PCC welcomes new Panel members
The latest Norfolk Police and Crime Panel took place at County Hall on Friday, 1 September. New and existing panellists took the opportunity to ask the Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, about a number of topics including estate management and the greening of estates, rural crime, scam prevention, police attendance at parish councils, and speeding.
Following the introduction of Giles’ Police Budget Consultation, Pillars One and Two from the Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan 2022-2024 were discussed:
Pillar One – Sustain Norfolk Constabulary
Questions from the Panel included one from Co-opted Independent Member, Peter Hill, about the national Right Care Right Person initiative and how this would work locally.
Giles explained the origins of Right Care Right Person, which began in 2019 with a pilot led by Humberside Police. It came about from a review of demand on policing and its non-core activities, and mental health was found to be a predominant issue. Giles explained: “With the best will in the world, a young constable is very often not going to be the right person to deliver the right care to somebody in a mental health crisis.
“They went right back to the first principles of policing so, basically, the core duties of policing are to protect life and property, to preserve public order, to prevent offending and to bring offenders to justice, and the legal duties that the police are under to act are really driven by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says they must act if there is a real and immediate threat to life. That’s a positive duty: they must act in law and they must also act if there is a real and immediate threat of serious harm, torture, or inhumane or other conduct under Article 3.
“In addition to common law duties there are also other Acts of Parliament that agencies need to follow. Giles added: “Significantly, there are a large number of other agencies, particularly in the public sector, who also have the same statutory duties of care.”
Focussing on health and mental health, a mental health hospital would also have those statutory duties, even if a person were to leave their care, so this was an area where the police could step back from dealing with mental health demands to some extent. Giles explained further: “To quantify this in Norfolk’s terms, last year [mental health issues accounted for] 27,000 calls to the police operations room. The police were deployed to around 70% of these, so they were responding to approximately 18,900 calls. They aspire to reduce that call demand to around 40%, which would still be 10, 800 calls, or thereabouts a year, roughly 29-30 a day.
“The bit they’re not going to attend looks like being around the 8,100 mark; again that figure is generated from a percentage calculator, so don’t take it as an exact science, so roughly 25 calls a day.
“Why are they going to go down that road? Well, we go back to the duties of care that I alluded to. So if somebody wants to take their own life, there is a very clear, real and immediate duty of care for the police to attend, and under Article 2 they must attend, but if somebody rings up and says, “I’m a little bit worried about, I’ll use the name George, I know he’s got mental health problems, haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks”, the question has to be asked by the constabulary, ‘why are you asking us?’. And it may well be that in the past that the police would have gone but in the future, they might not go, and I come back to the words I emphasised - real and immediate threat to life or harm. Clearly, in the assessment process in the control room there’ll be some work done so decisions taken will be, ‘yes, we’re going’, ‘no, we’re definitely not going’, or ‘I need more information’, and there will be an assessment process.”
So, in essence, the partnership approach for Humberside ensured that those requiring urgent mental health support received timely care from the most appropriate agency.
It is estimated that these savings could generate up to 40 hours of officer time a day.
Norfolk will be one of the last constabularies to adopt this way of working as it was important to watch and learn how such initiatives performed elsewhere.
Giles said that there would be a deep dive into the scrutiny of visible policing at the next PCC’s Accountability Meeting on 17 October 2023, where he would be asking the Chief Constable questions about this Pillar from his Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan.
Pillar Two – Visible and trusted policing
Co-opted Independent Member, Peter Hill, asked the PCC about active and focussed engagement with Norfolk’s communities. He felt that most of the engagements were aimed at ‘easy’ audiences, and wanted to know whether any engagements had empirical evidence of crime and were being targeted at hard-to-reach audiences.
Giles responded by saying that the type of data given on engagement was relatively new. Anecdotally, he spoke about the engagement that was being carried out. “We are doing more and more work to talk to communities. My office is driving that through the Independent Advisory Group, they are slowly evolving and, for example, we recently had Stephen Lawrence Day on the 30th anniversary of his tragic death, attended by the Chief Constable and by myself, which was well attended by the black community and really useful in terms of, first of all, saying, ‘we want to engage’. I think there were 9,000 people who went through the door of The Forum that day, which was actually a huge result in terms of engagement. Secondly, we are not just saying, ‘we’ve engaged, end of’, we’re saying ‘we’ve engaged, what’s next?’.”
Further discussion took place about engagement, including Park, Walk and Talk and the idea of Park and Speed checks.
The meeting can be viewed here on:
The next Norfolk Police and Crime Panel will take place on Monday, 30 October at 11am in the Council Chamber, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich.