome part of this legislation will be to put the victim at the centre of the process. There clearly will be local variation, but the public also need to have their trust and confidence in the system raised. Of course, if we were seen to be too soft or to have inappropriate sanctions, we would be failing in our duty—we all would. I would also like to add that Baroness Newlove is coming to Suffolk in a few weeks’ time to discuss that issue with us.
Richard Bennett: We are quite happy to work with whatever remedies are seen as appropriate, either on a national basis or a local basis, but we would urge that we do not have a narrow list of remedies that limits the discretion of either the officer or the victim to be able to select the most appropriate remedy for the particular circumstances that they are facing.
Some young people need the very most minimum of interventions to prevent them from offending further or committing further examples of antisocial behaviour, while we would want to use more serious measures for others whose behaviour is more recalcitrant. In among this, we have the needs of the victim to consider.
We would be quite happy to work on the basis of national guidance, locally interpreted, but we want to have some freedom in place to make sure that we are choosing the right approach for each individual victim and also to ensure that we have the best chance of reducing reoffending, which is what we are trying to achieve.
Richard Bennett: Our experience of using youth restorative disposals is that that is very often exactly what is required. What we need in terms of offenders is very quickly for them to face the impact of their offending, to understand that there are consequences to it and to accept responsibility for offending. For the lower end of offending, very often an apology is one of the most simple ways of achieving that.
Tony Lloyd: We have quite a lot of experience of restorative justice in Greater Manchester now and Richard Bennett’s point is absolutely right: an apology can sometimes be the appropriate remedy. But I would emphasise this: it only works if this is victim centred. The concern in a way is that the victim is not necessarily sewn into the legislation as completely as would enable that to be guaranteed.
There is a rider to that: to say that it is victim centred does not mean to say that the victim has sole control of the penalty. There are times when the police officer disposes in a way that either lessens the penalty compared with the victim’s wishes or, where appropriate, issues a more severe penalty. Sometimes, victims can be very forgiving when the wider societal need might be for a little bit more than that. It has to, at least, begin and end with the victim and an apology may well be something that both satisfies the victim and moves on the behaviour of the perpetrator.
Ron Ball: An apology, if it is genuine, means something; an enforced apology is utterly meaningless. I am being pressurised to try to make my police force apologise for something that they do not want to apologise for. Even if I had the power to do it—I do not, and I do not want it—it would be utterly meaningless. Also, it may be appropriate once, but the danger that I see with apologies is how they would be perceived among the public, particularly if an individual got away with six or 10 apologies on the trot. It needs to be real.
Tim Passmore: To reinforce that, I mentioned earlier the issue of public trust and confidence in the system. Only in a very extreme case might an apology be appropriate. All the mail that I receive would indicate that it needs to be something substantially more than that.
Q 128 Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I want to follow up on Ms De Piero’s question about the actions that might be contained in a community remedy document. There is currently no guidance at all in the Bill as to what might be an appropriate action to
Tony Lloyd: I would be very careful about putting ideas into people’s heads—[ Laughter. ]. Realistically, were a list of potential remedies to be put on the face of the Bill, I cannot see that that could do any harm, but I am not sure that that would, of itself, be definitive, unless it were part of a structure that said, “These are the limits beyond which commissioners, in consultation with chief constables, could not go.” There is always going to be a question for Parliament about the role of the commissioners, because if the context of the commissioner is about localism, how far does that localism extend in terms of the creation of these penalties?
I do think that in any case there needs to be some national dialogue about what the range of powers that commissioners can choose from begins to look like. As I said before—I think that this is a common among all of us here representing all the commissioners—we would welcome that kind of exchange, but, realistically, I would want to negotiate with my local chief constable and the wider community across Greater Manchester as to what is appropriate. I would not want to be fettered, unless Parliament chose to say—as it happens, were you to debar me from using the stocks, I would not find it very difficult to acquiesce.
Tim Passmore: It would be welcome to have some guidance, and I certainly take the point about putting people in the stocks. I don’t think that we would do that, but on a more serious note, I am a great believer in community pay-back schemes and trying to avoid young people in particular being criminalised. I do believe in giving them a second chance; probably not a third, fourth, fifth or sixth chance, which is sometimes what happens at the moment.
