Policing is an increasingly regulated public service and the overarching responsibility for governance is set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The legislative framework is complemented by the Policing Protocol 2011 (which came into force in January 2012). The Protocol covers the scope of the Act and the specific responsibilities of the key stakeholders, including both the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the Chief Constable. Amongst those responsibilities the protocol states the PCC should: ‘scrutinise, support and challenge the overall performance of the Force’. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) inspections, audits, and reviews of the force supports the PCC to carry out this function and further monitor specific areas of scrutiny.
Aims of the report
This report will record the key detail of the latest or ongoing inspections, audits, or other reviews that have taken place during the period 1 November 2022 to 10 February 2023.
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS)
The role of HMICFRS is to inspect and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and specified national police agencies. HMICFRS’s overall objective is to provide independent and professional assessments of police efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy, for the public, their elected representatives, and the police.
Further detail on the reports and recommendations referenced in section three of this report can be found on the HMICFRS website. The progress of recommendations is monitored through established governance and scrutiny processes with regular updates provided to the Deputy Chief Constable. Formal closure of recommendations is undertaken by the force’s HMICFRS Force Liaison Lead.
3.1 HMICFRS Publication – Inspection of Vetting, Misconduct and Misogyny in the Police Service
On 2 November 2022 HMICFRS published the findings of their inspection into vetting management, misconduct handling and misogyny within the police service. The inspection was commissioned by the Home Office following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 and was conducted in October of the same year. The purpose of the thematic inspection was to provide an assessment of current vetting and counter-corruption capacity and capability in policing across England & Wales. This was to include forces’ ability to detect and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour. Kent Police were one of the eight forces chosen for inspection.
Following reviews of police vetting files, HMICFRS found too many cases where people should not have been allowed to join the police, including officers with criminal records or links to organised crime. Inspectors found examples of police officers transferring between forces despite a history of concerning intelligence, complaints, or misconduct allegations. HMICFRS concluded that a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour towards female police officers, staff and members of the public still exists and is prevalent in many forces.
HMICFRS made 43 recommendations and five areas for improvement. Twenty-eight of the recommendations and the five AFIs are for Chief Constables. A full review of the recommendations has taken place and 21 of the recommendations / AFIs are already in place in Kent and can be fully evidenced. A further 12 are partially in place but will need further attention to fully meet the recommendation.
The progress of recommendations will be monitored through the Head of PSD and governance structures are in place, overseen by the Deputy Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Officer. In addition, further periodic reporting of progress to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) will take place. The recommendations will be formally signed off by the force’s HMICFRS Lead Officer.
3.2 HMICFRS Publication – A report into the effectiveness of vetting and counter-corruption arrangements in Kent Police
On 17 November 2022 HMICFRS published their findings into the effectiveness of vetting and counter-corruption arrangements in Kent. HMICFRS conducted an inspection of Kent between 31 January and 11 February 2022 and examined the effectiveness of the force’s response to vetting, IT monitoring and counter-corruption. The force was graded ‘adequate’ and given two areas for improvement, both of which related to vetting arrangements.
The report highlighted compliance with the Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and improvements in escalation processes in respect of outstanding vetting completion. As a result of the national Police Uplift Programme and increased demand, the Force Vetting Unit’s workload was reported as unmanageable and delays to vetting were identified regarding several individuals in designated posts awaiting enhanced vetting. This was the first identified area for improvement. HMICFRS also noted that the force provides monthly data on vetting refusals for applicants with protected characteristics but felt more could be done to analyse potential disproportionately. This was the second area for improvement.
Since the inspection took place, the force has made further changes to meet the demands placed on the Force Vetting Unit. The force has provided additional resources with the recruitment of three Vetting Assistants and three Vetting Team Leaders. The force has a robust risk assessment process for when officers vetted to a lower level are required to move roles for operational reasons prior to their vetting upgrade being completed. The officers identified by HMICFRS at the time of the inspection had passed the vetting procedure for their previous role with Kent Police. While these officers were undergoing enhanced vetting, they were subject to a rigorous monitoring and a risk assessment process. They subsequently all passed enhanced vetting for their new roles.
The force has recently introduced a Disproportionality Scrutiny Panel where anonymised vetting decisions are reviewed by a panel (which includes external representation) to ensure that decisions are not affected by conscious or unconscious bias. We will be liaising with HMICFRS to identify Forces where they have identified good practice in this area to further strengthen our approach.
