On 31st October 2012 Coventry Women’s Voices organised a Women’s Question Time meeting with all the candidates to be Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands. We asked women to submit questions in advance via email, twitter and Facebook. We took to the streets the Saturday before the meeting to ask women in Coventry city centre what questions they would like to ask. And we collected questions from the audience on the night.
We received far more questions than the candidates were able to answer at the meeting but we did not want the issues raised to be lost. Here is a complete list of all questions asked. We are sending a copy of these questions to all candidates for the West Midlands and will be happy to post any responses they wish to make on our blog. Once the election is over we will be writing to the new Police and Crime Commissioner to remind them of these questions and ask for a meeting so that we can discuss how they will address the issues raised.
We have grouped the questions under general headings to make the list easier to navigate, however we realize that many of the questions cut across several headings.
Violence against women (general)
- We would like the commissioner to clearly put VAW as a key priority in their five year strategic plan.
- Will you ensure resources follow the victim of sexual and domestic violence i.e. fund support services?
- Please recognise that the majority of victims do not report to the police.
- Make a commitment to ensure the police are truly victim centred (not just pay lip service)when dealing with violence against women.
- How are you going to solve under reporting of crime, including violence against women?
- Are women safe on street?
Rape and sexual assault
- I would like to ask what they would do as Commissioner to encourage and support women to report rape and sexual assault to the police.
- What level of focus & financial resource is being allocated to the training, the retraining & the continual assessment of Police Officers whom act as first (1st) point of contact for Victims of sexual abuse & sexual violence? In my direct experience, the Police Officers were so accustomed with the daily routine of their jobs, they had become numb & anaesthetized to the reality of the highly traumatic & distressing circumstances at hand, which I felt was translated in a very abrupt, stern & hostile approach & attitude towards me which was extremely intimidating & unhelpful as the reporting process & judicial process was already difficult enough for me to deal with. Training, retraining & continual assessment of Police Officers working in this crime area would ensure Police Officers remain sensitive, empathetic, accessible & approachable to Victims & Survivors of sexual abuse & sexual violence.
- What level of focus & financial resource is being allocated to expanding & developing the number of Police Officers whom are dedicated to dealing with sexual abuse & sexual violence cases, since in my direct experience the Policing Team responsible for the progression of my case were spread extremely thinly, often unavailable for multiple days on end due to ever-changing shift patterns, covering departmental sickness and/or progressing other cases. I was often made to feel that I was a nuisance & an inconvenience as & when I attempted to contact my allocated Police Officer, which as the Victim & Survivor of sexual abuse was grossly insensitive & unhelpful, especially as I was simply chasing for a progress update of Court dates & questions regarding the Court process. Furthermore, I was exposed to the “moans & groans” Police Officers had regarding organisational changes, such as redundancies & budget cuts, which was NOT relevant to me & really didn’t give me much faith in the Policing system. Victims & Survivors of sexual abuse & sexual violence require & deserve an intense level of support which would be greatly improved & no doubt achieved with the allocation of more Police Officers to such cases.
- As PCC how will you address the needs of raped and sexually abused women and girls?
- Men are still getting away with rape. The conviction rate is very low. How can you improve things?
- What do candidates believe the reasons are for the continued gap between the number of reported sexual offences and the number of convictions for sexual offences? And what do they believe is needed to bridge this “justice gap”?
- Coventry has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the UK. What will you do to help reduce sex crimes in Coventry?
- Can we ask how many female specialists there are in relation to sexual violence in the West Midlands and in particular in Coventry?
- How many police are working in sexual violence and what is the ratio of departments within the police force?
- What is your future strategy for care for and supporting survivors of sexual violence?
- Violence against women and girls – in particular sexual violence and sexual exploitation – is a hidden crime, and the victims often go unheard. How would you as commissioner work with Police, and specialist service providers to ensure these victims are heard and are responded to adequately/appropriately?
- Why doesn’t the City of Coventry have its own SARC facility & why has it been barred from using the newly constructed SARC facility in Nuneaton?
- Will you insist that the Police use the nearest appropriate Centre for examination of victims of rape and abuse.
- Coventry has a high incidence of reported rape, yet women in Coventry are not able to access the SARC at Nuneaton. How would you ensure women in Coventry are able to access appropriate centres?
- Will each of the candidates make a pledge here tonight that they will guarantee that, if elected, they will overturn the present policy that prevents women who report a rape to the police in Coventry from accessing the new Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Nuneaton?
