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Durham PEEL 2018


How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 02/05/2019

Overall, Durham Constabulary remains outstanding in its effectiveness at reducing crime and keeping people safe.

It continues to provide high-quality services to its communities, as well as seeking to innovate and improve in many areas.

The constabulary is good at investigating crime. It has the right structures in place to investigate incidents. The quality of these investigations is impressive, as well as the constabulary’s victim care. It has done much to improve its crime investigations which has led to more positive outcomes for victims in the finalisation of an investigation.

The constabulary introduced a performance management framework to manage and monitor:

  • its use of bail; and
  • suspects under investigation.

It does a risk assessment of the suspect before releasing them from custody. This helps it ensure it takes all opportunities to attach conditions and place suspects in diversionary schemes. By this, it aims to reduce re-offending.

Durham Constabulary is good at protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims. It is effective at identifying vulnerable people at the first point of contact. Throughout the constabulary, we found excellent understanding of what makes people vulnerable and how they need to be supported. Officers give a good service to victims when they initially respond to incidents.

The constabulary understands well the nature and scale of vulnerability caused by mental health crises. It works effectively with partners in this area.

The constabulary has a strong commitment to work with partner agencies to protect vulnerable people. This allows it to:

  • give vulnerable people a service that meets their specific needs;
  • manage offenders who pose the greatest risk and threat; and
  • provide diversionary schemes to reduce re-offending.

In 2016, we judged the constabulary as outstanding at preventing crime and tackling serious and organised crime.

Questions for Effectiveness


How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?


We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the constabulary’s performance in this area.

Investigation quality

Durham Constabulary has the right structures in place to deal with most of its investigative demand. Through the use of THRIVE, calls for service and incidents are assessed to ensure the most appropriate teams are assigned to investigate crimes and respond to the needs of the victim. Different teams have the ability to act flexibly and expand according to need and demand. The constabulary has governance in place through a mixture of strategic, operational and tactical meetings to move resources in order to make best use of capacity and the skills of the workforce.

The constabulary is now under capacity in terms of its detective capability. This issue is not exclusive to Durham Constabulary but is having an impact on the constabulary’s effectiveness, particularly when it comes to specialist safeguarding investigations. We acknowledge the work that the constabulary is doing to address capacity in this area. This includes continuing work to support accreditation with officers and staff, and future plans to collaborate with South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield University to develop an investigation accreditation. Further work is needed to support inexperienced officers in this area and to ensure supervisors have the skills to ensure the quality of investigations. In terms of safeguarding and dealing with vulnerability, this means making sure that officers are sufficiently trained in child abuse and safeguarding. This training is through the College of Policing’s SCAID programme (specialist child abuse investigator development). The constabulary might want also to review the training and career structure for civilian investigation officers, to ensure they have the same development opportunities as police officers.

Durham Constabulary has one of the lowest levels of telephone resolution of incidents among forces in England and Wales. The team was established in June 2017. The criteria under which crimes and incidents are allocated to this team are clear. All incidents are assessed against THRIVE and five solvability factors. These are: offender at the scene; offender known to the victim; CCTV of the incident; DNA present; and fingerprints of the scene. The resolution team does not deal with the incident if one of the five factors is present. Instead, a police officer will attend in person. The telephone resolution team deals only with certain types of crime. There are regular audits to ensure incidents are crimed and allocated appropriately. In most instances we reviewed during the inspection, we found the use of telephone investigations to resolve non-emergency incidents was appropriate. They provided a good quality of service that led to satisfactory outcomes for victims. The inspection found excellent use of THRIVE throughout the victim’s and offender’s journey, from the initial reporting of an incident to the police, through to closure of police involvement in the case. THRIVE is well embedded throughout the organisation and used effectively to safeguard victims and reduce re-offending.

Although we only assessed a small sample of files, the quality of the investigations we reviewed impressed us. The file review highlighted that in most cases the investigation was effective (51 out of 60 files reviewed), with investigative lines of enquiry identified and pursued (53 out of 60 files reviewed). Victim care was good (56 out of 60 files reviewed). This was a marked improvement on the 2017 PEEL effectiveness crime file review. The constabulary has invested in training officers and supervisors. This is shown by the ‘do it right, do it well’ training and supervisor training. The constabulary may want to review its approach to supervision. Of 60 files reviewed, only 31 contained evidence of an effectively supervised, or limited but appropriately supervised, investigation. The constabulary may wish to reassure itself that supervisors are documenting their guidance to officers appropriately, particularly when the investigator is inexperienced or when the investigation is complex.

