Today I went to Lancashire County Council's annual Scrutiny session for Crime and Disorder. For the past two years I've had the chance to fire questions at the assembled partners, but I'm no longer on the committee, so had to make do with a view from the sidelines. One Borough Councillor had made the effort to attend from Wyre, but none of the other PCC candidates for Lancashire were there.

The session began at 10.30, and the Crime and Disorder item was over by 11.50, but do not be deceived – we didn't get to luxuriate in a whole hour and twenty minutes to consider all the crime and disorder issues in Lancashire. No, instead we had 24 minutes of a briefing on PCCs (the Councillors have already had access to a number of PCC briefings separately), and roughly 5 minutes each of briefings on Domestic Violence and 'Community Safety Projects', then 15 minutes of discussion and questions about the PCC (which is what the other briefings were for). For those of you keeping track, that left 10 minutes for questions on the Domestic Violence report, and 21 minutes for questions on 'Community Safety Projects' before the annual session was over. Half an hour of actual scrutiny, on topics chosen by the officers, and no time at all for anything else.

It may be that people are thinking the scrutiny is being done elsewhere – on the Police Authority perhaps. I've been to the Police Authority meetings to check. The Labour candidate does attend these – of course he is paid to, but again, I've not been falling over queues of other candidates, and again, I'm left without a feeling of much in-depth scrutiny.

That's a shame because in a short time today the scrutiny process drew out some important admissions, such as-

  • There has been a 43% increase in domestic violence reports over 5 years, seen as a good thing, because it means people are coming forward. The police rep said “While we are getting more and more reports of domestic violence, violent crime is decreasing, so the proportion of violent crime that is domestic violence is increasing”. This is a statistical effect, but looks like rising violent crime. More on this another time!
  • There is next to no cash for certain Domestic Violence services. For years short-term grant funding that was supposed to pump-prime the development of ideas and initiatives has been used as if it was mainstream funding, leaving services exposed when it goes. As one officer said today, “We've all got to put our hands in our pockets and contribute”, though it seems that two “agencies related to the courts” are having a harder time finding their pockets, even though the services under threat are Independent Domestic Violence Advocates who help victims through the court processes!
  • This was followed by “Not to say it's anybody's fault, but we should have been underpinning with mainstream funding”. Funny that irresponsible and unsustainable spending is never anyone's fault.
  • Criminal Damage is down 53%, and is seen as a proxy indicator for ASB, where Lancashire have recently been praised by HMIC. This is true. Their practice is already excellent and improving according to HMIC, yet looked at another way, and not mentioned today, Lancashire has relatively high levels of ASB and satisfaction rates are not what they could be, but this puzzle was not explored.

Frankly this is inadequate, but not because of the Councillors or the Committee. One morning once a year is about as much as anybody gets around the country, and it is impossible to scrutinise all of crime and disorder effectively in that paltry amount of time, which is perhaps why the major points raised in the meetings for the last two years do not appear to have resulted in any action by those 'scrutinised'.

It will be interesting to see whether different PCCs see themselves as playing Council Leader to the Chief Constable's performance as Chief Executive, or whether some will adopt the role of Grand Inquisitor, leading a super-charged Scrutiny effort on a full-time basis. If they do the latter then cops, partners and criminal justice agencies are in for a bit of a shock because, in scrutiny terms, they have been getting away with murder up to now.



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4 Responses to ‘Scrutiny’

  1. samchapman says:

    Reblogged this on Sam4Lancs.com.

  2. Ken Little says:

    Hi Sam,
    I am definetley the latter.
    I have given Kent Police Autrhority and Kent Police about 150 scrutiny questions thus far some about the £32 Million spent on Athena, some about the £6 Million lost in Icelandic banks, some about the £800k written off.
    I have had about 23 of my questions answered (not fully) but part, the remainder have been labelled vexatious by KPA-KP and the KP-FOI office.

    Congratulations if any one does better, or the best of luck if you get more qualified answers then i got and get away without being labelled!

    Ken Little PCC Independent for Kent.

  3. David Eggins says:

    Scrutiny! Yes! Domestic violence is a very complex issue, but the vested interest of Women’s Aid and Refuge for money, power and influence and the relative ease for the police in finding and locking up the male abuser all make it a “satisfactory crime process” until it comes to prosecution and then, largely outside the family courts, something like justice gets carried through. There are of course “not guilty” verdicts which tend to get treated as “innocent” verdicts. Needless to say women are much more innocent than men. ACPO “Stopping Violence to women and Girls” estimates in their paper (p.28) 25,231 serial male abusers, nationwide. According to reliable research from Archer and Graham-Kevan, for example, by my extrapolation, the missing equivalent of serial female abusers is 18,022 women. Somehow children who are 4 to six times more at risk of lethal domestic violence than women tend to be placed with their mothers in about 80% of cases and are deemed to be more at risk from their fathers than their mothers. Check out the income on the charity commission websites to see how poor the women’s movement is, lots are collected on this site https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhcVYKrhnJNhdGVXUldZeTJVaHJMSUtQNjUxOXJDSGc and ask yourself how a 10.5 million per year charity would pay its CEO between 160 and 200k per year for the last 5 years in “such difficult times”. By the above stereotypes work to address the behaviour of abusers has also been funneled into an ideological framework which does not match the reality. An academic review paper calling for the abandonment of the RESPECT accreditation principles was published in November last year in Clinical Psychology Review. What is needed is effective work with both male and female abusers – they are, after all the children’s parents! What is needed by the police is the scrutiny of the whole DV agenda, particularly against the arrests of men and women when the ARREST policy was new in 2006, compared with the figures now! The 2006 figures told the truer picture, as did Coronation Street recently!

    • samchapman says:

      One of the things missed by me not being on the committee this time is the look of panic on an officer’s face as they realise how hard it is to justify, when questionned, the lack of services for male victims of domestic abuse.

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