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1. Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
On 4 February, the Home Secretary announced Justice Lowell Goddard as the new Chairman of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and changes to the inquiry.
The Inquiry will now be placed on a statutory footing under the 2005 Inquiries Act, with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence. The current panel will be disbanded and replaced by a new panel which will be selected against a set of published criteria. The Inquiry will consider whether, and the extent to which, public bodies and other important institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. It will also seek to address public concern over failings exposed by appalling cases of organised and persistent child sexual abuse.
Justice Goddard is a serving Judge of the High Court of New Zealand and a highly respected member of the judiciary who has been at the forefront of criminal law and procedure. She has also previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in New Zealand. Justice Goddard appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee on 11 February, who endorsed her appointment.
2. New mandatory duty for frontline professionals to report FGM announced
As part of the government’s efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation, Crime Prevention minister Lynne Featherstone announced front line professionals will have a mandatory duty to report cases of FGM. The duty has been designed to give frontline workers such as teachers and social and healthcare professionals the confidence to confront FGM. It is envisaged it will aid police investigations and increase the number of perpetrators caught and prosecuted.
The proposed mandatory duty will:
- apply in cases which have been disclosed by the victim and/or are visually confirmed
- be limited to victims under 18
- apply to all regulated healthcare and social care professionals, and teachers
- require reports to be made to the police within one month of initial disclosure/identification
- see frontline workers who fail to comply with the duty be dealt with via existing disciplinary measures
The move follows a public consultation which sought views on how a mandatory reporting duty could work, and who it should apply to. The duty will be introduced through amendments to the Serious Crime Bill to ensure the new duty is legislated for ahead of the dissolution of Parliament, alongside multi-agency statutory guidance for front line professionals.
3. Annual Review of the Drug Strategy published
On 26 February, the Home Office published the third Annual Review of the Drug Strategy ‘A Balanced Approach’. The Drug Strategy was launched in 2010 and sets out the government’s work to reduce the health, social and economic harms caused by drugs, and the threat they pose. The review details the key achievements implemented since December 2013
Over the past year, significant progress has been made against the commitments in the strategy. There are positive signs that this approach is working:
- there has been a long term downward trend in drug use over the last decade
- the number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England continues to decline
- more people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2009-10
The review also sets out the government’s priorities for the year ahead. These include:
- responding to new challenges
- continuing to raise awareness of the harms associated with drug use among the groups most at risk
- taking action against emerging drug trends that could impact on public safety
4. Modern slavery and supply chains consultation launched
A consultation, seeking views on the new transparency in supply chains measure was launched on 12 February. The measure, which is in the landmark Modern Slavery Bill, will require businesses over a certain size which operate in the UK to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement.
In the statement a business must describe the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of their supply chains or their own business, or they must disclose that they have taken no such steps.
The consultation seeks views on what size of business this requirement should apply to, and what the accompanying statutory guidance should cover. The Home Office is particularly keen to hear from businesses and NGOs with expertise in this area, as well as people who have an interest in this subject. The consultation closes on 7 May, and you can find out more information, including details on how to respond, on the consultation page.
5. New measures in the Modern Slavery Bill to enhance support for victims
Strengthening the support for victims of modern slavery is a key part of our work in tackling modern slavery. To provide better protection for victims, Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, Karen Bradley, recently announced a package of amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill.
These will help ensure victims of modern slavery receive the best possible support and protection by:
- ensuring child victims find it easier to access the statutory defence for victims
- providing child trafficking advocates with clearer powers to help them look after the wellbeing of child victims
- enabling support for victims of trafficking to be placed in statute through regulations
- giving the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner greater powers to safeguard his independence and making clear that he can look at support and assistance for victims
These changes will help ensure child victims are better supported by the criminal justice system, and that they receive the help needed to allow them to recover from their ordeal.
6. Revenge Porn Awareness Campaign goes live
A campaign to highlight that ‘revenge porn’ is a criminal offence was launched on 12 February. The Be Aware B4 You Share campaign is being run by the Ministry of Justice in partnership with Women’s Aid, the UK Safer Internet Centre and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. It seeks to deter potential perpetrators by highlighting that revenge porn is a crime that will be prosecuted. It also aims to support victims by directing them to the new government-funded helpline where they can receive information on the legal help available and their right to have intimate images removed from websites.
The Ministry of Justice welcomes the support of those in the crime and policing community in promoting the campaign. A range of campaign materials including a police factsheet and poster is available for you to download, and you can also follow the dedicated Facebook campaign page and the Ministry of Justice on Twitter using the handle @MoJGovUK. For more information on the campaign or to find out how you can be involved, please contact email@example.com.
7. Police and Crime Commissioners to establish national Police ICT Company
This month saw police and crime commissioners (PCCs) agreeing to establish the national Police ICT Company, which will co-ordinate and commission national IT systems and services for police forces. It is envisaged that this could ultimately save police forces up to £465 million a year.
The company will provide strategic oversight for police IT locally, support the alignment of local and national systems and services, commission the delivery of national police IT services (i.e. those identified for PCC ownership, and others as necessary), enable collaboration, integration and harmonisation of local IT services, provide knowledge and expertise on behalf of policing, encouraging innovation and identifying opportunities for shared learning.
8. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill receives Royal Assent
On 12 February, new powers to tackle the increasing threat from international terrorism came into effect as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill received Royal Assent. The Bill sets out measures to disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, reduce the risks they pose on their return and combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism.
The Prime Minister also announced that £130 million of funding will be made available over the next two years to strengthen counter-terrorism capabilities. This will include new funding to enhance our ability to monitor and disrupt terrorists and additional resources for programmes to prevent radicalisation.
9. Police Grant Report published
The government published the Police Grant Report 2015 - 16 on 10 February, which sets out how much funding each police force in England and Wales will receive in the 2015 to 2016 financial year.
Following a public consultation, the provisional allocations announced in December 2014 have remained unchanged. It was also announced that £20 million would be reallocated from within the police capital settlement to support the Communications Capabilities Development (CCD) programme. This will reduce overall infrastructure costs, maintain capabilities to comply with current legislation, and develop future communications capability.
In consultation with their Police and Crime Panels, PCCs are currently setting precept levels for their force areas for 2015 to 2016, which must be set by 1 March.
10. College of Policing hosts the first Newsam Memorial Lecture
The College of Policing recently hosted the annual Newsam Memorial lecture which focused on accountability and leadership in policing. Lord Paul Bew, chair of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, was the guest speaker at the lecture, the first to be hosted by the college.
In his speech, Lord Bew said that the public are clear on what the ethical standards should be and are consistent in their expectation that those in public life should abide by them, adding that the police rely on public trust to effectively carry out their work. Welcoming the College’s Policing Code of Ethics, Lord Bew said that officers need to implement them into their everyday work.
The Home Secretary’s speech at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism
The Home Secretary’s speech on the relationship between the public and the police at the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust’s annual Criminal Justice Lecture
Lord Bew’s speech at the Annual Newsam Memorial Lecture 2015 for the College of Policing