Police & Crime Bulletin for February 2019

Campaign launched to highlight the signs of abusive relationships

Victims First, which supports victims of crime and abuse across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, has launched a campaign to raise awareness of coercive control and emotional abuse in relationships.

The campaign is called ‘Know this isn’t Love’ and focuses on early warning signs of controlling behaviour and emotional abuse to help victims identify any potential signs within their own relationships and seek support.

Coercive control became a criminal offence in 2015 and involves an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse by a perpetrator that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner said:  “Controlling and emotional abusive relationships have an extremely damaging impact on victims’ health and wellbeing.  Victims are unable to live their lives to the full and it can slowly erode their confidence and self-belief.  Due to the psychological abuse they may be living in constant fear and uncertainty, feeling watched and controlled at all times, resulting in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“The primary aim of the Know this isn’t Love campaign is to help people experiencing abuse, some who may be in an early stages of a relationship, to recognise controlling and abusive behaviours and encourage them to seek help.

“This type of abuse is present across society and can impact both male and females.  It’s important we recognise and acknowledge it and not keep it behind closed doors.

“If anyone does feel that the behaviour they are facing in their relationship is abusive I would encourage them to contact Victims First on 0300 1234 148 for support.”

 

Government plans changes to the law regarding illegal encampments

Thames Valley has seen the impact of illegal encampments across the three counties. This is an issue regularly raised with the Police & Crime Commissioner by residents and councillors. Action has already been taken and, by working alongside local authorities, the PCC has supported the police in agreeing a new protocol which came into force last year.

This documents sets out the powers and responsibilities of the police and councils in dealing with illegal encampments. As the names suggest, in most cases these sites are illegal - but they are not criminal - meaning the actions that the police can take are very limited.

The Government has now responded to the consultation it ran last year on whether changes in the law were needed to tackle the problem. Both Thames Valley Police and the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner responded and we are pleased that the Government has now announced that there will be action to change the law.

The full government response can be see here, but the headline changes include:

  • Permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas;
  • Increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return;
  • Lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised – changing this from six or more, to two or more; and
  • Enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway.

The Government is also considering a new criminal trespass offence.

Responding to the announcement, Matthew Barber commented, "These changes in the law must be welcomed. The current situation leads to frustration for the community, inaction by the authorities, and in some cases victimisation of law abiding individuals. I will continue to work with all of the Thames Valley's MPs and travellers groups to ensure an effective and fair law allows the police to take action when people are acting illegally."

 

Tackling rural crime across the Thames Valley

Rural crime is never far from the top of the agenda in the Thames Valley and is a stated priority of the Police & Crime Commissioner. This month we have met with representatives of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) from Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire to discuss how Thames Valley Police are fighting rural crime.

The PCC has been a strong advocate of tackling rural crime, and has supported the Force in providing appropriate equipment such as quad bikes, night-vision goggles and 4x4 vehicles such as the one just delivered to the Milton Keynes Local Policing Area. 

There is always room for improvement and the PCC is engaging with the Force to spread best practice to every area. Whether that is the use of WhatsApp groups to connect isolated rural communities or supporting businesses with the provision of alarms and other deterrent/detection equipment. This will continue to be a priority going into the future to ensure that every community in the Thames Valley, rural and urban gets the support and protection they need from the Police.

 

Improving criminal justice in the Thames Valley

As Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber has taken on the Chairmanship of the Thames Valley's Local Criminal Justice Board. The Board brings together the Police, Crown Prosecution Services, Prisons, Probations Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the Courts along with other organisations involved in securing justice for victims.

At the start of the new year the Board met to consider the priorities for the coming year. Matthew Barber set out the fresh vision for the Board, "There are many organisations represented at the LCJB with competing pressures and priorities, but we all have one goal: the fair administration of justice, the protection of victims and the prosecution and rehabilitation of offenders. I want the Board to set clear achievable objectives that will make a real difference to the people of the Thames Valley but improving the way the criminal justice system works."

 

New Chief Constable formally appointed

Following the announcement last month that the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner had decided to appoint John Campbell as the new Chief Constable the appointment received unanimous endorsement from the independent Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel.

John Campbell is the current Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, a position he has held since 2015.

John said: “I feel honoured to be have been appointed Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police. The force is made up of some amazing men and women and I look forward to leading those who work tirelessly every day, with great courage, to police the area.

“Having been a Chief Officer with the force for some nine years, I believe I have a strong understanding of the communities of the Thames Valley and the type of police force needed to best protect them from harm. I will build on the excellent work already implemented by the outgoing Chief, Francis Habgood, and will do all that I can to deliver the quality of policing that the public quite rightly expect and deserve.”