Improvements can be made in the Investigation of Volume Crime and use of Police Bail says CJI

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland has today published reports of two separate inspections of the PSNI looking at how the Police Service deals with volume crime and the use of police bail.

The inspection into volume crime has shown the quality of police investigations into offences categorised as ‘volume crime’ was erratic.
“Inspectors found the PSNI’s approach to volume crime -- which includes offences such as assaults, domestic burglaries, thefts and criminal damage -- varied from one District Command Unit (DCU) to another,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
In 2005-06, offences of this type accounted for two thirds (82,081) of the total recorded crime (123,194).
He continued: “Officers attending volume crime scenes are often probationer Constables in their first two years of service, yet Inspectors were told that when probationer officers arrive at their allocated DCU from Police College, they lacked sufficient investigative skills to deal with the range of investigations they were expected to undertake.
“While local DCUs have attempted to fill this perceived skills gap through their own District training arrangements, CJI has recommended that a fully inclusive consultation process is implemented to identify the skills and knowledge required by officers carrying out investigations in DCUs. Training at the Police College should then be tailored to the specifications identified through this process,” stated the Deputy Chief Inspector.
In an effort to improve investigation standards, Criminal Justice Inspection has recommended PSNI implement the ‘Professionalising Investigation Programme’ (PIP) to train officers to a common standard and provide a consistent level of service across Northern Ireland.
“We heard at the time of the inspection that Senior Investigating Officers were already undertaking this programme and that there were plans to extend it to other officers from March 2007. This commitment is to be welcomed and we have recommended this plan is targeted at areas experiencing the highest levels of volume crime first," said Mr. McGuigan. 
Criminal Justice Inspection has also advocated the implementation of National Call Handling Standards (NCHS) by the PSNI across all call management functions in an effort to enhance the subsequent investigation process.
“Moving to a service-wide call grading system, applying national standards and enhancing the skills of staff involved at the initial point a call is received by the police, would improve their effectiveness in dealing with volume crime,” explained Mr. McGuigan.
Inspectors from CJI also sought to establish if concerns that the possible improper use of police bail by the PSNI was contributing to delay in the criminal justice system were valid, and that the issue was not being properly monitored by the police.
Police bail is used where further inquiries need to be carried out by police before a decision can be made whether or not to charge a suspect, but it would not be appropriate for the person to be detained any longer.
In these circumstances, the suspect can be released to report back to the police station after the police enquiries have been completed when an informed decision can be made whether or not to charge them.
“The inspection team were satisfied that the issue of the proper use of police bail and its potential for abuse was now being taken seriously by the Police Service at an institutional level,” said CJI’s Deputy Chief Inspector.
“The compilation and issuing of lists of individuals on police bail to each DCU was a message to local Commanders that the issue was important and it did appear to CJI’s Inspectors that this was beginning to have an impact,” he continued.
The Inspectorate has recommended that Custody Sergeants are reminded that the 28 day period is the maximum permitted period for release on police bail.
“Any decision to release on bail should involve consideration of how long further enquiries are likely to take,” said Mr. McGuigan adding that a further recommendation had been made linked to the computerised NICHE record management system used in Northern Ireland’s police stations.
The report suggested the NICHE system should be amended to include a mandatory field that would include details of why a suspect is to be released on bail. It should also show how many times a suspect has been released on police bail.
“This recommendation concerning NICHE will help ensure that any potential misuse of police bail is identified at an early stage,” he concluded.