Chief Constable's March Report to the Northern Ireland Policing Board

  • 05 March 2020

CHIEF CONSTABLE’S REPORT TO NORTHERN IRELAND POLICING BOARD

5 MARCH 2020 

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this report is to: 

  1. Provide an overview of key performance information to the Board
  2. Provide an overview of a number of key investigations undertaken by Crime Operations Department
  3. Provide a brief update on the Student Officer Recruitment campaign that closed on 25 February 2020.
  4. Provide a short update on the budget planning for the new financial year.
  1. Performance
  • Overall recorded Crime (as per official statistics published on the PSNI Website 30 January 2020)

       In 12 months from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019:

  • There were 106,604 crimes recorded in Northern Ireland, an increase of 7,300 on the previous 12 months and continuing the increase seen during 2018/19. This represents a 7.4% increase.
  • There were 57 police recorded crimes per 1,000 population, compared with 53 per 1,000 population in the previous 12 months.
  • There were increases across violence against the person, robbery, certain theft offences, criminal damage and other crimes against society:
  • Violence against the person increased by 14.1% (4,975 offences). Within this overall classification violence with injury decreased by 0.2% and violence without injury increased by 6.2%. An increase of 82.8% (3,955 offences) in the harassment classification accounted for the majority of the overall increase in violence against the person offences. This should be seen in light of changes in recording practice within the harassment classification.
  • Robbery increased by 4.2% (26 offences), with the increase seen in robbery of personal property.
  • Shoplifting increased by 134 offences (2.1%), bicycle theft by 127 offences (16.0%) and theft from the person by 95 offences (21.4%).
  • Criminal damage offences increased by 7.0% (1,218 offences).
  • Drug offences showed an increase of 15.8% (1,080 offences), the majority of which relates to an increase in drug possession offences.
  • Crime levels decreased in sexual offences, burglary, vehicle offences and the theft classification
  • All other theft offences:
    • Sexual offences decreased by 5.6% (204 offences). Within this classification rape offences decreased by 9.0% (97 offences).
    • Burglary dropped by 2.2% (139 offences), while vehicle offences and ‘all other theft offences’ decreased by 4.7% (170 offences) and 3.4% (439 offences) respectively

The map below shows the areas where crime has increased in 2019/20 compared to 2018/19.  There are 890 Super Output Areas in Northern Ireland and 522 (58.6%) have experienced increases.  The red areas show the areas with the most significant increases; crime has increased by 27.6% compared to 7.6% in Northern Ireland as a whole. 

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1.2 Current Crime Outcome Rates (these figures are operational figures taken from the PSNI Saturn Management Information System and should not be treated as an official statistic at this time. Final validated outcome statistics will be published after the end of the financial year)

  • The overall outcome rate for all recorded crime has increased marginally from 28.0% in the previous financial year to date (PFYTD) to 28.1% in the financial year to date (FYTD).

 

  • The overall outcome rate for domestic abuse crimes with injury has increased from 29.2% in PFYTD to 33.1% FYTD. Operational figures also indicate that we charge a named offender in 25% of Domestic Abuse cases, compared to an overall crime type average of 20%.

1.3 Policing Plan Strategic Outcome 1.1: Trust and confidence in policing throughout Northern Ireland

          Victim Satisfaction

  • From 1 April 2019 to the 31 December 2019 surveys have been sent to 16,412 victims of whom 1,521 (9.27%) agreed to complete the survey, 1,689 (10.29%) people replied that they did not wish to complete the survey and 13,202 (80.44%) did not reply. Overall, the most common response to all four of the Victim Satisfaction survey questions was ‘5 – Strongly Agree’. The graph illustrates these results.

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Q1. ‘The officers/staff I met treated me with fairness and respect’

Q2. ‘I am satisfied with how well I have been kept informed of the progress of my case’.

Q3. ‘I am satisfied with my contact with the Police Service of Northern Ireland’.

Q4. ‘If a family member or friend were a victim of crime in the future, based on this experience, I would recommend they report it to the police’.