- Can candidates confirm that victims of rape and sexual assault in Coventry who report to the police will be taken to the Nuneaton sexual assault centre 10 minutes up the road and not forced to go across the West Midlands to Castle Vale or Walsall?
- Will you confirm that victims of rape and sexual assault in Coventry can be taken to Nuneaton sexual assault centre ten minutes up the road and not forced to go across the West Midlands to Castle Vale or Walsall?
- For pccI would be interested to know whether the candidates would be prepared to share services across PCC boundaries (i.e. West Midlands and Warwickshire) for specialist services if this were a better option for victims of crime
Sexual exploitation of girls and young women
- What does the commissioner intend to do to ensure the police meet their duty of care as regards protecting vulnerable children and young women from predatory street grooming in Coventry?
- Do you consider combating the sexual exploitation of women by both individuals and organised groups a local police priority?
- In the past year there have been high profile news stories of sex grooming/paedophile rings broken in Oxford and Rochester, as well as more recent court cases in Reading and Derby. The Children’s Commissioner is publishing the results of a two year enquiry next month which will show the extent of this problem in the UK today. What will you be doing in the West Midlands to help keep children safe from grooming and trafficking?
- How do we tackle violence and sexual abuse in adolescence such as: Rape and marital rape; sexual assault; forced prostitution; trafficking in women; courtship violence; economically coerced sex; sexual abuse in the workplace.
- I would like to ask if in the light of the Jimmy Saville case of abuse to woman whilst young how the police commission would ensure that other women’s and young people’s cases are taken seriously and heard and acted on.
- When will the exploitation of young girls, especially vulnerable teenagers who, through no fault of their own, become embroiled with influential older males who do no more than abuse them both mentally and physically, through sex and drug, be taken seriously! After numerous reports from concerned workers nothing ever seems to be followed up, until it is too late! I have worked in this field for many years and am still very disillusioned with the system that is supposed to protect.
- In light of the revelations from the Report into CSE & Internal Trafficking in Rochdale what does the Police Commissioner intend to do to ensure that The Police meet their ‘duty of care’ regards protecting vulnerable young women from predatory on street grooming thereby protecting the Police form potential litigation for failure in their duty of care?
- How will you tackle issues that might be considered racist for instance child sexual exploitation rings in Coventry?
Domestic Violence and Abuse
- Domestic violence has been included in the Public Health JSNA for Coventry as it is such a problem. What would the commissioner do to tackle it?
- What will police take action if a woman comes with a complaint against her husband who fleeing from DV.
- In light of the changes to the Cross Government National Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse which will come into force from March 2013 How do you as a commissioner intend to work with police investigators to ensure they have a full understanding of what ‘coercive control’ control means to a victim, and provide sufficient evidence to Crown Prosecution Service to secure convictions
- The Home Office has described part of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role as ‘ensuring that the most vulnerable victims are not overlooked’. Recent research has revealed that 16-24 year old females are at the highest risk of domestic abuse; that 40% of teenagers report abusive relationships and that there are ‘worryingly high levels of acceptance’ of this abuse. Knowing this, and taking into account the recent inclusion of 16-17 year olds in the government definition of domestic violence, would you ensure that any commissioning strategy on violence against women and girls includes provision and prevention for teenagers? How would you ensure, in this case, that the most vulnerable do not fall through the gaps?
- I have co-ordinated and delivered training on domestic violence and abuse for staff of the social housing provider I work for. Prior to this there was no domestic violence training for frontline staff and anecdotal evidence suggests this is not uncommon of housing providers and other statutory agencies in general. Early intervention and prevention of domestic violence and abuse necessitates a co-ordinated and robust response from all agencies that have contact with victims of abuse. This surely requires at minimum a professional, mandatory training programme. Which non-specialist agencies do you see as important in providing a co-ordinated response and would you ensure any violence against women and girls strategy you develop ensures effective training is put in place?
Contracting out of services/privatization
- In practice who will the Police and Crime Commissioners (including the West Midlands) be accountable to specifically with regard to possible public/private sector partnerships such as contacting out frontline policing and support services.
- Can the candidates explain how contracted services and personnel would be accountable to the public, especially in light of the Olympics and G4S?
- Can they assure the public that if private sector firms are used they will be accountable to the IPPC?
- In practice who will the Police and Crime Commissioners/s (including the West Midlands) be accountable to specifically with regard to possible public/private sector partnerships such as contacting out frontline policing and support services. Can the candidates explain how contracted services and personnel would be accountable to the public, especially in light of the Olympics and G4S?
