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HMIC recognises Avon and Somerset Police for excellent partnership approach to tackling honour-based violence

A flagship national report examining how police forces are approaching and dealing with honour-based violence has praised the partnership working between police, partner agencies and the voluntary sector in the Avon and Somerset area.

The report ‘The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes’ has beenpublished by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) today (8/12).

It concludes Forces across the country must improve their understanding of honour-based violence (HBV), forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), to better protect victims and encourage those affected to come forward.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Forced marriage, honour-based violence and FGM are particularly difficult crimes to tackle as much tends to go on behind closed doors. Therefore I hope a national spotlight on these intrusive crimes will give victims the confidence to report and show offenders that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

“I am delighted that the work in Bristol by the FGM Delivery and Safeguarding Group and Integrate Bristol has been recognised. It’s important that we work together utilising our different tools and powers to safeguard our communities. Despite the good work in these areas there’s clearly more that can be done and I welcome the report’s recommendations to help us achieve this in Avon and Somerset.”

Avon and Somerset Police was the first Force to be inspected and was singled out for praise by the Inspectors, who said the partnership approach to HBV in Bristol is “an excellent example of a collaborative and collective approach to community engagement”.

The Inspectors went on to say the Force works with a range of FGM statutory agencies, voluntary groups, charities and community members through the FGM delivery and safeguarding children partnership - and said the multi-agency guidance and training was recognised nationally for its effectiveness.

The inspection also looked at how prepared Forces were for protecting people from HBV offences.

It concluded Avon and Somerset Police is ‘prepared’ in the areas of Leadership and Awareness and Understanding, but more work is needed in the areas of Protection and Enforcement and Prevention

Det Ch Insp Leanne Pook said: “We’ve been working really hard with our partners to develop a response to FGM concerns that’s effective, inclusive and listens to the views of affected communities.

“This has been critical to the progress that’s been made in Bristol and I’m delighted that the ‘Bristol Model’, which involves partner agencies, charities and voluntary groups, has been recognised nationally and held up as an example of best practice.

“We acknowledge there are areas where we need to improve and we’ll be working hard to implement all the recommendations made and to continue with the significant progress we’ve made in recent years.

“We firmly believe the under-reporting of crimes associated with HBV, forced marriage and FGM can only be effectively tackled by a partnership approach that includes statutory agencies, affected communities and third sector organisations.

“We’re truly fortunate in this area to work with some exceptional individuals and groups that have dedicated themselves to eradicating these crimes through education and prevention.

“As is true of all ‘hidden’ or under-reported crimes, it’s important to raise the public awareness of these offences which have profound physical and psychological consequences for those who survive them.

“We’re committed to working with communities with the aim of empowering victims to come forward and tell us what has happened to them.

“The complexity of these crimes must never be underestimated and in most cases they’re being perpetrated by the very people who are meant to protect the victims. This puts the victim under a huge amount of pressure and is often a key reason for their reluctance to report to police.

“The gathering of evidence is often very problematic and to a great degree the legislation has not really been tested. This often makes these offences extremely difficult to investigate and detect but we’re keen to develop our understanding and respond to the challenge.”

Over the past 18 months we’ve…

  • Successfully applied for three FGM Protection Orders following the launch of new legislation designed to protect children at risk 
  • Attended Integrate Bristol’s launch of a new schools programme in Bristol featuring new educational resources aimed at raising awareness of FGM among primary and secondary school children. A safeguarding training workshop designed by police and health working with the young people of Integrate Bristol to educate teachers and other professionals working with children was unveiled at the event. This has since been delivered to over 4,000 young people and a host of professionals working with children and young people
  • Co-hosted, along with statutory and voluntary partners, a National FGM conference attended by professionals from across the UK, sharing good practice regarding the response to FGM
  • Taken part in community based events marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance, including devising and running workshops, and attended an FGM European Learning Forum where good practice was shared with policy makers from across Europe
  • Trained more than 250 front line staff in how to respond to HBV, forced marriage and FGM concerns and we’ve produced an internal handbook advising staff on the response to these offences. Further bespoke training on FGM Protection Orders and Forced Marriage Protection Orders
  • Advised on an award-nominated FGM novel aimed at a teenage audience
  • Formed part of the national working group created to oversee the introduction of mandatory reporting
  • Provided, in conjunction with Bristol Family Court, training for those working within the judiciary regarding FGM Protection Orders
  • Taken part in the national Home Office stakeholder unit meetings, the FGM police working group and the FGM enforcement group
  • Been extensively involved in community events covering engagement, community intelligence, mandatory reporting, protection orders
  • Seen the number of referrals more than double from the previous year with all receiving a joint response with social care
  • The PCC has awarded Integrate Bristol funding to produce a film developed by young people, for primary school aged children to teach them about violence against women and girls, including FGM. 
Posted on Tuesday 8th December 2015
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