  • Question 2 continues to show the lowest levels of satisfaction with a positive response level of 56.2%. This pattern is replicated across all Districts, age groups and crime types.
  • Further research into Question 2 has identified that there is no discernible relationship between levels of satisfaction and whether or not the victim was updated. 98% of victims surveyed were updated.  In some locations, victim updates are being carried out by any available officer, not necessarily the investigating officer, to facilitate timely updates.  It is currently unclear if this is having an impact on the levels of satisfaction but it is possible that if the officer is not familiar with the case the quality of update may be perceived to be insufficient.
  • In the longer term, a proposed research project with Cambridge University which is currently being scoped will aim to provide a thorough understanding of how best to keep victims informed of the progress of their case. Based on the theories of procedural fairness and behavioural economics (Nudge), the research will test the best formats and content of updates to help ensure that victims feel they are adequately updated and satisfied with the service they have received.

Reduce allegations against the PSNI

  • Both the number of complaints and allegations against police has reduced this financial year to date compared to the previous financial year to date. All three of the main allegation categories are also showing a decrease compared to the same period last year.

1.4       Policing Plan Strategic Outcome 2.1: Harm caused by crime and ASB is reduced with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable, including repeat victims

Domestic Abuse

  • The number of domestically motivated crimes have increased this financial year by 14.5% (+2,004 crimes); the outcome rate has improved by 0.4 of a % point to 26.2% and domestic incidents have decreased by 0.3% (-80 incidents). The main areas of increase continue to be in respect of harassment, including malicious communications. 1 homicide with domestic motivation has been recorded in the financial year to date.
  • The overall outcome rate for domestic abuse crimes with injury has increased from 29.2% in PFYTD to 33.1% FYTD. Operational figures also indicate that we charge a named offender in 25% of Domestic Abuse cases, compared to an overall crime type average of 20%.
  • Crimes with a domestic motivation account for 17.3% of all recorded crime this financial year to date. The increase in domestically motivated crimes accounts for 36.5% of the increase in overall crime. Furthermore, harassment accounts for 80.3% of the overall increase in domestically motivated offences.

Hate Crime

  • Crimes with a hate motivation recorded account for 1.5% of all recorded crime this financial year to date. There has been a 0.9% (+13 crimes) increase in overall hate crime. Racially motivated hate crimes continue to decrease, as does the outcome rate. Increases have also been recorded in homophobic and religious hate crime. Disability hate crimes have increased by over half, while transphobic hate crimes trebled this financial year to date compared to the same period in 2018/19.

Crime Against Older People

  • This financial year, the number of crimes committed against older people has increased by 429 offences (7.5%). Increases have been recorded in all Districts except for Belfast City, Ards & North Down, and Antrim and Newtownabbey.
  • Residential burglaries in which the victims are older people remain a particular area of focus for us.

Antisocial behaviour (ASB)

  • Antisocial Behaviour has decreased by 1.5% (-753 incidents) this financial year to date. The three year trend for ASB remains stable. The number of ASB reports in January 2020 (3,939) has remained significantly below the number of reports during the same period in 2017 (4,102) and 2018 (4,127).

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 1.5       Policing Plan Strategic Outcome 2.2: People are safe on the roads

  • This financial year to 10 February there have been 51 fatalities as a result of road traffic collisions (RTCs) which compares to 2017/18 (52) and 2018/19 (59). The table below shows the monthly breakdown for the last three financial years.imaged0za.png
  • In the calendar year to 10 February there have been 10 fatalities on the roads, compared to 6 in 2019 and 7 in 2018. Children (Under 16) and Young People (16 – 24) account for 3 of these fatalities.

1.6       Drugs

  • There has been an increase of 7% (+876 crimes) in drugs offences this financial year to date. This overall increase can be attributed to a 16.0% (+832 crimes) rise in possession offences and a 5.9% (+44 crimes) increase in trafficking offences.

1.7      Security Statistics (as per bulletin published on the PSNI website 7 February 2020)

            During the period 1 February 2019 to 31 January 2020:

  • There was 1 security related death, compared to 3 during the previous 12 months. There was an increase in the number of shooting incidents, bombing incidents and paramilitary style attacks.
  • There were 19 casualties of paramilitary style shootings compared to 13 in the previous 12 month period. All 19 casualties were aged 18 years or older. Belfast has seen the number of such attacks nearly double (from 5 to 9).
  • There were 63 casualties of paramilitary style assaults, compared to 53 in the previous 12 months. The majority of these assaults occurred in Antrim and Newtownabbey (16 casualties) and Belfast (15 casualties). Of the 63 casualties, 5 were under 18 years old.
  • There were 19 bombing incidents, compared to 17 in the previous year and 40 shooting incidents, compared to 36 in the previous year.
  • There were 128 persons arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, compared to 166 during the previous 12 months.

