Response to the Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status
Gwent Police's response to the Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status:
Sir Thomas Winsor
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services
Report on Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status
The super complaint raised by Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ raises important issues that the police service must work in collaboration with our partner to address to ensure victims and witnesses with an unsettled immigration status are not deterred from engaging with the police and denied justice. I am committed to making Gwent Police accessible to all individuals, ensuring that victim and witnesses are taken seriously and provided with the necessary support, regardless of their immigration status or background.
I am pleased that the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, has a similar view demonstrated by the priorities of Supporting Victims and Community Cohesion within his Police and Crime Plan, for which as Chief Constable I am responsible for delivering.
The report made three recommendations for Chief Constables. I am sighted on the response provided to you by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and I understand the comments made within that response by the NPCC. As requested, I am writing to provide a six-month update on the position within Gwent Police in relation to the three recommendations.
As an interim measure, pending the outcome of recommendation 2, where officers only have concerns or doubts about a victim’s immigration status, we recommend that they immediately stop sharing information on domestic abuse victims with Immigration Enforcement. Instead, police officers should link the victim to a third party that can provide advice and assistance, as set out in recommendation 4 (on the creation of safe reporting pathways). This applies where police officers have doubts about a victim’s immigration status, not where they have evidence that an offence has been committed. The College of Policing will immediately develop guidance for the police service to clarify this aspect of practice.
We keenly await the outcomes of the recommendations allocated to our partners within this report to be able to fully address this recommendation. As an interim measure we have issued an instruction to stop sharing information in the circumstances outlined in this recommendation. A Detective Sergeant who is our Intelligence SPOC with Immigration Services and acts as the conduit between the force and immigration has also been instructed to decline any information sharing requests within the context of this recommendation.
We are currently rewriting our Domestic Abuse policy to ensure this approach is enshrined in policy to provide clarity to our officers and staff.
With reference to recommendation 1, and in consultation/collaboration with local or national specialist organisations, chief constables should take steps to ensure that all migrant victims and witnesses of crime are effectively supported through safe reporting pathways to the police and other statutory agencies. They should:
ensure there is a proper policy and practice framework in place for officers to work within;
develop victim and witness support policies that reflect the characteristics of the safeguarding protocol set out in recommendation 3, and:
draw on all relevant national guidance with particular reference to the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and data protection legislation;
are developed in partnership with and include pathways to the relevant specialist organisations for supporting victims and witnesses with insecure immigration status;
are clear about the circumstances in which information will be shared by police with immigration enforcement;
provide clarity about the purpose of sharing information at different points of the pathway; and
explicitly recognise the importance of telling victims, witnesses and supporting agencies whether information will be shared with Immigration Enforcement, and if so, when and in what circumstances.
promote understanding among police officers and staff to differentiate between responses to victims of modern slavery/human trafficking and victims of domestic abuse;
promote awareness within their forces of any existing pathways to specialist organisations for supporting victims with insecure immigration status;
ensure the policy and practice framework is adopted by all officers and staff who come into contact with victims of crime who have insecure immigration status; and
promote police engagement in regular outreach community work, as highlighted as good practice in this report
The force has relationships with organisations that can assist in effectively supporting victim and witnesses with insecure immigration status. I am keen to support the Police and Crime Commissioner in delivering the recommendation made for him within this report, so we advance further our partnerships with support organisations to further improve our response and service to victims and witnesses with insecure immigration status.
(Recommendation 6. To police and crime commissioners (or equivalents) Conduct an assessment of local access to specialist victim support organisations or networks and take any necessary steps to build up such networks).
More recently, the manager of the Gap Centre (a charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers) has joined our Independent Advisory Group. This is a positive addition to our varied and diverse Independent Advisory Group and through this individual’s efforts we aim to build our relationships with immigration communities. We welcome scrutiny and challenge through the Independent Advisory Group on our approach to demonstrate transparency and build confidence in this community to contact police when they are a victim or witness of crime.
In July 2021, as result of previous recommendations made by HMICFRS, the force will introduce a Victim Care Unit. The purpose of the unit is to provide a consistent approach to victim needs. The team will complete an assessment of all victims which will allow for a better understanding of a victim’s needs and requirements and will signpost, where relevant, to support agencies to assist them with their needs.
The force will be able to deliver the remainder of this recommendation and make changes to policy, where necessary, once the guidance from the College of Policing is received (recommendation 3).
With reference to recommendation 1, pending the developments outlined in other recommendations, and in consultation/collaboration with local or national specialist organisations, chief constables and police and crime commissioners should take steps, through the appropriate channels, to promote migrant victims’ and witnesses’ confidence in reporting crimes to the police through safe reporting pathways, without fear of prioritised immigration control.
The force is again awaiting publication of national guidance and development of recommendations made to our partners before delivering this recommendation.
Whilst awaiting that guidance, the force is keen to explore opportunities to promote migrant victims’ and witnesses’ confidence in Gwent Police. The Diversity and Inclusion Team have links with organisations as I have described above, and we are looking at ways to enhance those links to increase confidence in Gwent Police and remove any fear of prioritised immigration control.
I commit to working with our partners and colleagues at the NPCC to understand and deliver the change necessary to ensure victims of crime are always treated as victims first and foremost, regardless of their immigration status.