We found the quality of handover packages from response officers to the criminal investigation department (CID) or other investigative team was high. Officers’ feedback confirmed that they generally get the time they need to carry out golden-hour enquiries. This includes taking statements from injured parties and witnesses, making standard enquiries, such as house-to-house, and CCTV and scene preservation before they leave the crime scene and go on to the next incident. Officers have received training in handover packages in the last 12 months and showed a good understanding of what is needed. The constabulary has streamlined the handover pack process. Both guidance and feedback is given to assist the officer in producing a high-quality package. A full performance management framework is in place, scrutinising the standard of file handovers and file submissions monitored through the local threat and risk meeting. This provides a good foundation for the quality of the subsequent investigation.

The constabulary provides a good service to victims of crime. Processes are rigorous and supervision is good, to make sure victims are kept updated about the progress of investigations. All officers see this as important. It was the focus for all the officers we spoke to during the inspection. The constabulary seeks the views of victims, using several surveys. Victim satisfaction and repeat victims are monitored through the constabulary’s governance structures. The data is reviewed regularly and the feedback used to improve the service.

In the period April 2017 to March 2018, the rate of outcome 16 (where the victim did not support police action) for Durham Constabulary was 22.15 percent. The England and Wales rate was 16.14 percent. The constabulary has worked hard to understand why it was using outcome 16 more than most other forces in England and Wales. It has carried out analysis and reviews to be sure that correct outcomes are being assigned to crimes, supporting the right outcome for victims. The crime management system incorporates THRIVE on all cases. This is designed to ensure that decisions and actions are recorded, enabling supervisors to monitor progress and outcomes. The constabulary has provided recent training throughout the service to raise the standards offered to victims. It has done so by improving the investigations processes, standards and recording, National Crime Recording Standards compliance and national file standards.

These initiatives target the ‘front end’ of investigations. The aim is to improve officers’ ability to effectively deal with incidents from the outset and ensure all available opportunities for positive outcomes are seized. That means identifying and preserving evidence, formulating proportionate investigation plans, capturing details of the investigation fully, complying with file standards and applying the correct outcome for the victim. The approach to victimless prosecutions , where no evidence is adduced from the complainant, is based on an assessment of the needs of the victim, proportionate to the level of risk. This includes the officer explaining to the victim what the outcomes mean. The domestic abuse policy was reviewed earlier this year to give officers guidance on victimless prosecutions. This has been reinforced with officers through safeguarding training. Body-worn video cameras are used for all domestic abuse incidents to support greater use of victimless prosecutions. Supervisors subject all domestic abuse incidents to greater scrutiny, so that victimless prosecutions take place where appropriate, and crimes are correctly classified with an appropriate investigation plan. The relationship with the Crown Prosecution Service has improved. A joint monthly performance meeting now allows progress to be tracked and ensures justice is pursued appropriately.

Catching criminals

The constabulary has improved its policy and process for the circulation and management of offenders on the Police National Computer (PNC). This has reduced the number of circulations and outstanding suspects. A detective inspector reviews all circulated wanted people on the PNC each month. The opportunity exists to improve the management of those offenders wanted as local targets on the constabulary crime management system but not circulated on the PNC. The constabulary is aware of this. It is aiming to strengthen the crime management system, to help supervisors and leaders obtain a clearer overview of all suspects wanted for offences.

The constabulary has improved its working relationship with immigration enforcement and has improved the processes in relation to foreign national offenders and the ACRO submission process. Officers and staff have received training on foreign national offenders. The performance management data for custody has improved as well. A gap in intelligence processes was identified on foreign national offenders and the constabulary is making improvements in this area. All force intelligence officers have been trained in international intelligence tools. Further guidance has been produced to help staff and officers working in this area. The ACRO submission process has been automated, making it easier to check a foreign national offender’s overseas convictions. Immigration Enforcement is now included in multi-agency teams within Durham Constabulary. This leads to better information sharing and better action in terms of the returns of intelligence checks, improving enforcement opportunities and reviewing and filling intelligence gaps.