It depends on the context of the antisocial behaviour that we are talking about. I would love to see, for example, people who think that it is funny or clever to drop litter spending 100 or 200 hours clearing up litter or dog fouling, or clearing up graffiti or vandalism—making sure that there is due reparation for society over and above what they have done so that they understand that that is not the way to behave in a civilised society. There are things that we could do, and the community would support them, but guidance—giving some examples—would certainly be welcome. You are always going to have a local context, because it depends on what the actual issue is.
Richard Bennett: Guidance would be very useful in this context. There is also pilot work going on elsewhere in the country, and a body of evidence will emerge to suggest the sorts of remedies that are most effective at preventing reoffending as well as dealing with the concerns of victims. It would be useful to have guidance that could evolve as the use of the various powers evolved, so that we could ensure that police forces and police and crime commissioners provide the most appropriate measures
Q 129 Stephen Phillips: Finally—I will let you in, Mr Ball—it will not surprise you, given my interest in this part of the Bill, that I have tabled a new clause dealing with the content of community remedy documents. Can I set a piece of homework, which is to look at that amendment and perhaps to submit to the Committee
Ron Ball: I do not have too much to add to what my colleague said. I would welcome guidance; I do not want prescription—I think you would be damaging one of the potential benefits of commissioners. One thing that we should be able to bring to this is innovation. I think it will be a continual tension, frankly, but guidance would be very useful.
Q 130 Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab): Tony, if I could start with you, I was reading a BBC article of 28 March, which says that Greater Manchester police has to cut £134 million between 2010 and 2015. It is reducing its budget by 20%, which will lead to the loss of about 3,000 posts. My question, Tony, is have you been given any extra funding to implement these—what some might call unnecessary—changes?
Tony Lloyd: No, there is no extra funding envelope. If I can put in a special plea through the Committee, I think the Chancellor will speak next week and I rather hope that he will accept the fact that the cuts that have been experienced across policing have been tough already. To see a further increase would make all the things that we want to do here more difficult. In fact, one thing worth pointing out—I think everybody in the room knows this—is that while criminal sanction has a role in dealing with antisocial behaviour, the most effective way of dealing with it is through early response, not simply by the police, but by all the agencies that have something to bear. That includes the housing associations, the mental health trusts, the local authorities, children’s services—all those things. Early intervention and joint working makes an enormous difference. In the end, there needs to be sanctions, but that more complicated way of working requires up-front resourcing. If we see the resources disappear, it makes the challenging of antisocial behaviour more difficult.
Tim Passmore: We have not had any extra funding allocated for that. Having said that, the Government have brought out other initiatives that are very much welcome—for example, the troubled families initiative. Quite a lot of antisocial behaviour comes from people with a difficult background, and one thing that we simply have to do in this country is start joining up the multi-agency approach and making it meaningful, because it can deliver more savings and make sure that we keep things going on the front line.
Ron Ball: Looking at the improvement in crime and antisocial behaviour figures that we have had in Warwickshire, the police deserve a lot of credit for that, but not all the credit. A lot of the credit goes to other
Q 131 Simon Danczuk: Tim, you said earlier that you are quite relaxed about the fact that you have these new powers coming in. How much have you set aside to pay for the training and to support your officers in making the necessary changes?
Q 132 Simon Danczuk: The question to you, Ron, was that you mentioned you had consulted with other independent commissioners about the change, but have you consulted with the public, on whose behalf you speak?
Ron Ball: On these specific proposals, no. I just have not had time to do it. One thing that all commissioners are finding at the moment is that we are being blitzed with a tremendous amount of stuff to respond to, so as far as this is concerned, I have not personally had time to consult the public.
Q 134 Simon Danczuk: Okay. On Tuesday, we were told that there will be a significant lull in tackling antisocial behaviour while this legislation beds in. What provisions are being made to combat this lull, so that it does not occur? Perhaps we will start with you, Sara.
Sara Thornton: Can I just pick up that issue about costs and effectiveness? I think the police service has improved the response to antisocial behaviour over the last five years or so. In particular, the move from ASBOs to injunctions is welcome.
