Chief Constable's Formal report - Northern Ireland Policing Board 9th June 2016

  • 09 June 2016

Chief Constable's Formal report - Northern Ireland Policing Board 9th June 2016

INTRODUCTION

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the appointment of Claire Sugden as Justice Minister.  The Deputy Chief Constable and I have already met with her to discuss the current challenges and opportunities within policing.  I would also like to welcome the new members of the Board.  My Service Executive Team and I look forward to working together to provide an accountable, efficient and effective Police Service to all communities in Northern Ireland.  In addition, I extend my congratulations to Alan Todd on his selection as substantive Assistant Chief Constable by the Board.

 

PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT 2016 - 2021 

The PSNI look forward to playing our part in the outcomes-based approach taken I in the new Programme for Government.  This presents opportunities to deliver the collaborative working that I have been advocating for some time.  We will continue to work with the Board, PCSPs and the Department of Justice to ensure we are all best positioned to deliver this new way of working.

 

FINANCE UPDATE

2016-17

The opening resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) budget for 2016/17 is £757m including additional security funding.  This reflects a 2% reduction on the 2015/16 resource DEL baseline of £13.8.  Although it is early in the financial year, there are challenges ahead particularly in relation to growing legacy costs, the impact of the Voluntary Exit Scheme for police staff, and police officer headcount continuing below desired levels, leading to extra strain on existing police officers and pressures on overtime budgets. 

As the Board will be aware, PSNI’s capital allocation for 2016/17 fell below the estimated requirement and we submitted a £4.3m capital bid as part of June Monitoring.  We are working with the Department of Justice to fund this pressure, exchanging resource for capital budget, but balancing this with the pressures outlined above.  We will continue to keep our financial position under review and liaise closely with the Board over the coming months.

Beyond 2016/17

A funding bid for the three year period to 2019/20 has yet to be formally commissioned by Department of Finance (DoF), however PSNI have started early preparations with Department of Justice to discuss the key financial issues, pressures and opportunities facing the Service.  Discussions are continuing with the Department to further explore capital requirements, legacy pressures and change fund initiatives in preparation for a formal Budget 2016 exercise.

 

THREAT

The level of terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.  In May, the threat level in Great Britain from Northern Irish related terrorism was increased from moderate to substantial, meaning an attack in Great Britain is a strong possibility.  Threat levels are kept under constant review.

Police recorded statistics from the 2015/16 financial year show the number of security related deaths remained the same in 2015/16 as in the previous year (three recorded in both years).  

There were 36 recorded shooting incidents, approximately half the number recorded in the previous year (73 incidents in 2014/15).  Half occurred in Belfast City Policing District.

Bombing incidents increased from 36 in 2014/15 to 52 in 2015/16.  Again half occurred in Belfast City Policing District.  Bombing incidents remain a significant area of threat, with 257 incidents over the five year period from 2011/12 to 2015/16.

The number of casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults reduced from 94 in 2014/15 to 72 in 2015/16.  There has been a significant reduction in the number of casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults over the past decade; reduced from 2,546 from 1996/97 to 2005/06, to 775 from 2006/07 to 2015/16).

There were 14 casualties as a result of paramilitary style shootings; the lowest number recorded in the past 10 years (with the exception of 2007/08 when there were seven). 

Whilst the number of casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults and shootings have seen significant decreases this year, PSNI are fully cognisant of the community impact and potentially fatal consequences of such incidents.  Since the last meeting of the Board two people have lost their lives as a result of paramilitary violence; Daniel Murray and Michael McGibbon.  These were two fathers, murdered by members of paramilitary groups that have no place in our communities. PSNI remain committed to thwarting this type of activity and will continue to work with members of the Board, other partner agencies and the local community to achieve this aim.

During 2015/16 PSNI officers seized 66 firearms, 4,418 rounds of ammunition and 2.4 kg of explosives.  The start of 2016/17 has seen one of the most significant seizures of munitions in recent years in Northern Ireland in Capanagh Forest outside Larne.

 

LEGACY

PSNI is continuing to deal with huge demand in relation to legacy issues on a daily basis.

Last week, we informed the Coroner of a forensic development in relation to the Kingsmill Massacre. This new line of enquiry, which is in relation to a palm print, will be taken forward by a Senior Investigating Officer from Legacy Investigation Branch and we will keep the Coroner, who has had full disclosure, and the families informed as appropriate.