The constabulary has a performance management framework to manage and monitor its use of pre-charge bail, and of suspects released under investigation. Changes to the bail legislation have been clearly communicated to all staff and officers. Their understanding of bail management and of the protection of vulnerable people show this. The constabulary monitors the number of suspects released under investigation as part of the constabulary’s monthly threat and risk meeting. It audits compliance both of the use of bail and of suspects released under investigation. Custody officers and staff have been trained in the new bail legislation. Now, before a suspect is released from custody, a formal review of the safeguarding of the suspect and victim will take place, using THRIVE. This is leading to a better risk assessment of the suspect, creating opportunities to attach conditions to those released under investigation and divert suspects into diversionary schemes aimed at reducing re-offending.

Frontline officers and staff are obtaining disclosure training. We are impressed with the constabulary’s approach to disclosure and by its use of disclosure champions and the ‘disclosure management document’. Officers and staff either understand disclosure rules, and how these apply to their investigations, or know where to access help and advice. Durham Constabulary performs well in terms of its case file quality. It consistently shows top quartile performance nationally. Improvement in this area continues to be driven through performance management and by enhancing the skills of staff throughout the organisation, in support of high-quality investigations.

Frontline inspectors are required to check 10 crime investigations involving cases where there is an element of vulnerability per month. This has led to improvements in the quality of THRIVE and supervisory oversight. Further audits occur on completed crime files using a matrix approach, which prioritises risky areas for scrutiny. The constabulary also monitors its crime outcome data against victim satisfaction to be sure that there is no difference in satisfaction levels, irrespective of the outcome used.

Summary for question 2

How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?


We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the constabulary’s performance in this area.

Understanding and identifying vulnerability

Durham Constabulary has a clear definition of vulnerability. It has policies that provide clear, unambiguous guidance and direction for safeguarding children, young people and adults. Protecting the vulnerable is explained clearly as part of ‘the plan on a page’, covered in the section marked ‘protecting neighbourhoods’. This means intervening early to reduce harm and demand. The focus is on safeguarding vulnerable victims and those at risk of harm, reducing repeat callers and repeat victimisation, and identifying and managing people and places that pose the most risk of harm. Officers and staff on the whole show a good understanding of this area.

The constabulary has a vulnerability strategy. It uses this definition: ‘A person is vulnerable if as a result of their situation or circumstances they are unable to take care of or protect themselves or other from harm, exploitation or any adverse impact on their quality of life.’ The constabulary’s demand reduction plan details a standard approach for public and protective demand, with a dedicated owner for each of the plan’s 15 themes. These cover areas such as domestic abuse, missing and absent people, modern slavery and trafficking, and children in care. Each theme details: the constabulary’s understanding of the causes of relevant vulnerability; the identification of the vulnerability and what the constabulary is doing already to alleviate the problem; the prevention of harm and mitigation of risk by problem solving; and the response to deal with the immediate threat and harm.

The constabulary works closely with partner organisations to understand community threats and risk. They include adult social services, children’s services and voluntary organisations. When vulnerability is identified, the constabulary is good at sharing information about its nature and scale. The strategic threat and risk assessment includes information from partner organisations. The understanding of demand is assessed through the causes of demand and what factors pose most and greatest risk. They might be health or mental health problems, drug use and abuse, or vulnerable adults and children. The constabulary has established partner problem-solving groups to target hidden demand activity. These include child sexual exploitation, modern slavery, domestic abuse and safeguarding. These have evolved based on the threats faced locally and nationally. Most strategic partner agencies are involved in these groups. Terms of reference are clear and governance is in place.

Vulnerability is initially assessed using the THRIVE process. During the inspection, we found that call handlers in the constabulary control room had a thorough understanding of the THRIVE principles. In most case files we reviewed, we found the grading and response to incidents was appropriate regarding the immediate threat or risk of harm for the victim. Staff working in the control room dealt with calls appropriately, applying THRIVE as a triage and using this to form part of their decision-making processes. During the audio calls we reviewed, we found that call handlers were polite, professional and respectful throughout the calls. This was even the case when callers were intoxicated and agitated. They also applied the principles to assess the level of harm that individuals were facing, generally made sound decisions and took the right action to support callers. Repeat victims are identified quickly, using the constabulary command and control system. This encourages the most efficient use of resources.

While the use of flags to mark repeat victims or highlight areas of vulnerability on the constabulary command and control system is good, the use of vulnerability flags on the crime system to identify victims with vulnerability was less consistent. The constabulary has identified this as an area where it needs to improve. It is to be rectified in the next update of the crime management system. Generally, the constabulary’s initial response to incidents involving vulnerable people is good, particularly concerning victims of domestic abuse. The use of THRIVE is well embedded throughout the organisation. Risk assessment takes place from the initial point of contact to the closure of an investigation.

