Cambridge Community Safety Partnership December 2011

Monday, December 12th, 2011. 2:56pm

Cambridge Community Safety Partnership logo

The Cambridge Community Safety Partnership proposes the city wide policing priorities for the city which are then approved (or not) by a full meeting of Cambridge City Council.

The group comprises representatives of the City Council, Police, County Council, NHS, and Magistrates. I have submitted the following public questions for their forthcoming meeting:

During the relevant slot on the agenda of the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership meeting on the 14th of December 2011 I would like make the following statements / ask the following questions:

1.Neighbourhood Profiles

Is the Community Safety Partnership responsible for determining the content of the neighbourhood profile documents provided to Cambridge’s Area Committees?

A number of the area committees in Cambridge have requested changes to the report contents so they are better informed when setting local priorities. Common requests include more information on speeding, and a better breakdown of violent crime.

I would like to suggest these documents need to be more responsive to councillors’ requests.

I also note that while they have the names of neighbourhood sergeants on the front many of the sergeants presenting the information appear quite surprised by what they find in the reports. It should, in my view, be clearer which elements, if any, are authored by the neighbourhood sergeants, and where the other elements come from.

I think councillors would find much of the data collated and visualised the Cambridgeshire County Council Research Team of value; for example localised versions of the maps (including on ambulance call outs for assault, needle finds and ASB) present in the Strategic Assessment which the CSP are considering at this meeting.

Is there an opportunity for those who produce the data for the CSP, and for the Interim Community Safety Countywide Board, to work more closely with those who produce the neighbourhood profiles? What about closer working with too?

2. Openness and Transparency

I would like to suggest the CSP work to improve the openness and transparency in crime and policing related services locally. I think this would be an appropriate theme to also promote at the level of the Interim Community Safety Countywide Board.

I note that during the Cambridge City Council debate on the CSP’s priorities earlier in the year, the lack of transparency and openness from both the CSP and other crime and policing related bodies was raised by many of the councillors who contributed to the debate.

In terms of specific examples: I would like to see the magistrates court lists and registers published. Some of this data is published for courts from the North West at In Cambridge by comparison the magistrates operate in relative secrecy, even if you attend in person at the Cambridge “courts” full lists are not readily available. I think justice should be seen to be done, in public, and don’t think Cambridge should be lagging behind those parts of the country which already operate more openly, it should be leading the way.

Ideally I would also like to see the police incident logs, and crime records, published (with personal information withheld) and connected to the court data so that a fuller crime and justice picture can be easily obtained.

Another example of a lack of openness locally comes from the probation service, which has promised to publish its board papers and minutes but to-date has failed to do so. I think its important that those who want to find out about the work of the probation service are able to do so. What various sentences and orders handed down by the courts mean locally ought be readily accessible information.

A key local crime and policing body, the Cambridgeshire Local Criminal Justice Board, currently as far as I can see proactively publishes no information at all about its work.

Unlike many public bodies the police authority do not publish their draft minutes as even as part of the papers for a meeting which is to consider approving them. This means there can be months between a meeting of the authority and any record of it being officially published.

I hope these examples show how the entire policing and crime sector is not keeping up with advances in openness and transparency seen elsewhere.

I note the Community Safety Partnership has published its papers for this meeting in one large PDF; this vastly improves accessibility over the previous method of Microsoft office documents embedded in a word document. The Police, Police Authority, City and County Council all have public meeting calendars none of which currently list the Community Safety Partnership; I suggest they should to promote the partnership’s existence and activities.

All those crime and policing related organisations, which, like the CSP, are not formally subject to the Freedom of Information Act ought voluntarily comply with its provisions.

3. Police.UK

At the February 2011 meeting of the CSP it was resolved to write to (though this did not appear to make the minutes).
Was any letter sent? Was any response received?
If these documents exist can they be published?

4. Restorative Justice Disposals.

Particularly given the scale of the changes to policing arising from the use of restorative justice I think there has been far to little hard information about what the police’s policies are published.

I think the police authority in particular have failed to consider, and approve or not, the significant changes to police strategy which have occurred. The police authority appear not to have even been kept up to date with the police’s policies in this area.

Councillors setting police priorities appear unaware of what the police locally are doing. I was shouted down during the open forum section of the last police priority setting West/Central area committee when asking questions about the police’s restorative justice disposal policies, by a councillor, Cllr Brooks-Gordon asserting that all restorative justice was carried out post sentencing in court. I believe that exchange and lack of information there prompted a request from Cllr Bick to ask for the presentation to this CSP meeting. I note Cllr Bick has promised to take up my requests for more openness about the police’s policies and practices in this area.

In terms of specific aspects of the restorative justice disposals policy, on June the 1st 2011 North Area Residents were informed via ECops that an offender who had committed a cycle theft and 6 thefts from Motor Vehicles had been dealt with via restorative justice. Is this permissible under the force’s current policies? In his November Star Radio Cambridge police podcast Inspector Sissons said: “The idea is this is the first entry into the criminal system, though there are occasions when we can give two or three”; is that an accurate reflection of the force policy on restorative justice disposals?

On a national level magistrates have recently been expressing concerns about the increased use of out of court disposals. Last week, on the 8th of December, Minister Nick Herbert suggested magistrates could be given a role in handing out these out of court summary sentences. As the CSP is the only forum I’m aware of locally where a magistrates’ representative appears in public it would be interesting to hear what our local magistrates’ views are on this in the context of the dramatic changes in Cambridgeshire Police policy we have seen this year.

I will of course be happy to précis my questions to seek to fit them into the time allotted for public questions at the meeting.

Richard Taylor

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