HMICFRS: Safe to share? Liberty and Southall Black Sister’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status
Response from: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Hampshire
While Hampshire Constabulary was not a part of this thematic inspection, we value the findings and outcomes, and any learning points on which we can implement.
This is the first police super-complaint report to be published. The super-complaint concerns the treatment of victims of crime and witnesses with insecure immigration status, focusing on how information about them is passed to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. Liberty and Southall Black Sisters put forward this super-complaint. HMICFRS, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the College of Policing have collaborated on the investigation of the police super-complaint and have found that “the investigation raises concerns about the effect the sharing of immigration information between police and the Home Office has on victims of crime with unsettled immigration status. The investigation found that the current system was causing significant harm to the public interest”.
As highlighted in the report information sharing between the police and the Home Office is important for people’s safety, and may be required by law under certain circumstances. The report investigates one form of information sharing between the police and the Home Office. This concerns migrant victims in highly vulnerable circumstances – usually arising from crimes of domestic abuse or modern slavery and human trafficking. HMICFRS “found no evidence of an intention within the police service to operate a culture that prioritises immigration enforcement, nor that this is the primary purpose of information sharing.”
Here in Hampshire the OPCC is committed to supporting the most vulnerable within our community. We value the findings and need for review of policy to provide clarity and to increase confidence in the safe reporting mechanisms to ensure victims receive justice and the right protections. As outlined in the report, these recommendations are “to ensure victims of crime are always treated as victims first and foremost, regardless of their immigration status”. It is important to note that “The investigation findings uphold Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ view that the NPCC guidance has been inconsistently adopted by police forces in England and Wales.” Here in Hampshire we will continue to work with and support those in need, taking on board the proposed recommendations.
Of the eight recommendations five are directed towards the Police and Crime Commissioner and/or the Chief Constable:
To Chief Constables: As an interim measure, pending the outcome of recommendation 2, where officers only have concerns or doubts about a victim’s immigration status, we recommend that they immediately stop sharing information on domestic abuse victims with Immigration Enforcement. Instead, police officers should link the victim to a third party that can provide advice and assistance, as set out in recommendation 4 (on the creation of safe reporting pathways).
This applies where police officers have doubts about a victim’s immigration status, not where they have evidence that an offence has been committed. The College of Policing will immediately develop guidance for the police service to clarify this aspect of practice.
The OPCC will work with the force to ensure Hampshire Constabulary has taken immediate action to change policy and processes to implement the first part of this recommendation and to stop sharing information on domestic abuse victim with Immigration Enforcement. The OPCC will seek to understand Hampshire Constabulary’s policy for domestic abuse and safeguarding protocols and any amendments made to include migrant victims and witnesses. Guidance from the College of Policing has been immediately developed and the OPCC will work with the force to understand how this guidance has been implemented and that it serves its purpose to clarify this aspect of practice. The OPCC will work with Hampshire Constabulary to understand current information sharing processes and to ensure any sharing of information is in compliance with Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance. The OPCC will work with the force to understand the current processes surrounding working with third parties and support received by third parties.
To chief constables: With reference to recommendation 1, and in consultation/collaboration with local or national specialist organisations, chief constables should take steps to ensure that all migrant victims and witnesses of crime are effectively supported through safe reporting pathways to the police and other statutory agencies. They should:
- ensure there is a proper policy and practice framework in place for officers to work within;
- develop victim and witness support policies that reflect the characteristics of the safeguarding protocol set out in recommendation 3, and:
- draw on all relevant national guidance with particular reference to the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and data protection legislation;
- are developed in partnership with and include pathways to the relevant specialist organisations for supporting victims and witnesses with insecure immigration status;
- are clear about the circumstances in which information will be shared by police with immigration enforcement;
- provide clarity about the purpose of sharing information at different points of the pathway; and
- explicitly recognise the importance of telling victims, witnesses and supporting agencies whether information will be shared with Immigration Enforcement, and if so, when and in what circumstances.
- promote understanding among police officers and staff to differentiate between responses to victims of modern slavery/human trafficking and victims of domestic abuse;
- promote awareness within their forces of any existing pathways to specialist organisations for supporting victims with insecure immigration status;
- ensure the policy and practice framework is adopted by all officers and staff who come into contact with victims of crime who have insecure immigration status; and
- promote police engagement in regular outreach community work, as highlighted as good practice in this report.
The OPCC will work with the force to understand what steps have been taken to ensure policy and practice frameworks are in place for officers to work within and to review the current policies or those in development surrounding victim and witness support. The OPCC will work with the force to ensure victim and witness support policies meet the criteria set out in this recommendation and reflect the safeguarding protocol as per recommendation 3, draw on national guidance with reference to the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and data protection legislation and are developed in partnership with organisations specialising in this area of practice. We will work with the force to ensure these policies are clear on information sharing processes and purposes and promote understanding and awareness of differentiated responses and specialist pathways. The OPCC will scrutinise the force to understand if these policies are currently being adopted by all police officers who come into contact with victims who have insecure immigration status. We will work with Hampshire Constabulary to understand their current approaches to community outreach and any plans on developing this further.
To Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners. With reference to recommendation 1, pending the developments outlined in other recommendations, and in consultation/collaboration with local or national specialist organisations, chief constables and police and crime commissioners should take steps, through the appropriate channels, to promote migrant victims’ and witnesses’ confidence in reporting crimes to the police through safe reporting pathways, without fear of prioritised immigration control.
The OPCC is committed to supporting all victims of crime. We will continue work in collaboration with specialist partners and Hampshire Constabulary to understand the current strategy in this area and how best to move forward to promote and ensure confidence in the police when reporting crimes to the police as a victim or witness with insecure immigration status.
To Police and Crime Commissioners: Conduct an assessment of local access to specialist victim support organisations or networks and take any necessary steps to build up such networks.
The OPCC will work to understand and assess the access to specialist victim support organisations/networks across Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton. We will work to understand the needs of victims and to identify if these needs are being appropriately met across the county. We will look to understand if there is provision for domestic abuse victims with insecure immigration status. Work is already being undertaken in this area for our domestic abuse and sexual crime service access provision.
To all recipients of recommendations from this investigation: Provide an update to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary on progress in implementing these recommendations within six months of the date of publication of this report.
The OPCC will remain in active communications with the HMICFRS.