Responding to incidents

Call handlers promptly identify the vulnerability of victims at the first point of contact. There are clear markers on the constabulary’s systems and incident logs to highlight vulnerability and repeat victims. Once an incident has been created, it passes from the call handler to the dispatcher. He or she must then re-apply THRIVE criteria to all incidents on acceptance, once further system checks have been completed, to provide more context and information on the incident. All domestic abuse incidents receive supervisory reviews. In most case files we reviewed, we found the grading and response to incidents from victims of crime was appropriate regarding the immediate threat or risk of harm for the victim. The safeguarding unit is used appropriately to investigate incidents involving vulnerable victims who require safeguarding. Response times to immediate and priority incidents are monitored and reported weekly to the leadership team. This is done through formal governance and the accountability structures of the monthly locality threat and risk meeting, and through the force operational threat and risk meeting.

All frontline staff and officers undergo safeguarding training as part of a rolling programme of training. It is refreshed annually to enforce the philosophy that ‘safeguarding is everyone’s business’. Training has covered the definition of vulnerability as well as guidance for officers attending domestic abuse incidents where children are present. ‘Through the eyes of a child’ directs officers attending domestic abuse incidents to consider what life is like for the child in that environment. Through the use of body-worn video cameras, officers gather evidence about the experiences of children, and how domestic abuse is seen within a family. This gives the police the opportunity to intervene early and share information with partner agencies.

In their initial response, officers will use a DASH form in domestic abuse cases,and the national risk assessment matrix for missing reports. They use the risk assessments within the safeguarding referral reports for vulnerable child and adult cases. These assessment tools help the officer to identify the level of safeguarding needed, and whether escalation to a supervisor is necessary. The constabulary analyses and quality-assures documentation submitted by staff and officers monthly on domestic abuse incidents and on the identification of vulnerability. This enables the constabulary to identify problems and rectify concerns quickly.

Durham Constabulary demonstrates good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability due to mental health problems. It has developed this in conjunction with partner organisations. A comprehensive problem profile was developed last year, using both police and partnership data. It has been refreshed this year. Officers have welcomed the introduction of triage both in the control room and the street triage pilot. They feel these initiatives allow for more effective support of people with mental health problems. Officers and staff in the control room have a good understanding of the importance of taking immediate action to protect people with mental health conditions or in a mental health crisis. The tele-triage protocol for control room staff for incidents involving mental health is a simple one-page flow chart. This outlines the options and where to obtain further assistance and advice for people contacting the control room in a mental health crisis. Both the street triage pilot and the use of a mental health practitioner in the control room have been reviewed and assessed in terms of their effectiveness. The results have been fed back into the partnership forum for mental health. Funding for both initiatives has been secured until December 2019.

The constabulary makes good use of body-worn video cameras in domestic abuse cases. This enables the constabulary to use footage as evidence in support of victimless prosecutions. For our 2017 effectiveness inspection, the constabulary was unable to provide data on the use of arrest, voluntary attendance or bail in relation to domestic abuse incidents. Since then, the constabulary has analysed and triangulated domestic abuse arrest data. It has found a consistent monthly average of 39 to 42 percent for arrests. Durham Constabulary has a higher arrest rate for domestic abuse than the England and Wales rate, however the voluntary attendance rate is also higher. Voluntary attendance and arrest are monitored as part of the monthly performance management regime and are part of the performance dashboard. The data is reviewed as part of team performance reviews and, individually, through monthly performance conversations. Using the information we reviewed during the inspection, we found that the constabulary made correct use of its powers of arrest to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses, particularly in domestic abuse cases.

The constabulary is working with partner agencies to assess and respond to incidents involving people with mental health conditions. Information is shared with the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) strategic board, with the adult social care board and the local safeguarding children’s board. People with mental health crises who often contact the constabulary and the Durham and Darlington mental health partnership are highlighted to officers and staff as ‘familiar faces’. This means they receive a consistent and bespoke service from both the police and health care services that meets their needs. The constabulary also attends the County Durham children and young people’s mental health meeting, and the emotional wellbeing and resilience meeting. These meetings link with the County Durham Children and Young People’s Mental Health, Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience Transformation Plan 2015–2020. The meetings aim to support children, young people and their families in County Durham to achieve their best possible mental health and wellbeing.

