Chapter 3 – People
165. Initial training for police officers includes elements focusing on victim care and wider considerations. These elements generally sit within the relevant themes such as sexual offences or domestic abuse. More broadly, inputs on the Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 and the role of appropriate adults have clear victim relevance.
166. In discussions with officers, most could contextualise some elements of the above training relative to the needs of victims although their understanding of the interaction between their role with victims and that of other agencies was frequently less strong.
167. Some forces had formal arrangements with victims groups to deliver inputs to their training and some further informal arrangements existed more locally where some awareness sessions had been held. Victims groups were keen to take part in such events as they saw that raising awareness was key to ensuring better outcomes for victims.
168. Diversity training is mandatory for all staff in all forces across Scotland and provides knowledge about a range of victims' needs and the prejudices that lead to hate crimes. Notwithstanding the considerable focus that has been placed on hate crime over recent years, we still heard sufficient concerns from victims groups about the handling of some incidents reported to the police, that we would underline that the service cannot reduce its focus on this issue.
169. During this phase of our inspection and in terms of specialist victim-facing roles, we had most contact with Domestic Abuse Liaison Officers ( DALOs) Forces had invested additional training in these staff over the victim-related sessions that are integrated throughout the initial course at the Scottish Police College. Some forces provide specific training to call handling and control room staff who play a key role in dealing with such incidents. Strathclyde Police have developed further domestic abuse training which they are providing to a much wider pool of staff as part of their focus on reducing these offences.
170. The majority of DALOs that we spoke with were women. Some victims groups expressed strong views on the issue of gender for these roles with advocates for all women staff but with others stating that a mix was important. The rationale for the latter opinion being that some victims had expressed the view it had been a positive experience for them to hear from male staff, strong messages of condemnation of domestic abuse.
171. Although some forces held selection processes for these positions, a number had simply been posted to them. Whatever selection method is used, Forces should remain able to meet the needs of all victims including those within same sex relationships.
172. Overall we noted the general feedback from victims groups that they consider the treatment of victims has improved over the life of The Strategy. We also comment throughout this report about the importance of clarity about victim services and how monitoring and supervision play important parts in their successful delivery. Together these elements should ensure that the overall progress noted thus far, continues.
173. Consistent with the main focus of COPFS being the investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland, the reality is that all frontline staff, whether legal or support, have regular contact with victims of crime. On the whole staff, including those involved in frontline duties with a high level of public contact, are recruited and appointed on the basis of competence based processes which are generic rather than post specific.
174. The contact that victims have with staff is crucial to their confidence in the organisation. Professional, sensitive and accurate information engenders confidence in the Service and the criminal justice system. It also establishes a good forum for a constructive relationship between the victim and the Service providing the best scenario for successful investigation and prosecution of crime. The corollary is however that insensitive comments or attitudes can take on a heightened degree of importance for victims and cause not only undue distress and upset but also lessen the likelihood of the victim cooperating with the criminal justice system.
175. Awareness training is delivered not only to heighten the sensitivities and communication skills for those who have contact with victims but also to allow them to take a better and more informed perspective of the best decisions, conduct and strategy to be used in investigating and prosecuting cases. The dual function is therefore to deliver a better service to victims and also to secure convictions.
176. We received a number of submissions from groups representing various categories of victims eg those with learning difficulties, those at risk of hate crime, those subject to domestic abuse, children. A consistent thread in the submissions was that increased awareness training of frontline staff of the difficulties faced by these categories of victims of crime was important and was necessary for participation by these victims in the criminal justice system. They suggested it would lead to more reporting of crime, better investigation and prosecution and also make the process less traumatic for the victims.
177. This should be considered in context of evidence that people in these categories are often at a higher risk of being victims of crime than society at large. Frequently they made comments jointly covering both police and COPFS staff and for ease these are dealt with in this COPFS-focused element of the People section.
178. Children 1st submitted "..professionals still sometimes lack the skills and training to engage with child victims in a manner that promotes and enhances their successful engagement in the criminal justice system."
179. A number of similar submissions were made from those representing victims across the range of crime types, particularly those at risk of hate crime.
180. There was recognition and appreciation of progress in these areas to date.
181. "Generally the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are aware of and sensitive to the needs of victims of prejudice incidents/crime including the importance of emotional and practical support a victim may require."
182. There was however an overwhelming view that while progress may have been made there is still much to be done across both policing and COPFS relating to improving the general awareness levels of staff and that ongoing training was crucial to ensure continued improvement.
183. While all COPFS staff receive initial 'induction' training on joining COPFS this is in the main relating to processes. Victim awareness is not featured in all such courses.