1.8.     Stop and Search Powers (as published on the PSNI website 19 February 2020)

            During the period 1October 2019 to 31 December 2019:

  • 7,166 persons were stopped and searched/questioned, 12% more than the previous quarter. However, it is typical that the number of stops during Quarter 3 is greater than the number during Quarters 1 and 2. In Quarter 3 (24%) of all stops were in Belfast City Policing District.
  • 479 stops (7%) resulted in an arrest. This remains relatively consistent with the arrest rate for previous years, when it has ranged from 6% to 8%.

Persons can be stopped and searched or stopped and questioned under a number of legislative powers in Northern Ireland, or combinations of those powers. These powers include the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) (Northern Ireland) Order (PACE), Misuse of Drugs Act, Firearms Order, Justice and Security Act (JSA) and the Terrorism Act (TACT).

During the period 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019:

  • There were 1,033 persons stopped and searched under PACE (including a combination of PACE and other powers) of whom 169 (16%) were subsequently arrested. There were 10 persons stopped and searched under the Firearms Order (including a combination with other powers) of whom 4 (40%) was subsequently arrested.
  • Approximately 2 out of every 3 stops (4,520 or 63%) were conducted under the Misuse of Drugs Act (including a combination of Misuse of Drugs Act and other powers). Of these, 290 (6%) resulted in an arrest.
  • There were 274 persons stopped and questioned under JSA Section 21 (no subsequent arrests) and 1,395 persons were stopped and searched under Section 24 (14 subsequent arrests).
  • 13% (935 persons) of all stops were on persons aged 17 and under. Of those 935 persons, approximately two-thirds (64%) were stopped and searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act (including a combination of Misuse of Drugs Act and other powers).
  • 88% of all those stopped and searched were male, while 43% were aged 18 to 25.

1.9.      Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA)

At a Financial Investigator Conference in Belfast in October 2019, a Home Office official confirmed that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is currently the fourth best performing service in the United Kingdom in the use of POCA powers.

Use of POCA powers

  1. CRIME OPERATIONS UPDATES

Kevin Lunney Kidnap Investigation

  • The investigation into this horrific crime continues and we are working in close collaboration with our colleagues in the An Garda Síochána (AGS). We have formalised this collaboration under a Eurojust Joint Investigation Team which has the effect of easing the transfer of relevant information between the two organisations and enables the participants to avail of specialist support from Europol if it is considered beneficial to the investigation. In terms of progress, the AGS, PSNI and Derbyshire Police carried out searches at a number of addresses in Northern Ireland, Ireland and England on 8 November 2019 and recovered significant amounts of potential evidence for examination. Sadly, an occupant of a property in England took seriously ill during the search and later died in hospital. The AGS subsequently arrested six people in connection with the abduction and assault. On 26 November 2019 four men appeared in court in County Cavan charged with offences linked to the abduction of Mr Lunney. All four are expected to face trial in the coming months. The investigation remains a priority for the PSNI and the Chief Constable met with four of the Directors of the company on 19 November 2019, including Kevin Lunney, to reassure them of this and listened to their concerns.  A joint strategy meeting with the AGS took place on the 25 February 2020 to discuss the co-ordination of the next steps in the investigation.

Murder of Lyra McKee in Creggan, Londonderry/Derry 18 April 2019

  • Detectives from Serious Crime branch arrested four people in connection with murder of Lyra McKee on 11 February 2020. The arrests were made following nine months of intensive and detailed investigative work. One person was released without charge.
  • Two people were reported to PPS for offences relating to Public Disorder.
  • One person charged with the murder of Lyra McKee, Possession of a Firearm with Intent to Endanger Life and Professing to be a Member of a Proscribed Organisation.