Supporting vulnerable victims

Neighbourhood policing teams are closely involved with the continuing safeguarding of vulnerability. This is part of a holistic approach, where contribution is shared across the constabulary when it comes to managing the risk around vulnerable people. Repeat victims and repeat missing persons are all reviewed at neighbourhood level. Time-limited projects or problem-orientated policing plans are in place where appropriate. Led by the neighbourhood policing inspector, regular meetings examine crime and anti-social behaviour in the area, people missing from home and cases where protection of a child requires intervention. The meeting then ensures that the appropriate tactics, a plan owner and the right intervention are in place.

When prosecution is not possible or practical, Durham Constabulary makes use of alternative legislation and powers to protect vulnerable victims. This includes domestic violence prevention notices (DVPNs) and orders (DVPOs) . Each DVPO is recorded on the crime management system with a plan owner. The relevant details are uploaded onto the constabulary’s briefing page. Frontline officers and staff can then actively manage the risk around that particular order. They can enforce breaches when appropriate. It is positive that the number of DVPOs and DVPNs issued in the last 12 months has increased. The constabulary has a clear policy as to how it progresses Clare’s Law enquiries. Both the constabulary and its partner agencies have a clear commitment to Clare’s Law being well used to protect potential victims of domestic abuse. In each multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) we found evidence that the most appropriate agency was proactively completing domestic violence disclosures.

Clear processes operate to manage pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases and safeguard victims. Custody sergeants have been trained in new bail legislation. This forms part of the custody course, and of their own continuous professional development. Before an offender is released from custody, the safeguarding in place for the victim and offender is reviewed. Offenders are often diverted to agencies for support over drugs abuse and/or alcohol abuse. The officer in charge and the custody staff will then re-apply THRIVE to the incident. The rationale for the release decision will be placed on the offender’s detention log. A range of perpetrator interventions is available. They include Barnardo’s domestic awareness project, Harbour’s perpetrator programme, and Checkpoint, the offender management programme. This offers offenders a four-month-long contract to engage with services as an alternative to prosecution. Interventions are offered to address the underlying reasons for committing the crime. All of them are designed to reduce offending and the risk that these perpetrators pose to vulnerable people.

We were impressed with Checkpoint. This began as a project comparing the benefits of dealing with offenders through traditional criminal justice routes with the Checkpoint programme, which offers deferred prosecution and supported desistance. The programme is now routine practice in the constabulary. Checkpoint navigators work with offenders using an individually tailored contract to engage with partner agencies. This is based on the offender’s critical pathways of need. The aim is to reduce their re-offending and improve the life chances of participants.

Durham Constabulary shows a strong commitment to working with a range of partner organisations to protect vulnerable people. We saw and heard of many examples of the constabulary collaborating with others, including the two MASHs. The structure of both MASHs enables information to be shared in a timely fashion with partner agencies where a child or adult is at risk. Harbour, a charity supporting victims of domestic abuse, mental health services and independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAs) – who provide practical support and guidance to victims – are all co-located within the MASH. In general, the partner agencies that we spoke to expressed confidence in the constabulary.

Along with other organisations, the constabulary has invested in the multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) process. It employs a dedicated MARAC co-ordinator, a chairperson and support service. They all work within the MASH, which operates a triage system where cases are risk-assessed before being referred to the MARAC. This ensures that MARAC discussions can concentrate on high-risk, complex cases, where a multi-agency response is most likely to be effective. All high-risk victims of domestic abuse are considered for referral. During the inspection, we found no evidence of cases being inappropriately ‘screened out’. The MARAC reviews all high-risk domestic abuse assessments, in line with the SafeLives guidance. The experienced MARAC co-ordinator reviews all high-risk assessments to ensure partner agencies review the most appropriate domestic abuse cases.

A disproportionately high number of domestic abuse reports are flagged as medium risk. The findings of the recent joint targeted area inspection of the multi-agency response to domestic abuse in Durham highlight this concern. This matter is of some concern to us. We acknowledge the current work being done and reviews to improve the triage and decision-making process – and the other continuing improvements made with partner agencies to manage these more effectively. To address this concern, the constabulary is to undertake a multi-agency tasking and co-ordinating (MATAC) approach to tackling domestic abuse. At the time of our inspection, this was at the inception stage. The MATAC process will identify and target the most harmful perpetrators, by analysing how recent, frequent and grave their offences were. The MARAC will continue to address high-risk domestic abuse cases, while the MATAC will address medium-risk cases. The process will integrate the options available to offenders, such as Checkpoint, to try and address their offending behaviour.