I have been looking at the number of ASBOs in my force area and it is really pretty low. So in terms of improving the effectiveness, yes, we are going to have to train officers, but I think that is worthwhile. Certainly, all my neighbourhood officers and patrol officers, who are the ones who will be dealing with this sort of case, have training included in their duty timetable, once every six weeks. So it is the sort of thing that we would be able to take in the run of events, making sure they are up to speed. If there is a bit of additional training
Q 135 Simon Danczuk: My question was, what provision have you made to combat the lull that will occur? We were told by the police on Tuesday that there will be a significant lull while this change occurs. What provision have you made?
Sara Thornton: I do not think necessarily that there will be a lull. The numbers of ASBOs at the moment are pretty low; I had a quick survey done yesterday and it is fewer than 10 in one of our police areas per year. So it is really quite low. I do not anticipate a lull. The fact is, the experience has been that the ASBOs have been quite bureaucratic, in terms of securing them, and maybe not as effective at tackling the problem as we hoped. I do not anticipate a lull and the numbers are quite low.
Just a question to the officers about the College of Policing. That seems to be well received on both sides and Sir Hugh Orde seems supportive, too. Obviously, the aim is to bring this forward and incorporate it with a royal charter. Are the officers supportive of the college and the aim of moving it into a royal charter?
Sara Thornton: The position of ACPO is indeed supportive of the College of Policing. The environment in which police officers operate gets more challenging every year, so the need for us to be professional, both in terms of being effective and in enjoying the confidence of the public, is more every year. The college will have a key role in doing that.
The provisions in the legislation are to get us to the first camp, I think. The initial set-up is as a company limited by guarantee. I think there is a view within ACPO, certainly, and within the Home Office, that as a longer-term measure that is not where we want to be. We want to be a chartered professional body. But this is a really good starting point and we are supportive of it.
Sara Thornton: This has been subject to lengthy negotiations over the last 18 months or so. I think, in terms of national policy and guidance, only a few things will be subject to regulation and code. Most things are implemented across forces because chief constables agree. So in our negotiations with the college, the opportunity for chiefs to discuss what is being proposed—to assess the feasibility, affordability and appropriateness of what is being proposed—is key. We are quite comfortable with the way in which we are being included in those discussions.
The whole process relies on chiefs voluntarily going along with national policy. That is an appropriate way to deal with operational issues. It is important that chiefs get the opportunity to comment on what is being proposed.
Tim Passmore: I think you will find without reservation that we are very supportive of the concept of the College of Policing and of its getting its royal charter. I believe I am right in saying we have four seats on the board running the college. It is an absolutely essential resource for the development of policing, looking at aspects such as continuing professional development and also at the totality of policing. There are activities where we could do better collectively: fleet management, procurement, property management and some important back-office functions. It also has the opportunity to develop better links with academia for research into the causes and prevention of crime and other initiatives.
The last point I would like to make is that we have a wonderful example of policing for the whole world. Modern policing was conceived by Robert Peel—who was a politician, of course—and we have a global reputation. We must not lose the international work that can be done through the College of Policing. We should cherish and develop it.
Tony Lloyd: There are four commissioners on the board of the college. To pick up Tim Passmore’s point, I do not think there is any ambiguity about the commissioners’ collective support for the concept. It is important that there is a national standard-setting body of this kind. It has been transferred from the role that ACPO traditionally played to the college. What is important, though, as Sara Thornton pointed out, is that no individual police service is bound by the decisions of the College of Policing.
It is probably sensible that we have that, but what it means is that this cannot be a handing down of edicts from on high. It has to be a dialogue with the community generally, and obviously with the other interested parties. It is how the College of Policing, which is still in its formative moments, is able to translate that social dialogue into something that is useful for us all. Overall, I think that people are supportive of the model.
Q 139 Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Does the panel or any of its police officers have any concerns about the new powers being given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission? Can we start with Chief Constable Thornton?
Sara Thornton: ACPO believes strongly that it is in the interests of the service and the public to have a very effective IPCC which enjoys public confidence. We are broadly supportive of the additional powers in the Bill, particularly the extension of the IPCC to all contractors. We think that that is a sensible move, as are the plans for us to have to respond to particular IPCC reports as we would to reports under the Coroners Act 1988, for example.