The report recognises the hard work undertaken by the force to ensure that counter corruption measures are robust and rigorous. This included effective monitoring of IT systems, the use of computer software to develop intelligence, comprehensive counter corruption strategic threat assessment, compliance with APP, utilisation of a wide range of investigative techniques and communicating effectively to the workforce on abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
The force takes accurate and timely vetting and counter-corruption measures extremely seriously. It has invested considerable resources in those provisions to ensure effective and efficient policing in which the public can trust. This is particularly important in the context of the national Police Uplift Programme, which will next year see us employ the largest number of officers in our history.
The two areas for improvement are being progressed and monitored through the Head of PSD. Governance structures in place ensure oversight by the Deputy Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Officer. The recommendations will be formally signed off by the force’s HMICFRS Lead Officer.
3.3 HMICFRS Publication - Digital Forensics: An inspection into how well the police and other agencies use digital forensics in their investigations
On 1 December 2022 HMICFRS published ‘Digital Forensics: an inspection into how well the police and other agencies use digital forensics in their investigations’. The inspection took place between February and June 2022 with eight forces and four Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCU) inspected. The delivery of digital forensics is managed by the Serious Crime Directorate (SCD) which is a collaborated department across Kent and Essex. Whilst Kent was not inspected, Essex were one of the eight forces visited. The inspection examined how effective the provision of digital forensics is in forces and ROCUs, and how future demand is understood and planned for.
The inspection found inconsistencies in the recovery and examination of digital devices, limited understanding of the current demand and little evidence of collaboration. Forces reported incidents of prosecutors being overly cautious, requesting unnecessary examinations which placed additional demand on digital forensic units which has a subsequent effect on investigations and victims.
All forces inspected had a triage process to prioritise the examination of devices by allocating a grading and policies regarding disclosure and digital material were in place. HMICFRS reported forces had plans to examine victims’ devices within 24 hours in rape or serious sexual offence cases and that investment in digital forensic units and staff was evident.
Kent has a clear governance and oversight of digital forensic capability, providing a clear understanding of the local demand for digital forensic services as a fully integrated function within the forensic service structure. The Force Management Statement will also review demand and capacity for digital forensics. Kent digital forensic capability is fully integrated into the structure of Forensic Services.
HMICFRS concluded by stating that policing cannot meet the technological challenges alone due to expense and expertise and there is a need for co-ordinated effort with forensic providers and other private businesses to develop and share skills and technology. The report identifies nine recommendations, three of which are for Chief Constables.
The progress of recommendations will be monitored through the Head of SCD and governance structures in place, as overseen by the Deputy Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Officer. The recommendations will be formally signed off by the force’s HMICFRS Lead Officer.
3.4 HMICFRS Publication: Super Complaint: How the police respond to victims of sexual abuse when the victim is from an ethnic minority background and may be at risk of honour-based abuse
On 16 December 2022 HMICFRS, the College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) published their report in response to a super-complaint submitted by the Tees Valley Inclusion Project. The super complaint related to how the police respond to victims of sexual abuse when the victim is from an ethnic minority background and may be at risk of honour-based abuse. Kent was not inspected.
Following a joint investigation into these concerns it was reported that some forces did not clearly understand the risks of honour-based abuse, and as a result, some victims may be left unprotected and unsupported. It also found that the recording of ethnicity is inconsistent, meaning forces are unable to properly monitor the equality of the service they provide to the different communities they serve.
The report makes five recommendations, three of which are for Chief Constables. The recommendations are aimed at increasing cultural awareness and understanding of different cultures and religions, further understanding crime data in relation to sexual abuse and honour-based abuse and ensuring appropriate policies are in place. These recommendations have been accepted and will now be reviewed to ensure the force is compliant. All forces are required to provide a response on progress to the NPCC in six months’ time.
3.5 Firearms Licensing Update
On 25th November 2022 the Right Honourable Minister Philp wrote to all Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the United Kingdom. It was expressed within the letter the importance of keeping the public safe and asked PCCs to have some assurance and understanding of current Firearms Licensing backlogs, in particular those relating to expired licenses.
There are currently 25176 license holders in Kent holding some 78582 firearms. The detail of which is shown in the table below:
Firearms certificates held
Total number of firearms held
Shotgun certificates held
Total number of Shotguns held
Registered Firearms Dealers
The questions raised in the letter are addressed below:
How many people with expired certificates are still in possession of their firearms?
Zero. Any expired certificate holder will have their weapons collected or housed appropriately with other certificate holders prior to the expired date. This is monitored daily by the Firearms Licensing Manager and reported on at every Tactical Operations Daily Management Meeting.
How many of these have applied for renewal whose cases have yet to be decided?
Zero. There are currently 388 (a reduction of 63 since last reported in November 2022) renewals pending but none are related to expired certificate holders. The Firearms Licensing Department have a robust process where they will request renewal applications from certificate holders many weeks before expiry of their 5-year renewal cycle.