Attempts are made to contact victims of domestic abuse; every offence involving domestic abuse is sent to a third party who undertakes victim satisfaction surveys on behalf of the constabulary. Each victim is contacted unless they are under 16 or contact details are missing. This is irrespective of whether victims do, or do not, support police action. The constabulary is assisting the development and piloting of the third-party national survey. The constabulary recognises that not all victims will want to be surveyed. In these cases, it has worked with partner organisations to obtain feedback and victims’ views through other routes. Harbour, the domestic abuse charity, part of the local domestic abuse and sexual violence executive group, has been conducting research with victims of domestic abuse on the service they received from the police and other organisations. This is used to inform activity and service provision. Durham University Social Sciences department regularly conducts independent research with victims to learn how the constabulary can improve its service. The sexual assault referral centre offers victims the chance to provide feedback. The IDVAs and independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) also act as the victim’s voice.

The total victim care board, the force threat and risk meeting, and the ethics and legitimacy board oversee the results of the victim satisfaction surveys conductedby supervisors. They do this using the seven-day ring-back requirement. Officers are required to maintain contact with victims for 21 days. Surveys are published quarterly, and every six months for sexual crimes. The police, crime and victims’ commissioner (PCVC) also conducts surveys on lower-level sexual offences and on standard-risk domestic abuse.

The constabulary has the capability to proactively identify and deal with offenders sharing indecent images of children. The digital intelligence and investigation unit has co-located functions. These allow work with officers and staff working across functions to be fast-tracked. The constabulary uses specialist software to identify people who are sharing indecent images of children and this is checked regularly. If a case is identified, the intelligence officer prepares a package. The child exploitation and online protection officer, or CID, then deals with it. If the perpetrator lives out of the area, the matter is allocated to the relevant force. At the time of the inspection, all cases had been actioned. There was no backlog.

We were impressed by the awareness neighbourhood officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) showed of both vulnerable people and offenders in their area – and by the proactive involvement of neighbourhood teams in safeguarding vulnerable victims and offender management. The public protection unit leads the management of registered sex offenders and violent offenders. Neighbourhood policing teams, who are trained in sex offender behaviour and in how to undertake risk assessments, manage low and medium-risk registered
sex offenders. The public protection unit provides scrutiny and expert advice overall to this approach. The number of both intelligence submissions and the number of sexual harm prevention orders has risen since neighbourhood policing teams changed their approach – and since they undertook more active involvement in managing registered sex offenders. All registered sex offenders have a profile on the crime management system along with an up-to-date photograph and tactical plan. This means they can be monitored and that breaches of prevention orders can be identified. The constabulary may want to review the process for assessing registered sex offenders, to ensure that the approach is as closely aligned as possible with the Probation Service.

Summary for question 3

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?


Understanding the threat and responding to it

Durham Constabulary operates joint arrangements with Cleveland Police to provide armed policing. This ensures that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are the same in both forces.

The constabulary has a good understanding of the potential harm facing the public; its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. These standards relate to the role they perform. Most armed incidents in County Durham and Darlington are attended to by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and capabilities of more highly trained officers.

Some ARV officers expressed concerns that specialist officers are not always available to attend incidents when these additional skills are required. On these occasions, we were told that ARV officers sometimes resolve the incidents as an expedient method of reducing the danger and protecting the public. However, it is important that, for the safety of all concerned, the skills and capabilities of armed officers match the threats they face.

Working with others

It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. As a consequence, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.

The joint operational arrangements with Cleveland Police mean that ARV officers can deploy quickly and efficiently in both force areas. This is undoubtedly a strength. However, we believe that extending collaborative arrangements to other forces in the North East would be of benefit. In particular, consideration should be given to developing a specialist capability with other forces in the region. This would provide greater assurance that officers with the right skills are on hand to manage the threats presented by the most dangerous criminals.

We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Durham Constabulary are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, the constabulary has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified and improvements are made for the future.

In addition to debriefing training exercises, we also found that the constabulary reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. However, officers told us that some suggestions they have put forward, for example how control room procedures could be improved, have not been followed through to a logical conclusion.

Summary for question 5