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Merseyside PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 20/01/2020

Merseyside Police is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe.

The force is good at investigating crime. It has invested in new technology to improve the quality of investigations and has started a review to assess its effect. The force uses technology to keep track of how long people are kept on bail or released under investigation (RUI), but it should also make sure that bail is being used appropriately in cases involving a vulnerable person.

Merseyside Police is good at protecting vulnerable people. Its officers and staff understand this issue, and what their responsibilities are. The force receives a high number of calls from the public, and it needs to be more consistent in recognising and recording risk during these calls. It also needs to make sure that it considers the potential risks when delays occur or circumstances change.

It has created a new vulnerable person referral unit to improve the service provided to vulnerable people. This needs time to become established – it had some staffing and process difficulties at the time of inspection. The force frequently uses the domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS, also known as Clare’s Law) and multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs). But it needs to make sure that it processes cases quickly enough and must ensure that it follows national guidance so that vulnerable people are protected from further harm. The force has good arrangements for managing sex offenders who pose a risk to vulnerable people.

In 2016 we judged Merseyside Police as outstanding at tackling serious and organised crime, and good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Questions for Effectiveness


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


Merseyside Police is good at investigating crime. Most crimes are allocated to investigators with the right skills, and the force has worked to improve how quickly crimes are allocated for investigation. However, more could be done to improve how well low-level, high-volume crime is investigated. The force is currently reviewing its investigation processes, from the first phone call through to the resolution of the case. This review will focus on continuing to improve services for victims and it is hoped it will lead to further improvement in its investigations.

The force has good methods for retrieving evidence from phones and digital devices. The way it deals with this kind of evidence meets national standards, and it can triage and fast-track cases assessed as urgent. It has also improved the way in which it gathers evidence at the first opportunity from crime scenes, an area for improvement in our 2017 effectiveness inspection. Officers have been given help to understand what they need to do to collect evidence, and then enough time to complete their enquiries.Body-worn video cameras are increasingly being used as part of the evidence-gathering process.

The force is also good at pursuing criminals. It makes appropriate use of computer systems to circulate and monitor information about people who are wanted for crimes and works collaboratively with partner organisations to locate them.

It uses technology to make sure that cases involving suspects who are on bail or RUI are being progressed. However, the force should ensure that the decisions it makes are appropriate in cases where vulnerability is a factor, to make sure that all victims are supported. The proportion of Merseyside Police’s cases that end with a charge is higher than the average rate for England and Wales, despite the increased crime levels that it currently faces. The force generally understands its outcome rates, but it needs to better understand why some victims don’t want to continue with their case (known as outcome 16) to make sure it is effectively pursuing justice on behalf of all victims.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should develop quality assurance of its bail and RUI decisions to ensure victims of domestic abuse and other vulnerable victims are appropriately supported.
  • The force needs to better understand the reasons why some vulnerable victims do not want to support prosecutions in order to effectively pursue justice on their behalf.

Detailed findings for question 2


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


Merseyside Police is good at protecting vulnerable people. The workforce understands vulnerability and the force views it as a priority. It is investing in further training to improve understanding throughout the force.

The force works well with partners, including mental health organisations. Staff from those organisations are present in the control room at principal times to help identify vulnerable people and provide support.

THRIVE is the force risk assessment tool to identify vulnerability. Its use was identified as an area for improvement in our 2017 effectiveness inspection. This year we found limited improvement. The force needs to improve its recording of risk, and ensure risk is reassessed when delays occur or circumstances change. The force has a plan to address this. Further training is now being provided and calls are being quality assured.

The force makes significant use of the DVDS in cases where there is a right to ask or know about a partner’s history.

However, some cases are long-outstanding and the force needs to manage these more effectively to prevent further harm. We are pleased to see that the force is taking immediate action to address this. It is also taking steps to reduce delays in responding to vulnerability assessments within its newly centralised vulnerable persons referral unit (VPRU).

Merseyside Police uses its own assessment form for identifying risk in domestic abuse cases, grading these according to seriousness. While the total number of cases referred to MARACs was high in comparison with other forces, some high-risk cases were not being referred in line with national guidance, including those that were repeat cases. The force must address this.

The force is proactive in addressing the threat posed by people sharing indecent images of children online and has effective processes for allocating cases for investigation. It has good arrangements to manage registered sex offenders (RSOs) and is generally up to date with visits to prevent further offending.

Areas for improvement

  • The force needs to record the initial assessment of risk more consistently. Risk and vulnerability should be assessed from the outset, and re-assessment should take place when delays in deployment occur, or circumstances change. These assessments should inform the subsequent attendance and investigation.
  • The force should review its DVDS procedures, continuing case-work, applications and disclosures to ensure they are efficient, follow national guidance and reduce preventable risk.
  • The force needs to review MARAC processes, so they comply with national guidance, are consistent with partners and there is no filtering of high-risk cases.

Detailed findings for question 3


How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?


HMICFRS has previously inspected how well forces provide armed policing. This formed part of our 2016 and 2017 effectiveness inspections. Subsequent terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe have meant that the police service maintains a focus on armed capability in England and Wales.

It is not just terrorist attacks that place operational demands on armed officers. The threat can include the activity of organised crime groups or armed street gangs and all other crime involving guns. The Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons makes forces responsible for implementing national standards of armed policing. The code stipulates that a chief officer be designated to oversee these standards. This requires the chief officer to set out the firearms threat in an armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (APSTRA). The chief officer must also set out clear rationales for the number of armed officers (armed capacity) and the level to which they are trained (armed capability).

Detailed findings for question 5