We have also informed the Police Ombudsman in relation to this development.

We understand that the families, and indeed the wider public want more details, but as the inquest is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this stage.

A Chief Constable has now been appointed to progress the investigation into the individual referred to as Stakeknife, following a referral by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) under Section 35(5) Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.

He will have delegated authority to conduct his investigations with an externally appointed investigation team, also from Great Britain. Further information on this will be made available later today.

Funding for this investigation remains a significant challenge, as we have been unable to secure underwriting from the Northern Ireland Office or the Northern Ireland Executive for the additional spend that will be required to finance the enquiry team.

The financial commitment required from PSNI to progress this matter will have consequences on other areas of policing.

There are also several other legacy matters ongoing at this time including the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry’s module looking at Kincora which started last week. We are cooperating fully with the inquiry and will continue to do so over the weeks ahead. 

 

CROSS BORDER TASK FORCE 

The Cross Border Task Force has now been established, with core members being PSNI, An Garda Síochána, National Crime Agency, Home Office Immigration, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Irish Revenue Commissioners and UK Border Agency.  A Strategic Assessment has been completed, drawing on information provided by all member agencies.  The Assessment identified the following as priority crime areas for the period 4 April to 4 October 2016; rural crime, child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, illicit drugs, excise fraud and financial fraud.  These priorities have been endorsed by the Strategic Oversight Group and the operational tier has allocated owners for further development.

During April a Cross Border operation was conducted in border areas, focussing on the prevention of rural crime.

In May the agencies worked together to carry out operations in relation to indecent images of children.  This operation resulted in the search of twenty properties across both jurisdictions.  The forensic examination of computer equipment is currently ongoing.

PSNI progressed a proactive joint investigation with An Garda Síochána in respect of an organised crime group involved in the importation and supply of large quantities of controlled drugs.  On Friday 22 April 2016 three males were detained (two from Donegal and one from Lurgan).  Herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £300k was found in the rear of a vehicle.  All three males were subsequently arrested and charged with drugs offences.  An Garda Síochána carried out searches in the Letterkenny and Ramelton areas of Donegal and recovered a quantity of suspected cocaine.

In addition, good police work has resulted in the arrest of nine individuals linked to two organised crime groups engaged in cross border burglary offences.  Four individuals who are believed to be linked to an organised crime group based in Tallaght, Dublin were arrested in connection with two burglaries in the Banbridge area.  A further five individuals were arrested in connection with a series of burglaries in Newtownhamilton and Armagh.  All nine individuals were subsequently charged.

The Cross Border Task Force is for the first time setting agreed investigative priorities across law enforcement agencies in both jurisdictions and delivering a focussed approach to those crimes causing most harm in our communities.

 

PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES ACT 2016

All provisions under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 commenced as of 26 May.  Training in the Act is ongoing across PSNI and work continues with partner agencies to establish forensic and prosecutorial standards.  The Act does not replace the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but rather seeks to compliment it. 

In summary, the Act;

  • Creates a blanket ban on the production and distribution, including supply (whether or not for financial gain) of psychoactive substances for the purposes of human consumption.
  • Defines a psychoactive substance and lists a range of substances which are excluded from the PSA Act. 
  • Creates criminal offences of supply, offering to supply, possessing with intent to supply, importing exporting and production of psychoactive substances for human consumption. 
  • Provides for four types of civil sanction – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders.
  • Provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles, vessels & aircraft and to forfeit seized psychoactive substances and other items.

 

In addition to the powers the Act confers on police there are also powers for partner agencies.  PSNI’s preparations for enactment have therefore been taken forward in partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Health (DHSSP), Public Prosecution Service (PPSNI), Forensic Science Agency (FSANI), Northern Ireland Courts Service (NICTS) and Belfast City Council.

PSNI has developed and continue to deliver a full training and awareness programme for officers in order to ensure understanding of the Act.

Prior to the Act commencing PSNI had already taken some innovative approaches to tackling the supply of psychoactive substances.  In particular, the owner of a so-called ‘head shop’ in the Omagh area was charged with offences under Section 9a Misuse of Drugs Act (supplying articles for the administration and/or preparation of controlled drugs) after smoking pipes, grinders, vaporisers, books on cannabis cultivation etc were seized in the shop.  PSNI also worked in partnership with Belfast City Council and the Attorney General to secure a court order against a number of named individuals and a limited company, preventing them from selling new psychoactive substances (under the guise of ‘legal highs’) anywhere in Northern Ireland.  The business subsequently closed down.

