Tackling offences against women and girls has always been a prime concern for the Force with victims and witnesses being a top priority, and central to the Control Strategy for 2022/23. However, to enhance the service provided, a new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) was implemented with the Force investing in over 900 officers to work in local areas specifically investigating the offences that relate to VAWG, such as Domestic Abuse and Rape Investigation.
Following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, Kent Police immediately instigated a number of activities, including engagement with over 1,000 members of the public at meetings across Kent, and the introduction of a new Officer Identity Verification Check process. This process enables members of the public, if concerned about an officer’s identity, to ask for a check to be made through the Control Room operator who will confirm the officer is on duty and respond on the officer’s radio.
The Force has been working within the National Policing VAWG Framework for delivery since December 2021. An ambitious timeline was set for forces to meet which included the development and publishing of a strategy and action plan. The public engagement held across Kent, directly led to the formation of a new Community Engagement Forum, which is now held bi-monthly and chaired by ACC Harman and also informed Kent’s new VAWG Strategy. The work of this forum, the original Public Engagement Meetings led by Chief Officers, and the PCC’s VAWG Inquiry, has enabled members of the public to directly influence, inform and shape the content and objectives within Kent’s new VAWG Strategy. The county roll out of ‘Best Bar None’ provides safer socialising spaces across Kent and Medway and presently there are 56 premises across Kent and Medway that have already been accredited under the scheme, providing safer socialising venues. A further 34 are planned to be completed by the end of the year with the scheme currently focused on town centres but throughout 2023 the Force will look to expand across the whole of Kent and Medway.
Kent Police held the annual Diversity and Inclusion conference with the VAWG theme of ‘Discovery’, there were a number of external speakers who described their lived experience in challenging inequality. DCC Maggie Blythe provided an overview of the National VAWG work and the new Kent Police sexism awareness video was launched which was received well and has provided the platform for the internal Upstander programme to be launched.
There are a number of innovative workstream coming to fruition, including the operationalising of the VAWG dashboard, which highlights the highest harm offenders and locations using the performance framework set by the National Task Force. This data is being overlaid with the feedback from public engagement findings from Part 2 of the PCC enquiry and Safer Streets funding to ensure the right people and places are targeted at the right times. A new ‘Ask Angela’ campaign is being launched on public transport, a project overseen by partnerships to extend the reach to public transport, as this was an area highlighted in part 1 of the PCCs Inquiry as a place where women and girls feel unsafe.
The Force has continued to strengthen the system, having secured support from partners to include VAWG as a priority across the key partnership boards. Governance arrangements have been introduced at the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse Executive Group and the joint Kent Chief’s Executive Board. In addition, we are leading the field nationally with a review of MARAC, which has resulted in a proposal for a fully integrated multi-agency team, with shared funding across the partnership. This will provide an improved and more resilient service with wider stakeholder consultation is underway.
Finally, we submitted a joint bid with the University of Kent to develop a simulation style training programme for Child Exploitation. The University has received £50k and Kent Police continue to work with them to ensure that the objectives of developing a trauma informed approach and improving investigations are met. The project commenced in September 2022.
The Force has established specific Rape Investigation (Phoenix) Teams to concentrate on this crime type; these are significantly harmful crimes that have a huge impact, not only on victims, but on how safe communities feel. There has also been the investment of Sexual Offences Liaison Officers (SOLOs) to ensure victims receive the highest standards of care, ensuring there is a single point of contact for any victim entering into the Criminal Justice System. The SOLOs attend reports of rape, secure and oversee initial evidence capture, provide key support, and safeguard victims all the way through the investigative process, culminating in attending and remaining with them through the duration of court hearings.
3 Month total
Rape offences have experienced a decrease of 3.1%, with 19 less offences compared to the same period last year. Reductions are seen in August and October with a small increase in September 2022 (+7) compared to the same period last year.
The Charge Rate for Rape has increased in 2022 when compared to 2021, improving from 3.6% to 5.4%
3 Month total
Sexual offences have experienced a decrease of 7.9%, with 140 less crimes compared to the same period last year, with decreases experienced in all 3 months.