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COVID-19: Police and criminal justice

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FAQ’s about the early release of prisoners

The government has announced new measures to protect the NHS from coronavirus risks in prisons, deciding to release selected low-risk offenders, who have served over half their sentence and are within two months of their automatic release dates.

Victim service providers may receive queries from concerned victims in the coming weeks about the early release of prisoners. We have provided responses to some of the most likely questions and in particular how to find out whether their offender is going to be released under this scheme.

 

Click here to download Covid-19 the victim service provider script

 

Working closely with local police to ensure survivors get the help they need

Due to COVID–19 and the rising numbers of police officers that are either ill or self-isolating, the policing of domestic abuse is at threat. This has brought major concerns to police forces in how they can respond to calls for assistance and queries with a reduced work force alongside the added demands of policing the pandemic. With this in mind, Women’s Aid, along with other national DA organisations was asked by the College of Policing to join a discussion looking at how best this can be managed and the possibility of support from specialist agencies.

One option to relieve pressure on front line deployment was to introduce and/or extend first response by telephone. Six forces are currently piloting telephone first response for a specific cohort of non-emergency DA calls. The criteria for calls being eligible for telephone first response has been tight, although proposals to relax the criteria very recently have been agreed in principle by the College, HMICFRS and national support services. However, there are potential risks associated with a telephone first response, but these would need to be balanced against the reality of the current situation which might be at best a single crewed/delayed response and at worst no deployment.

Suggestions for mitigating the risks associated with telephone first response were:

  • Use where possible call-takers with (recent) training on domestic abuse and coercive control, and with experience of conducting primary risk assessment (usually the DASH)
  • Clear and agreed criteria for calls that would still require emergency response if possible (primarily calls where there is an immediate/credible threat of physical harm; a significant history of domestic abuse; a current ‘high risk’ grading; stalking behaviour and/or breach of a protective order.
  • Robust triage of calls with a clear route to re-instigate officer attendance where appropriate
  • Comprehensive intelligence/history checks (including with support services)
  • Call back function to check the situation/make sure information given/obtained is correct; very clear instructions to caller about circumstances in which they should call again
  • Robust supervision of call-takers by somebody with DA expertise; ongoing quality assurance and checking by somebody with appropriate DA expertise
  • Integration of support services within the call centre function; referral to support sector helplines

The last bullet point is the reason for this contact. The integration of support services within the call centre function and referral to local/national support sector helplines may be an option for some of our member services. We recognise that member services are facing huge challenges in responding to COVID-19, including staff shortages, increased demand and financial pressures and for many organisations providing additional support to statutory services in the current climate is out of the question. However, if your organisation is in a position to support policing during this Pandemic and would like to offer this support (even on a minimal basis) then please contact your local police area force to discuss.

Some of you will have a direct contact in your local force area, but for those who don’t we are suggesting that you contact either the Chief Constable or the Acting Chief Constable for your force area.

If you need support or guidance, please contact our membership team on [email protected]

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