184. Diversity training is a mandatory requirement for all new COPFS staff and is due to be completed within two months of joining the Service. This includes substantial elements of victim awareness training - the current two day course includes input from Fife Disability Action, Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender ( LGBT), 'Nil by Mouth' and a 'Cross cultural communication'. It does not however address some other specific areas of victim awareness and notably does not address issues surrounding domestic abuse either for the above mentioned groups or others. Domestic abuse is dealt with separately in its own dedicated, but not mandatory training.
185. While commending the requirement placed on staff to undertake diversity training which raises victim awareness, and the other victim awareness training available, there is no mandatory requirement on staff in respect of ongoing diversity training.
186. There are systems in place at the Learning and Development Division ( LDD), the unit of COPFS responsible for providing training to COPFS, to track all staff after they join COPFS to ensure they receive Diversity training. We were told that at times operational demands took precedence and occasionally it took longer before staff attended this course. These difficulties particularly related to short term and fixed term contracted staff who may be withdrawn from training by their line managers. This is particularly undesirable for staff having contact with victims.
187. There are a number of other training sessions available on general and specific victim awareness issues and all staff may apply to attend eg these relate to dealing with children, people with learning difficulties and as mentioned above domestic abuse.
188. A prime example of COPFS staff with a high level of contact with the public generally and victims specifically are those in the new national 'Enquiry Point'. This is a centralised unit of COPFS set up over 2008/09 to deal with all external general phone call enquiries. It is mainly staffed by staff that are new to COPFS. These members of staff receive one week induction training and thereafter 'on the job' training. Like all other COPFS staff they are due thereafter to attend Diversity training within two months of joining COPFS and are eligible to apply to attend general COPFS training. In view of the direct contact these staff have with members of the public, including victims of crime, it is of crucial importance they provide a high standard of information to victims and all who call the service. Victim awareness training would be of particular assistance as these staff deal with calls which will often be a victims first contact with COPFS and should be incorporated in their induction training. We were advised the number of calls received by the 'Enquiry Point' had already reached 1700 per day (anticipated 440,000 calls per annum) as this inspection took place in summer 2010.
Domestic abuse cases
189. The various stakeholder groups we spoke to about this type of offence were highly commending of the improved standards of service provided by COPFS deputes and staff and in particular those with a specialist role relating to dealing with Domestic Abuse. The Domestic Abuse Unit in Glasgow received particularly favourable comment. Within the specialist Domestic Abuse Unit ( DAU) in Glasgow we were advised all staff have received the COPFS Domestic Abuse training. This training is delivered jointly by COPFS staff and stakeholder groups including Scottish Women's Aid. Those working within this unit have the advantage of gaining expertise in this sensitive and complex area.
190. Those within the specialist DAU, and a number of those we spoke to in related stakeholder organisations, indicated differing standards when other COPFS staff were called upon to be involved in Domestic Abuse cases. Stakeholder groups at interview indicated they hoped to see all COPFS staff more aware of the complexities surrounding victims of domestic abuse reporting and engaging with the criminal justice system.
191. " Women's experiences …(of the criminal justice system)….were reported as being more positive when they dealt with specialised Units (where there is …) better understanding and awareness of the issues surrounding domestic abuse…)……….This seems to be particularly evident in those locations covered by the Glasgow Domestic Abuse Courts….) 25.
192. There was also some negative feedback about issues of poor practice and inconsistent response often relating to individual officers. Although these tended to involve police as first point of contact there was some reference to insensitive response to requests for information by COPFS staff or dealings with cases in a manner indicative of a lack of understanding of the underpinning complexities of such cases. While training cannot always prevent such incidents it does militate against them.
193. We note the commitment in COPFS Strategic Plan 2009-112 in relation to its approach to specialist service provision that "....(in cases of) Domestic Abuse: All our prosecutors will be trained to deal with the specialist nature of these cases effectively".
194. In view of the significant number of domestic abuse cases across the country we would anticipate there will be very few, if any, operational Procurator Fiscal Deputes who will not deal with domestic abuse cases. Similarly a high percentage of support staff will have direct contact with victims of this type of crime.
195. We were advised that 80 members of COPFS staff (out of a work force in the region of 1700) had received the COPFS Domestic Abuse training and that there was additionally some local training provided but that this was not monitored centrally.
196. There was a great deal of interest and goodwill exhibited throughout the country by members of stakeholder groups about providing both formal and informal awareness training on this subject (domestic abuse) and other specialist areas on a local basis. There was a sense that some elements of local contact had been lost as both COPFS and the various stakeholder groups had moved towards national training structures and provision. The benefits of local contact extend beyond the strict confines of the training delivered and help establish and bolster local partnership connections. It may be of value to COPFS, at a more local level, to investigate and take advantage of such offers.
197. Domestic abuse being a significant percentage of all offences reported to COPFS, awareness training currently offered by COPFS should be mandatory for all staff who may have contact with these cases.