The one area where we have made submissions is the extension of some Police and Criminal Evidence Act powers to investigators within the IPCC. We understand absolutely, in terms of independent investigation, why that is important. I just think that if Parliament is giving powers to a body, it needs to think about what the checks and balances are. It is not a reason not to do it, but it should be thought through carefully. If the regulator is, in a way, becoming a body of law enforcement, what are the checks and balances on that regulator? But broadly, we are very supportive of what is in the Bill.
Tony Lloyd: Again, the extension proposed in the Bill to include contractors has got to be sensible, frankly. What I would also caution, though, is that at the moment, the IPCC is still a body that takes a considerable amount of time to resolve major and serious issues.
There has got to be a proper examination of the capacity of the IPCC if it is being asked to undertake further tasks. It is a real issue, and there are cases involving issues in many forces up and down this land of ours where the delay in resolution is itself a problem. It is a problem to those who see themselves as victims of the process. We cannot afford a simple replication into a further area of activity of problems that already exist.
Q 140 Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Briefly, on cost: Miss Thornton, would it be your assessment that the overall cost implications are an increase in cost, a neutral implication or a potential saving or lessening of cost, given that, in your remarks, you suggested the existing powers are bureaucratic, their use is low—in single figures—and training will be absorbed within existing budgets?
Mr Lloyd, could I just come on to the College of Policing? There is a significant body of evidence, via the National Audit Office, about potential savings on procurement, which police forces have often struggled to maximise. One of the impediments cited by the NAO is the bespoking of procurement through the legal independence of individual police forces. Indeed, a number of police forces fail even to provide data to the NAO in a timely fashion.
First, may I ask for your remarks on forces failing to provide data on costs to the NAO—indeed, the permanent secretary wrote to the PAC about that—and how that might be improved? Secondly how will the College of Policing tackle areas where it has perhaps a cheaper procurement route, but individual forces, through their desire for a bespoke solution, opt to do something else?
Tony Lloyd: On the first point, any police commissioner must argue that transparency is a duty, and that we owe it to Parliament and the wider public to enforce it. I am slightly caught unaware by the question, and will check in the case of my force that we comply with those reporting requirements. Partly, proper reporting allows benchmarking and some sense of the relative capacity to introduce change.
On the more general issue of joint working, I happened to have a meeting yesterday when we talked about the possibility of certain types of like-structured forces—in my case, metropolitan forces—looking at common purchasing in some areas of activity where it might be appropriate. It would apply equivalently to forces with large rural areas, where certain types of purchasing might make sense for different areas of activity.
As to the big gains, there are some specific areas of activity where it is reasonably obvious that police working with police makes sense: the purchase of certain types of vehicles, for example, is the obvious case. For some other services my most obvious partners are not necessarily neighbouring police forces. They may be the local authorities in the area. If we are looking at services, for example, like financial probity, I am not sure that talking to my neighbour in Cheshire makes a lot of sense, when I can literally cross the road and talk to the local authority.
The sort of partnership working that you advocate, I personally strongly endorse, and every commissioner is looking at where they can drive through savings; but please do not force us into a straitjacket that says it is only police-on-police co-operation that will deliver maximum advantage. I think there are other partners that can offer as much, and probably a lot more.
Q 142 Stephen Barclay: What I am driving at is that if you look at the fire service, where they have a college, it has not overcome the obstacle of the legal independence of fire authorities. One can look at even simple measures, such as the procurement of a white shirt: I lost sight of the different options—I began to lose the will to live—for pockets on a white shirt, which different forces seemed to require, at variance to other forces. On the matter of back office mergers, the north-west in particular was an outlier in its failure to work with other forces on back office controls. What I wanted to understand—
Stephen Barclay: Perhaps we can have a note. The key issue is how the college will address what the NAO has found with the fire service and police procurement, to do with the benefits we all agree on, of procurement as a whole, as against the individual actions of legal entities that can do their own thing.
