PEEL: Staffordshire Police cause of concern – Responding to vulnerable people

Published on: 29 March 2022


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If our inspection identifies a serious or critical shortcoming in a force’s practice, policy or performance, we will report it as a cause of concern. A cause of concern will always be accompanied by one or more recommendations. When we identify a cause of concern during our inspections, we normally provide details in the subsequent force report.

In some cases, such as when we discover significant service failures or risks to public safety, we report our concerns and recommendations earlier. This is called an accelerated cause of concern.

We have issued two accelerated causes of concern to Staffordshire Police as a result of its failure to:

  • adequately identify or assess victim vulnerability at first point of contact; and
  • carry out sufficiently effective investigations.

A victim service assessment is carried out as part of the PEEL inspection programme. It considers the service victims receive from the point of reporting a crime through to the end result.

As part of this assessment, we reviewed 130 case files.

We found that Staffordshire Police is failing to sufficiently identify and assess a victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police. We also found that they don’t always carry out effective investigations or comply with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

Cause of concern

The force needs to improve how it identifies and assesses vulnerability at first point of contact.


Within three months, Staffordshire Police should make sure that:

  • call handlers use and correctly record structured initial triage and risk assessments – this will help the force know what priority it should give the call and allow it to decide on the most appropriate response;
  • vulnerable and repeat callers are routinely identified, as are other people in the household who may also be vulnerable; and
  • call handlers give relevant advice on the preservation of evidence and crime prevention.

When calls are answered in the control room, the victim’s vulnerability isn’t always assessed using a structured triage process (using the threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement assessment – also known as THRIVE).

Repeat victims aren’t always identified, nor are other people in the household who may also be vulnerable. This means that all necessary information isn’t always taken into account when the force considers what response it should give to victims.

The force doesn’t always respond promptly to calls for service and it doesn’t always attend incidents within the timescales it has set. In many cases, the force didn’t inform victims of delays, meaning that their expectations weren’t always met.

The force didn’t always give victims advice on how to prevent crime or how to preserve evidence. This potentially means that evidence supporting an investigation may be lost. It also means that the opportunity to prevent further crimes against the victim may be missed.

Cause of concern

The force needs to make sure that it carries out effective investigations and that it gives victims the support they need.


Within six months: Staffordshire Police should make sure that:

  • it completes investigation plans to give direction and identify lines of inquiry at an early stage;
  • investigations are actively and regularly supervised and have their progress reviewed, and that all proportionate lines of inquiry are followed;
  • it pursues evidence-led prosecutions when a victim withdraws support for the investigation; and
  • it complies with the requirements established in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and that it completes victim needs assessments.

In some cases, investigations weren’t carried out promptly, and relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry weren’t always completed. Many investigations weren’t reviewed sufficiently by supervisors and some didn’t have an investigation plan in place.

Victims weren’t always updated during investigations. Victims are more likely to have confidence in a police investigation when they receive regular updates. Thorough investigations increase the likelihood of perpetrators being identified and positive outcomes for victims.

When victims withdrew support for an investigation, the force didn’t always consider progressing the case without the victim’s support. When forces do continue investigations without the victim’s support, there is a potential to safeguard that victim and prevent perpetrators from committing further offences.

The force didn’t always comply with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, nor did it always complete a victim needs assessment. As a result, victims may disengage with investigations, withdraw their support for prosecutions and lose faith in the criminal justice process.

This notification of a cause of concern constitutes a report under section 54, Police Act 1996.  As it also contains recommendations, the local policing body is required to respond under section 55, Police Act 1996.

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PEEL: Staffordshire Police cause of concern – Responding to vulnerable people