Serious Crime Branch Terror Investigation – Newry

  • Serious Crime Branch conducted an investigation into nine meetings between 12 August 2014 and 10 November 2014 at Ardcairn Park Newry. This investigation is focused on the terrorist activity by suspect Violent Dissident Republicans. 
  • This culminated in a number of arrests on 10 November 2014 with further arrests on the 15 December 2014 in relation to the use of an address at Ardcairn Park Newry for terrorist attack planning and training including a plot to kill a Police Officer preparation of Terrorist Acts, 10 persons in total were charged with terror related offences.
  • In April 2019 at Belfast Crown Court, one person was sentenced to 18 months custody and a further nine months on licence also having to be on the Terrorism Register for 10 years from date of conviction. On 10 January 2020 at Belfast Crown one person pleaded guilty to 12 charges. On 29 January 2020 guilty pleas were entered for a total of 46 offences across seven males aged between 36 and 65 years of age. Sentencing for convicted persons will take place in March
  • This has been a protracted investigation with a number of officers engaged over six years. On the 29 January Police were trial ready and had witness lists set, witnesses detailed and facilities arranged for playing of evidential audio in the courtroom. The preparedness of the team and their level of professionalism and standard of evidence assisted in achieving pleas to the counts charged.

Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) Operation – Drug Search and Arrest Operation East Belfast UVF

  • In January 2020 PCTF conducted a search of a residential premise in East Belfast. This resulted in the recovery of controlled drugs and evidence of drugs supply.  The suspect in this matter was arrested and charged with various drugs offences.  The estimated street value of the drugs recovered was over £14,000.
  • Two further searches targeting the criminal activity of the UVF were conducted at residential premises in East Belfast. The search operation resulted in the arrest of the suspect and a quantity of drugs being recovered.  The suspect has been reported to the PPS with drugs related offences.

Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) Operation – Drug Search and Arrest Operation West Belfast UDA

  • On 3 January 2020 a male suspected of being a member of West Belfast UDA was arrested. This followed the recovery of a firearm following an arson attack on a motor vehicle. The suspect has been released without charge and enquires continue.
  • On the 9 January 2020 four persons suspected of being linked to West Belfast UDA were convicted of a variety of drugs related offences including Possession of Class A and C Drugs and Being Concerned in the Supply of Controlled Drugs. The drugs involved were approximately £100,000 of cocaine, 8,900 of Diazepam tablets and 1,000 Pregabalin tablets. 

Organised Crime Branch Operation – Drug Search and Arrest Operation Belfast

  • On the 28 January 2020 Organised Crime Branch conducted a series of searches across Greater Belfast. These searches resulted in the seizure of herbal cannabis totalling £1m as well as £70k cash. We arrested two persons for Possession with Intent to Supply Class B Drugs and Possession of Criminal Property. Both persons subsequently charged and remanded into custody.  This was part of an ongoing investigation into a South East Asian Organised Crime Gang.

Organised Crime Branch Operation – Drug Search and Arrest Operation Belfast

  • On the 14 February 2020 Organised Crime Branch conducted a search of premises at Lord Street, Belfast £200k worth of herbal cannabis seized. One person arrested for possession with intent to supply class B drugs and illegal entry into the UK. This person was subsequently charged and remanded into custody. This was part of an ongoing investigation into a South East Asian Organised Crime Gang.

Economic Crime Unit – International Money Laundering Investigation across Northern Ireland

  • Economic Crime Unit recently led an investigation into international money laundering in excess of £215m. This focused on monies being laundered through Trade Based Money Laundering (TBML).  These monies were believed to emanate from Organised Crime Gangs complicit in acquisitive crime such as drugs, human trafficking, and prostitution.
  • PSNI officers conducted a search and arrest operation between 20 January 2020 and 22 January 2020. This search and arrest operation was implemented in Banbridge, Loughbrickland, Newry, Crossmaglen, Fintona, Portglenone and Belfast. The search of 15 properties led to the recovery of a vast amount of financial documentation for examination.  PSNI arrested eight persons.  Six persons were released on bail to return pending further enquiries and two persons were released unconditionally.  PSNI was assisted by EuroPol, National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) NCA, Garda Economic Crime Bureau and Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB). This investigation is deemed by the National Economic Crime Centre as being extremely significant.