Examination of Witnesses
Aneeta Prem: I think the Bill is the best we are going to get at the moment. There has been a lot of mixed opinion on whether criminalisation should happen within forced marriage. As a charity, we were set up with a primary aim to see this become a criminal offence, because of the number of young victims we were speaking to, and also looking at the whole prevention side of it. So, I think it is the best we are going to do.
Jasvinder Sanghera: I do not think it does go far enough, actually. My view is that we currently have forced marriage civil protection orders. The orders are an alternative to criminal prosecution and they are designed to shape and change the behaviour of the perpetrators of forced marriage and honour-based violence. One has to recognise that our victims will always have multiple perpetrators.
This injunction—if we think of it as an injunction—is designed to protect somebody from being forced into a marriage. The majority of the cases involve people who are under the age of 17, and they are returned back to their families with an order in place. The issue that we have is that, once that front door closes, there is nobody monitoring the order. I have to say that the multi-agency role is critical here, in terms of monitoring the orders. That is why we see a high proportion of withdrawal of orders. Victims wanted them withdrawn because they said things had changed.
As I sit here, there is a case in Luton court being heard whereby an order was issued to protect a minor, who was 16 years old in November last year, from being forced into a marriage. Her mother and aunty are in court today. They forced her to marry in April, regardless of the order. There were more than 1,000 guests at the wedding. After the wedding, the young girl in her pyjamas went to the police. She was absolutely distressed and said that during the time of the order being placed there she was pressured to have the order withdrawn, because her family wanted to take her abroad to Pakistan to visit a sick relative.
The point I am making is this: when we think about crimes of forced marriage and honour-based violence, it is extremely complex. There are many victims involved. We know that forced marriage can lead to murder. There are at least 12 murders in this country every year linked to forced marriages.
What the Bill needs to highlight, in my opinion, is the need for training among multi-agencies, and the need for a wider engagement with respect to the fact that, where civil protection orders are issued and there are breaches, those breaches need to send out a very strong message about the victim’s experience. There also has to be regard to monitoring the victim when they are returned back to the perpetrators. Can I just say that this is the only injunction I am aware of in the UK whereby we return a victim back to perpetrators?
Q 145 Simon Danczuk: I know from casework I have done as a Member of Parliament how important this issue is and how important the legislation on it is. Perhaps even more important is the work the agencies and voluntary organisations do with people who are forced into marriage. In terms of the capacity in those supporting agencies, how are things at the moment? Are they getting better or worse?
We are currently engaging in a big training programme with the Association of Chief Police Officers and police forces up and down the country so people not only recognise the signs—they already have that in their training—but realise how to deal with victims in a sensitive way and do not take a potential victim back to mum and dad, saying, “Actually, it’s okay to go back,” when they do not have an understanding of the family dynamics—that still happens today.
In regard to looking at other areas, we need to be clear that the multi-agency approach is the only way this is going to work; there has to be a holistic approach in terms of education, training, health care and housing. It all has to add up.
Also, the potential victim’s identity has to be very secure. We have heard of cases where national insurance numbers have been disclosed because they have got through to other people. You have to understand that a lot of these parents and perpetrators employ detectives to find out where the young person is. So we need to be clear that we have a holistic approach, and everyone has to take it very seriously.
Jasvinder Sanghera: On capacity, let me speak first and foremost about Karma Nirvana, our charity. We operate the national honour network helpline, which was actually a recommendation of a previous Select Committee. Last year, that helpline received 6,779 calls. We only support British-born subjects of honour-based violence and forced marriage, so we are dealing with British-born subject here in the UK.
I can provide the Committee with the statistics from the helpline. Currently, it is funded by the Ministry of Justice, but there is no commitment to fund it long term. We are in a position where we are having to constantly go back to the MOJ every year. In the last month, we have been given a commitment for another year, but we operate the only national helpline supporting both men and women, and 50% of our call handlers are survivors themselves, so there is a need for Government to consider this gap. We have national helplines in the UK for victims of domestic violence, as well as ChildLine and so on, and this helpline has to be given the same level of credence.