 

2015/16 PERFORMANCE

Whilst overall crime has shown a downwards trend over the past 12 years, there was an increase in 2015/16 when compared to the previous financial year; 105,023 crimes recorded in 2015/16, compared to 103,176 in 2014/15.  Crime increased in seven of the nine main crime classifications.  Within these classifications are types and categories of crimes for which underreporting is an issue.  This is particularly applicable to sexual offences and crimes that are hate or domestically motivated resulting in initiatives to increase reporting of these offence types.  This has had a positive effect on reporting of sexual offences and domestically motivated crime.  However, these increases have also contributed to the rise in overall crime, violence against the person, sexual and criminal damage offences.  Police activity and operations have an impact on the levels of recorded crime; this has had a noticeable effect on the increase in drugs offences and seizures and also possession of weapons offences.

The overall crime outcome rate increased to 28.7% in 2015/16, this is an increase of 1.2 percentage points from the outcome rate of 27.5% in 2014/15.  The majority of Districts (seven of the eleven Districts) achieved an increase in their crime outcome rates. 

Statistics from the latest Department of Justice Perceptions of Policing, Justice and Anti-Social Behaviour survey indicate overall confidence in the police and police accountability arrangements remain stable at 80.9% (January to December 2015).

 

HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE

  • Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) - update

During the first three tranches, 314 staff who had applied for VES received a formal offer.  56% of these offers were accepted and 175 colleagues have left already or will leave on 30 June 2016.  

504 VES applications have been processed for the fourth and final tranche.  Each application was individually considered, looking at the financial costings as well as the organisational impact.  Of the 504 applications considered, 225 will be made unconditional offers and a further 126 staff will receive conditional offers under the scheme.  Staff who receive, and accept, an offer from this group will leave the PSNI on 30 September 2016.

I would again take this opportunity to put on record our thanks and best wishes to everyone who opts to leave under the scheme, and our thanks for the continued hard work and ongoing support of those who remain within the organisation.

 

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SURVEY

As mentioned in previous Board reports, the PSNI Employee Engagement survey, in collaboration with Durham University, was launched in January and was open for four weeks.  Over 40% of officers and staff completed the survey, indicating their appetite for sharing views and shaping the direction of the organisation.

The survey results indicate police staff and officers are motivated to serve the public and feel empowered to do so.  They feel engaged and are committed and gain high levels of satisfaction from serving the community through their roles.  Officers and staff have high levels of energy, are open to change and feel happy in their jobs.  Management are seen to act ethically and appropriately. 

There are some areas for improvement in respect of fairness and organisational support.  Officers and staff experience high levels of uncertainty and also high levels of work intensity.

The findings of the survey give the organisation a clear understanding of where we are as a Police Service.  The findings build upon the results from previous surveys, including the Police Federation survey conducted last year.  

A summary of the findings, including infographic has been included at Appendix A.

 

SERVICE FIRST CHANGE MANAGEMENT UPDATE 

  • Priority Based Resourcing (PBR)

PBR Leads from right across the organisation have been presenting proposals as part of Priority Based Resourcing – Panel One.  Presentations will be completed by the end of June 2016.  Some really positive and innovative proposals have already been brought to the Panels which are chaired by the Chief or Deputy Chief Constable. The Priority Based Resourcing process was designed to encourage suggestions or ideas on how PSNI could adjust processes or alter the way in which we deliver our service to produce efficiencies.  The Panels have heard from business leads about their specific area, though there is still an opportunity for individuals right across the organisation to submit suggestions for refining processes.  

  • Corporate Support Branch – Demand Analysis

As part of ongoing work in relation to mapping demand, PSNI have now mapped crime and demand across each of the Districts.  The analysis took account of calls for service, reported crime and other demand.  An infographic illustrating this have been included at Appendix B.

This analysis forms part of ongoing work to allow us to understand the conflicting demands experienced by police.  This will allow evidence based decisions to be made in relation to how processes can be refined and bureaucracy streamlined to ensure continued prioritisation of resources in line with threat, risk, harm and opportunity.  

  • District Policing – Text Victims Satisfaction Survey

In February 2016 PSNI introduced the Text Victim Satisfaction Survey system to replace the telephone version.  The text based survey aims to allow victims to provide feedback on the service they have received, at a time that suits them.  During an initial five week period 786 victims had participated in the survey, with 79% agreeing/agreeing strongly that officers/staff had treated them with fairness and respect.  In addition to allowing victims the flexibility of providing feedback at a time convenient to them, the text system also provides significant financial savings to the organisation.