Air Support Unit assistance High Risk Missing Person Belfast

  • Air Support Unit provided assistance in the search for High Risk Missing Person who has been missing for two days. On 31 January 2020 Air Support Unit was tasked to search the Cavehill area of North Belfast.  A Police aircraft was launched and conducted a search. Within a few minutes of commencing the search a heat signature was detected at the foot of an area of Cavehill known as ‘Napoleon’s Nose’. On closer examination this signature was found to be a person. The crew of the aircraft requested ground assistance and uniform officers were initially deployed whilst arrangements were made for Community Rescue Service to assist. Air Support Unit talked the uniform officers through difficult terrain towards the casualty who was later found to be the missing person. This person was unable to move and given the location was airlifted to Belfast City Airport for onward transmission to Royal Victoria Hospital. This person was in a hypothermic state and was unlikely to have stayed alive for much longer.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital Investigation

  • This is the PSNI Public Protection Branch investigation into incidents of physical abuse and inappropriate conduct by staff members towards patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital. CCTV footage was installed in four wards however staff were not of the belief that it was recording.  The timeframe is between April 2017 and November 2017, which has resulted in approximately 300,000 hours of footage to be viewed.  One of the wards (PICU) footage has been fully viewed by PSNI with the viewing of the second ward (Six Mile) now 55% completed.  To date 26 victims have been identified together with over 175 suspects, across the four wards.  Five suspects have now been arrested and interviewed with a further two suspects scheduled to be interviewed before the end of March 2020. PSNI continue to have good engagement with the victims’ families by way of dedicated family liaison officers, who working jointly with dedicated Social Workers, have kept families informed together with addressing their concerns.  This process is subject of regular review.  Investigating Officers have liaised with PPS and agreement around disclosure processes and submission of files has been reached.  A dedicated resource has been committed to this ongoing task.  The PSNI is working with all relevant statutory agencies to continue to address safeguarding concerns that arise from incidents identified during the investigation, via regular Safeguarding review meetings.

Dunmurry Manor Care Home

  • In June 2018 the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI) published his report, ‘Home Truths’ in relation to care provided at Dunmurry Manor Care Home (DMCH). At the time of publication, the Commissioner Eddie Lynch wrote to the PSNI to ask them to review information they had gathered during their investigation to see if there was evidence of any criminality. A Police investigation was subsequently commenced in August 2018. The investigation is focused on the period June 2014–July 2017 during which time there were 183 residents. Of the 183, the investigation team have identified 29 residents’ whose care requires further enquiry. Witnesses in this case are the family members of residents in the home as well as staff at the home and agency staff who worked in the home. The information stage has been lengthy, however, an expert advisor has been employed to review eight of the cases for which full records are now available. It is anticipated that reports will be available to the investigation team by mid-April. Police executed a Schedule Warrant in mid-December at the premises of DMCH and numerous documents were seized. The investigative team is now creating packs in relation to further residents for which full records are now available. These will be sent to the expert advisor for review in due course.
  1. POLICE STUDENT OFFICER RECRUITMENT

(Please note that the figures below are provisional, and will be subject to quality assurance over the coming days.  We do not anticipate any significant alteration to the final figures. Figures relating to socio-economic background, geographic areas and Section 75 Equality analysis will be forthcoming as soon as possible).

  • The closing date for applications to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland was Tuesday 25 February 2020. Preliminary figures show that in just over three weeks we have received 6,961 applications. This is an increase of over 700 (11.5%) applications from our 2018 campaign.

 

  • The proportion of applications received from female candidates is up from 37.3% to 40.3%.

 

  • The proportion of applications received from Catholic candidates remained steady at 31.0%

4. PSNI BUDGET

I recently wrote to the Department of Justice and the Board to outline the funding pressures faced by the organisation in the next financial year.

The formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive offers the opportunity to make decisions about investment in policing. I welcome the emerging themes and priorities set out in the New Decade New Approach document.  I am optimistic that our arguments for funding additional police officers and investing in digital technology to improve our effectiveness and efficiency are being listened to, and the Board recently endorsed the related Strategic Outline Cases.

However, as the new financial year rapidly approaches, I must again draw the Board’s attention to the immediate funding pressures that the Police Service of Northern Ireland faces.  In my letter to the Department I indicated that we face pressures of up to £54m Resource DEL, of which approximately £21m are inescapable.  None of these pressures relate to our ambitions outlined in the Strategic Outline Cases, which remain unfunded.

We will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice and the Board to ensure that adequate funding is provided in the forthcoming budgetary allocations.  However, it is incumbent upon me as Accounting Officer to advise the Board that in the event of those inescapable pressures not being funded, there will be a direct and discernible impact upon frontline service delivery.  Dependent upon the scale of the funding gap, officer and staff numbers will be negatively impacted, as will access to overtime to support how we respond to calls for service.

 

A PDF of this document can be found at 

http://ow.ly/HOgw50yDxoD