In terms of capacity with respect to funding, we are being asked to look to police and crime commissioners across the UK. However, they will look at their regions; they do not necessarily consider these issues. For example, in a leafy place, people may not think these things are an issue. My view is that police and crime commissioners should all consider this issue and allocate some budget resource to a national campaign, especially in the light of the criminalisation of forced marriage.
If you look, for example, at Warrington—a very small town, with less than 3% minority groups—nobody would have considered that a young girl such as Shafilea Ahmed could have been murdered by both her parents, but they were convicted last year. People thought these things maybe could not happen, and they became complacent because there were not many minority groups on their patch.
The point I am making is that we need to consider this nationally. If we are being asked to look to police and crime commissioners for funding, they need to give consideration to this area of crime. We have huge numbers of victims who are extremely isolated by virtue of the fact that they face multiple perpetrators. All police forces acknowledge, as do the Government, that we are dealing with the tip of the iceberg, beneath which there are hundreds of thousands of victims that we are yet to reach, because that crime is hidden.
Aneeta Prem: The reasons are complex. As a charity, we use the terms “dishonour violence” and “dishonour crime”, because there is no honour in it. We have to be less politically correct and not use language that the perpetrators are comfortable with.
The reasons are varied. I did research for my book—it is fiction—which we have given free to over 16,000 schools on the effects of forced marriage. We are doing a national schools programme at the moment to deliver it, and it is also downloadable from Government websites free of charge.
Aneeta Prem: The main reasons are around the family. It is about control. It is about money. It is about immigration and getting people to stay in the UK or come over. It is about having such a level of control over the young person that they lose their freedom. We are talking about young people who are born in the UK, and lose all the rights that you and I expect.
Jasvinder Sanghera: In 2008, as part of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, the Government issued statutory guidance for the whole statutory sector. Within the statutory sector, it is very clear what the motives are. There is a clue there. Because it is statutory, the statutory sector has a duty to implement the guidance. What the Government did not think about was monitoring the implementation.
Q 148 Richard Fuller: I am sorry, but my question was, please can you list the main reasons for forced marriage? I had a good list from Ms Prem, and I wonder whether you can think of any differences from that list. She said, family control, money, immigration—either staying in the UK or coming to the UK. Are those the main reasons, or are there other reasons?
Jasvinder Sanghera: Controlling behaviour is one. Some family members operate a system of honour, and it deemed dishonourable to take on western behaviour, such as being seen talking to the opposite sex, wanting an education, wearing make-up and anything to do
Q 149 Richard Fuller: An additional point to Ms Prem’s list is that anything to do with integration is a premise or justification. Many people would say that people not wanting their families to integrate is itself a bad social thing. That is compounded by the criminal act of forced marriage.
Q 151 Richard Fuller: Ms Prem, you mentioned immigration. In your experience, what proportion of forced marriages relate to the desires to bring spouses from outside, or to stay in the UK? Is that commonplace?
Aneeta Prem: It is very common. We don’t have the exact figures on the number of young people who are used for green card entry into the UK, and we have been asking for them. I will see what figures we can get for you.
Q 152 Richard Fuller: Thank you. Does that apply to British women and British men equally, or is it mainly British women who are used, through forced marriage, to allow someone to come to this country?
Aneeta Prem: More cases are reported of women. We also know that there are about 25% of men. People with disabilities are also used as an immigration tool. Often, they are brought over to be full-time care for someone with a disability, or to use as a trade-off, to have somebody come into the UK. The Bill is very clear about that, if you have the capacity to know that they are being forced into a marriage because of a disability, a learning difficulty or something else.
Q 156 Richard Fuller: I fully understand what arranged marriage is. I am talking about arranged marriage for immigration purposes being distinct from forced marriage. Is it truly distinct, and what makes it distinct?
Jasvinder Sanghera: One of the things that has been highlighted is sham marriage. It is very much about being married. It is a sham. To have a marriage for immigration purposes in order to come here is a sham marriage. It may be interesting for the Committee to
Q 157 Richard Fuller: This is my final question. You gave a very interesting answer. Do you think that the Bill should include those circumstances, perhaps not to categorise it directly as forced marriage, but to send out a signal that such behaviour is not only unwelcome, but unlawful?
