Wiltshire Police’s performance in investigating crime ‘has deteriorated’ despite improvement in other areas, HMICFRS finds

Wiltshire Police has improved in some areas this year, but its performance in investigating crime “has deteriorated”, according to His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Dec 20, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard

As a result, the force will remain in the ‘Engage’ process while “we continue to closely monitor its progress”, the inspectorate said.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said while the inspection report published on Tuesday (December 20) highlighted “some positive change”, it was clear that “we have not yet achieved the required improvements” in all areas.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary moved Wiltshire Police into an enhanced monitoring process, known as Engage, earlier this year because of concerns about the force’s performance.

HMICFRS revisited Wiltshire Police last month to review the force’s progress, specifically in improving the service it provides to victims and how it investigates crime.

The inspectorate found the force had made progress in some areas, including checking whether victims are vulnerable more often, and improving how promptly it records detailed risk assessments for victims of domestic abuse.

However, HMICFRS said the force’s performance in investigating crime effectively had declined. It found that:

  • Some investigations were not carried out in a timely manner and relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry were not always completed;
  • Many investigations were not properly reviewed by supervisors;
  • Victims were sometimes not updated throughout investigations; and
  • When victims withdrew support for an investigation, the force did not always consider progressing the case without the victim’s support, which can be an important method of safeguarding the victim and preventing further offences being committed.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “Since moving Wiltshire Police into our enhanced monitoring process earlier this year, known as Engage, we have frequently and intrusively examined the force’s plans for improvement.

“As part of the Engage process, we revisited the force last month and found it had made progress in some areas. This is to be welcomed.

“However, the force has not made meaningful progress in other areas, including routinely checking for repeat victims, or giving victims crime prevention or scene preservation advice. We also found that its performance in investigating crime has deteriorated.

“As a result, Wiltshire Police remains in the Engage process while we continue to closely monitor its progress.”

Wiltshire Police said assessors reviewed 90 crimes from June/July 2022, from the point of the initial call to us, right through the investigative process to the point of outcome, during the re-inspected in November.

The force said: “Areas of positive practice were identified within allocation of crimes and early opportunities for arrests being taken.

“Improvements were also identified in how promptly we record detailed risk assessments for victims of domestic abuse, the use of structured risk assessments to assess risk and vulnerability to victims and the appropriateness of our call grading.

“However, a number of areas of continuing concern were also flagged including officers not taking all appropriate investigative opportunities available to them, identification of repeat victims and the consistency of updates to victims during an investigation.”

Following the Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy (PEEL) inspection that HMICFRS published in the summer – outlining several areas in which the force was  graded as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ – Wiltshire Police established a taskforce to ensure “improvements were made across the board and basic standards were being met”.

Mr Pritchard said: “I want our communities to feel confident that we are actively addressing the areas that have been identified by HMICFRS.

“In part this latest progress report is telling us that there are some improvements and that the work we’ve done since our PEEL inspection in the summer is making some positive change.

“It is also clear that we have not yet achieved the required improvements in all parts and the report has highlighted that in some areas performance has deteriorated, which we are working hard to address immediately.

“This remains a clear focus and priority for everyone across the force and we remain relentless in our efforts to improve our services.”

Wiltshire police and crime commissioner Philip Wilkinson said he report will undoubtedly “cause concern among crime victims and, in fact, all residents who deserve to see a police service which meets their needs at a time when they are most vulnerable”.

He added: “While there may be some small areas of improvement, I share those valid concerns that in many areas reviewed by HMICFRS, improvements are not happening as quickly as the public, or I, would want.

“My job is to ensure the chief constable is being held to account for the service delivered by Wiltshire Police so tangible change can be seen, and felt, by those who call upon the police in their hour of need. I have been robust in that challenge and scrutiny – and I have been extremely clear this slow level of improvement, and deterioration in some areas, simply isn’t good enough.

“The force has recognised the need for rapid change and has committed to supporting victims, improving investigative standards and identifying vulnerability at the earliest opportunity but there must also be the requisite strategic planning by senior leaders in place which enables frontline officers and staff to deliver that change. I will continue to challenge for those strategic improvements and leadership on behalf of the public.”

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