  • Legacy and Justice – Proportionate Forensic Reporting

The PSNI has been looking at how processes can be refined to produce speedier justice for victims of crime and has been working collaboratively with Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI), Public Prosecution Service (PPS), Department of Justice (DoJ) and NI Courts Service (NICS) in this regard.  

Since 2015, a Working Group has been looking at creating a corporate model, Proportionate Forensic Reporting (PFR) commonly referred to as ‘staged reporting’ in England and Wales, to assist in the delivery of shorter, proportionate, forensic reporting to support evidential needs of investigations.

In May 2016, the PSNI’s Justice Branch launched the initial phase of Proportionate Forensic Reporting (PFR), which focuses on controlled drugs analysis in Belfast District Policing Command.  Over a six week period, PFR will become operational for drugs cases right across the organisation, with its remit extending to include fingerprints, footwear, biology, DNA and toxicology during 2016.  

Often a full forensic report is completed when it is not needed, this process is time intensive and it can unnecessarily slow down the delivery of outcomes. 

There are a number of benefits to the PFR approach, including; a quicker turnaround reducing delay and administration assisting officers regarding bail management and court hearings, effective case management of police investigations and charging decisions, prompt prosecutorial decisions, concise forensic information to inform early guilty plea decisions and enable prompt case progression, reduction of costs associated with forensic reporting, increased capacity allowing Forensic Science Northern Ireland to concentrate on more serious and complex cases, and a reduction in producing unnecessary forensic evidence. 

 

OPERATIONAL UPDATE

  • Terrorism related arrests following policing operation in Strabane

Following the murder of Michael Barr in Dublin, a significant policing operation was put in place ahead of Mr Barr’s funeral in Strabane on 5 May.  As a result of this policing operation, 15 men were arrested on suspicion of terrorist related offences.

 

  • Good work by Probationary Officers

On 25 April 2016 a Probationary Officer in Londonderry noticed a strong smell of cannabis whilst attempting to locate a suspect for an unrelated manner.  Upon entering the house a large-scale cannabis cultivation facility was recovered and in excess of 50 plants seized.  

In an unrelated incident, another Probationary Constable attended a concern for safety call in Strabane.  A female had attempted suicide and officers provided medical assistance and reassured her.  The woman later received medical attention in hospital and is now in receipt of the mental health assistance she requires.

These are just two examples of the types of incidents Probationary Constables are expected to deal with on a daily basis, and show the calibre of new recruits joining the Service. 

  • Firearms seizures

On 3 May 2016 two firearms were seized in Belfast along with .22 rounds and a quantity of Class A, B and C drugs.  One man was arrested.  

In an unrelated incident, on 11 May 2016 a man from the Belfast area was charged with possession of firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possession of a Taser.

On 19 May 2016 in a further, unrelated, investigation a handgun was recovered along with herbal cannabis and drug paraphernalia from a residential in Belfast.  One man was arrested.

  • Arrests for ‘card skimming’

On 26 May 2016, officers charged two men with a total of 21 charges linked to ‘card skimming’ in locations across Northern Ireland. 

  • Body worn video (BWV) update

Training in the use of the new Body Worn Video Technology has started in Derry City and Strabane District.  Over the course of a five week period, front line officers will learn how the new kit works, when they should use it and how footage recorded can be used to support cases and ultimately victims.  This is the start of the Service-wide rollout of the technology.

  • PSNI officers to assist international policing team at Euros

A group of PSNI officers have been selected to work as part of an international policing team at this year's UEFA Euro 2016 Tournament in France.  The officers will be deployed to France, at the request of the French Authorities, for the duration of Northern Ireland’s involvement in the competition to support the French Policing Operation and help ensure a safe and trouble-free tournament.

  • Reducing Offending in Partnership (ROP) and Irish Football Association (IFA) agree partnership with Leicester City

Reducing Offending in Partnership (ROP) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) have agreed a partnership with newly crowned Premier League Champions Leicester City.  ROP had been working with the IFA on developing a bespoke programme for young people under the Prevent and Deter strand of ROP and also for selected adults who have entered the Rehabilitate and Resettlement strand.  The programme will also work with young people who have been identified as being part of football related gangs.  At a workshop in March a structure was agreed for a 12 week programme.