Q 158 Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab): Do you feel that rebranding—that is, criminalising forced marriage—without wider support networks being in place would actually result in fewer victims coming forward? How far will those victims be able to pursue a conviction in light of the cuts to legal aid?
Aneeta Prem: I think that legal aid will be a huge issue. I am also a magistrate, and it is a matter of real concern to us. We hope that the most vulnerable will be given legal aid and the most expert help that they can receive.
One of the arguments is that, if you criminalise forced marriage, you will drive it underground. Well, it already is underground. Nobody advertises that they are forcing their son, daughter or anybody else into a marriage. It could not be further underground than it is already. People are using that as an excuse.
Appropriate funding and care must be given to ensure that, when victims come forward, there are special measures and they are afforded all the support that they need. They will be isolated from their families. They will be completely cut off. Their whole network will be taken away from them, so there has to be a lot of care to ensure that the orders are made, are successful and that the victim does not lead an isolated life. The suicide rate is so much higher among potential victims of forced marriage—the statistic for Asian girls committing suicide is three times higher than the national average.
Aneeta Prem: Absolutely. We need to get education involved. At the moment, education is so hit and miss about whether to let us into schools. As a charity, we are welcomed and we have a waiting list of schools, colleges and universities that want us to go in, but we need to get all the agencies on board.
Jasvinder Sanghera: Forced marriage must be understood as an integral part of child protection policy and practice. That is one of the issues on the ground, especially with respect to social services and education, and it is absolutely pertinent at this time of year because of the summer holidays. We know that many girls will be taken abroad in July, August and September.
I am not making a blanket statement, but we have learnt from the experience of the victims and from the helpline that some professionals have been trained to be culturally sensitive. They deem forced marriage to be somehow different—cultural or part of tradition. There is therefore is a reluctance to deal with it as child protection, and often the responses that we receive are very unacceptable. There is the fear of being called racist, and there is a lack of professional confidence. In the case of the police, it is often dealt with as a civil matter between families—as with domestic violence back in the day, when it was dealt with as “a domestic”.
Criminalising forced marriage will give the police more effective, formal powers, but it would also send out a very strong message that it is child and public protection. It is not part of my culture to be abused, and cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable. The law is one thing, but reinforcing what we already have as statutory duties will help bring that to life.
Sarah Champion: Building on what my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields said, 20 years ago I volunteered at a secondary school. Unfortunately, it was reasonably common that Asian girls would do their GCSEs and not come back to do their A-levels. We found out that that was because of forced marriage.
Miss Sanghera, you said that the law did not go far enough; I, too, am concerned that it does not go far enough. Could you be very specific and say what sort of changes in the law should be made by this Bill to protect children like those I used to work with?
Jasvinder Sanghera: In my opinion, we have the measures there in terms of child protection—if we are talking about young people in school. The problem is that we do not have the will and the commitment on the ground in education to deal with forced marriage as a child protection issue. We can give you examples of where head teachers have torn down posters in their schools out of fear of offending communities. That is the kind of thing that we were up against when we were writing to schools to engage with us.
We have had two Select Committee inquiries about this concern. There are clear recommendations on school engagement. The Education Secretary was asked to write to every school in England and Wales, urging them to take part. He chose not to, because, he said, he did not feel the need to be prescriptive, in line with other Education Ministers. The Government have a role in sending out a very strong message to education to enable people to look at this matter as part of their duty. If somebody is going missing, you ask the same questions about them as you would about anybody else.
I say that as somebody who was born in Britain. I am one of seven sisters. My sisters were taken out of British schools 30 years ago, at 15 years old, to marry men who they had only ever seen in photographs. I was 14 and held a prisoner in my own home. When I went missing, nobody asked where I was. I became invisible to the system. The point that I am making is that here in Britain, is it not an ancient principle of English law that we are all equal under the law? Somehow, when it is about culture, it is different. That is what needs to change, but I think that the laws are there. I cannot think in terms of creating something, but perhaps in terms of strengthening what already exists through monitoring implementation, and considering how safeguarding boards are going to make this part of their business.