How many of those who have applied for renewal have been issued with a temporary permit and continue to have firearms in their possession?
Fifteen. Where certificate holders have shown due diligence and the threat assessment indicates zero risk, a temporary permit will be issued to the certificate holder. Delays are experienced due to processing matters out of the Firearms Licensing Departments control such as General Practitioners reporting and submission requirements for a Firearms Licence.
The Kent Police Firearms Licensing Department are managing a significant number of certificate holders but through SLT direction and oversight they continue to focus their efforts where there is the greatest risk, prioritising expired certificates, temporary permits and renewals before any new applications are granted. As a guide, the average new grant turnaround time is 32 days and average renewal turnaround is 52 days.
3.5 PEEL 2021/22 - Update
Following the publication of the Kent PEEL 2021/22 inspection findings on the 28 April 2022, progress against the areas for improvement has been overseen by Chief Officers and their respective business leads.
Areas for improvement in respect of investigation plans, bail management and management of sexual and violent offenders have been completed, alongside two headlines of concern in respect of rape and abstractions within neighbourhood policing. Progress against all the remaining areas for improvement and headlines of concern can be evidenced and are anticipated for completion as follows:
Three areas anticipated for completion by the end of February 2023
Eight areas anticipated for completion by the end of March 2023
Seven areas are anticipated for completion between April and June 2023
Governance of progress continues to be overseen by the Future Improvement and Development Board chaired by the Deputy Chief Constable. After each board a progress update is provided to the Chief Constable. In January 2023 the Chief Constable held an extraordinary PEEL Oversight Board, where action owners provided an update on progress, evidence of improvement and plans to address areas not yet met. The next oversight board will be held in April 2023.
3.6 PEEL 2022/23
HMICFRS notified the force on 12 December 2022 that the period of continuous assessment for the next round of PEEL inspections has commenced for Kent.
The force received requests from HMICFRS for documents and data which have been facilitated and submitted. Chief officer interviews have been held. Strategic interviews with key business leads are underway and focus groups and reality testing will commence in March 2023. The force is due its Victim Service Assessment in April 2023 (confirmed date awaited) with further reality testing taking place in June 2023. The final report is due for publication in October 2023.
Preparation and governance are well established with Chief Officer oversight to ensure the force puts forward the best evidence available to demonstrate the progress made against the previous areas for improvement (as detailed above in 3.5) and new evidence across the core questions being assessed.
Internal and External Audit Functions.
Due to delays in procurement process, the Internal Audit Plan for 2022/23 wasn’t agreed until September 2022. The table below shows the outline plan agreed with management and the Joint Audit Committee in September 2022 and the progress to date.
2022/23 Status Update
ESMCP – financial impact (joint)
Final issued 04/01/2023
Issued in draft 12/12/2022
Revised draft issued 16/01/2023
Off payroll workers follow up (joint)
Issued in draft 06/01/2023
Revised draft issued 12/01/2023
Fieldwork complete and in QA
Secondary employment and business interests
Fieldwork in progress
Overtime and acting/temporary ranks / Expenses and allowances
Fieldwork in progress
Health & safety
Fieldwork in progress
IT audit 1 (joint) – IT service delivery
Delivery of capital programme
Budget build and pay forecasting
IT audit 2 (joint) – Demand management (ITIL control standards)
Audit actions and progress are reported at the Joint Audit Committee. Actions signed off between the previous JAC and the latest one (December 22) are highlighted below. Overall, good progress is being made on audit actions and where actions are overdue, plans are in place to address this.
Independent Review of Tax Policies and Procedures
Estates Strategy – Operation Zenith
Airwave and Emergency Services Network Device Control
1,2 & 3
Medium Term Financial Plan, Budget Setting, Control and Monitoring
Follow up-Part One
Freedom of Information and Subject Access Requests
Freedom of Information and Subject Access Requests
2,3 & 4
Debt Collection & Recovery
Independent Review of Tax Policies and Procedures
4.2 External Audit.
The external audit for 21/22 has been completed and without any adjustments to the accounts. These are published on both the force and the PCC website. In doing so, we are one of the first forces in the country to do so and full credit goes to the team for achieving this.
Our external auditors EY have discussed with us already the 22/23 audit and potential delays around this. These delays are due to issues across the sector where many Police Forces and Local Authorities are yet to have audits completed for 21/22. This therefore has a knock-on effect to 22/23. We are discussing this with EY as we want the audit to be done as planned and in the planned timeframe. Further updates will be provided once available.
The force welcomes and benefits from varying levels of scrutiny and governance. It will continue to strive for further improvements as part of the integrated PEEL assessments and extensive internal inspection. This demonstrates the Force commitment to providing the very best service to victims, witnesses and the people of Kent.