Aneeta Prem: We wrote to the Department for Education in September and October and asked, under freedom of information rules, how many young people they suspected had gone missing as a result of forced marriage. We were told that they did not keep statistics on that. We were then told to write to every individual education authority. When they did not have the information, we were told to write to every individual school. That information has to be collected.
When someone has completed their GCSEs, they can often go missing from the school system. We are in the weeks when young people are finishing their A-levels; they are going to go missing. Who is going to know what has happened to them? It is a real, real worry for all the professionals out there.
I went to a college in Suffolk, which was not very culturally diverse at all, but they were really clear about forced marriage. They identified three young people who they wanted us to speak to. They were very engaged in ensuring that their college was very proactive. That was last week. However, that was individuals taking the reins; it needs to be across the board.
Q 160 Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): On the same point about the role of schools and the Department for Education, you have both spoken very strongly about that role. Often, the Department seems to be the weakest link when it comes to violence against women and girls, and on the issues that you are talking about here. When it comes to monitoring and reporting, are you recommending that the Department should mandate that schools collect this information and that it should be held centrally?
Aneeta Prem: Absolutely—that was very clear in September and October. We were horrified that the information was not kept, and there was no appetite to collect the data either. I could not understand why that would possibly be the case. It does not make any sense to us that that information is not being collated. It has to be done, and it can happen from September or October.
Jasvinder Sanghera: One area where there is room for improvement is for police forces to record data. They do not currently record forced marriage and honour-based violence cases. I feel that many police forces are going off and doing their own thing. For some, it is ad hoc. It would really be helpful for identifying victims in this area of criminal activity if we recorded these incidents as forced marriage and honour-based violence cases. Regardless of the law coming into effect, that can still be done. There is a need to collate those data.
Jasvinder Sanghera: I would not say that not recording it makes it difficult to identify people, because we have the people. Nationally, there are many people reporting. We have national helplines. Some forces have forced marriage units. There is a forced marriage unit within Nottinghamshire police force. So, people are there, but the system needs to be strengthened. We know that what gets counted gets done—and also possibly gets the resources. The forced marriage unit needs to have these statistics for us to be able to collate a picture nationally.
Q 162 Bridget Phillipson: On a separate issue of immigration, which we touched on earlier, where you have reluctant sponsors who are contacting the Home Office, or the UK Border Agency as was, to report that they are not a willing participant in a marriage, or where you have someone subsequently reporting abuse that is taking place and they no longer wish the spouse to remain in the country, how is that information acted on? Is it always acted on properly and thoroughly?
Aneeta Prem: It normally is actually. The forced marriage unit has a very good set of interventions in place if someone comes forward and says that. It acts on it and border agencies intervene. It can be done quite discreetly, almost through a third party. We have a forced marriage app that Freedom brought out, and that is also being used for victims who are worried about immigration. They can click buttons and report it that way as well.
Jasvinder Sanghera: My only concern about reluctant sponsors is that the victim is expected to write a statement with the forced marriage unit, because the individual abroad has a right to know why they are being refused entry into the UK. That statement is not confidential; it is public. Therefore, the family will know the reason and the people abroad will know the reason, which increases the risk to the victim. We have been requesting that that be a confidential statement, so that it does not implicate the victim and put them at more risk—why the person has not gained entry is not because the victim is saying it is a forced marriage. That is just an area of concern.
Q 163 Bridget Phillipson: If we assume that the victim has gone through the marriage and they then report that abuse has taken place and that the marriage was not with their consent, is the victim kept updated about what is happening—about whether that immigration status may be revoked or the person may be removed?
Jasvinder Sanghera: Most victims are at home when this is happening, so they are with their family and with perpetrators. That kind of liaison with the forced marriage unit is very often done in secret. The problematic issues that we have around engaging with the victim once the front door closes very much depend on identifying something that works for the victim. Unless they are in a refuge, or have left their family environment, protecting the victim is the priority in the process.
We must be mindful, in terms of the victims’ experiences, of the fact that, because it is their family doing this to them—and they feel a strong pull towards their family and almost an obligation—they have that dilemma of emotional attachment all the time.
Aneeta Prem: One of the reasons why Freedom have implemented not only a 24/7 helpline, but a text service as well is because a lot of young people can text or use the phone app to report various crimes they are going through.