- Can they assure the public that if private sector firms are used they will be accountable to the IPPC?
- What is your position in regard to privatization of the West Midland Police Service which is currently on hold until after the PCC election?
Diversity and consultation
- My questions would include asking how they plan to ensure that a diverse range of the community, including women, is able to voice their views with regard to Police and Crime Commissioners. Details state that they will have a duty to consult victims before making strategic decisions; how do they suggest that they will create an open forum to do this, and to encourage victims to come forward, especially in areas which are notoriously under-reported, such as rape and domestic violence?
- How will you apportion funding for the Regions Safe Guarding Boards
- How will funding be allocated to ensure that hot spot areas for crime against women such as Coventry are resourced sufficiently?
- Where will the Youth Justice System fit in with your priorities?
- How will the funding from the Youth Justice Board be allocated to ensure that Young People get the support they need in our city and can you give a reassurance that the Youth offending service will not be privatised?
- Are candidates considering the re-introduction of youth centres or similar places to keep young people occupied and mentored?
Police Corruption/abuse of authority
- With the recent media stories of police officers convicted of abusing their authority How do you ensure that the police put victims of violence at the heart of what they do?
- As a woman how will you assure me that all women victims do not suffer again due to any possible corruption within the police?
- How will you ensure that police officers tell the truth and abide by the law (so we don’t have situations like Hillsborough?)
- If a women has been known to the police as working as a prostitute but then gives it up and rebuilds her life, if she is raped would she be taken as seriously compared to a women who has never worked on the streets. (Because in my personal experience working girls/ex working girls who have been raped have not been took seriously even when they have stopped working). How are you going to change a lot of the police attitude towards working girls ( in personal experience they have been very derogatory)?
- If elected, what would you do to improve support for both indoor and outdoor sex workers operating in Coventry, in terms of reducing violence, supporting sex workers who are victims of violence, prioritizing support for both those who continue to do sex work and those that want to leave, and ensuring that the difficulties faced by prostitute women are not compounded by criminalization of their work? In particular, what is your view on prostitute women who share a house together to improve each other’s safety, as independent prostitute women with no woman making a financial profit from her housemates’ prostitution activity?
- What is going to be done to prevent pimps operating as part of the focus on prostitution and violence against women?
Policing LGBT communities
- Are candidates aware of the role of an LGBT Liaison Officer and do they think this is something that they would like to see in the West Midlands to improve the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and their relations with the police?
- What will you do to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying and foster greater acceptance of transgender women by the rest of the community, to make some an improvement on the current situation where transgender women who don’t “pass” are often subjected to ridicule on a daily basis, usually by young men, when they set foot on the streets, and occasionally are subjected to violence, forms of intolerance and crime that are known to be drastically under reported?
Homeless people/rough sleepers
Largest registered charity in Coventry & Warwickshire dedicated solely to working with homeless people in this locality we provide a whole range of services to some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in our community. We are contracted to work with rough sleepers and regularly engage with people on the streets at all hours of the day and night. Ironically, this service is often approached in respect of beggars whilst consistently we find that a majority of beggars are not homeless. Nonetheless, many street homeless people are highly vulnerable with complex and multiple needs. We often work in partnership with police officers and others to combat street homelessness since rough sleepers are far more likely to become victims of crime than the general population as opposed to popular myths that suggest that homeless people are largely perpetrators of crime. Having said that, we are clear that some homeless people are responsible for some crime and anti-social behaviour and also that enforcement can (when used appropriately) be a catalyst that motivates entrenched rough sleepers to make positive moves in their lives and engage with support services.
Disability and mental health
- How would the Police Commissioner ensure that the Police operate a correct Policy when dealing with disabled woman (and men) who are affected by sexual or domestic violence?
- In the light of the disabled gentleman being tasered (blind) by an inept police officer (who should have gone to Specsavers). What will the Police commissioner do to ensure lessons are learned? – I have also known a lady with mental health issues who was hand cuffed, taken to a police station in a flimsy nightie, and then placed in a cell, surely she should have been taken by ambulance to hospital, (a suicide attempt case).
- Can you emphasise the importance of protecting the disabled, of either gender? We have just had figures on the crimes against women in Coventry.
- Bearing in mind I am disabled what can you do to reassure us this will be a priority?
- What are your solutions to crime against disabled people?
- According to Home Office 290: Tackling Domestic Violence 2005; ‘Publicity campaigns should target Black and other minority ethnic women should be included’.Has this campaign been implemented?
- Being a young black woman, I was given little or no support during my time of abuse and felt insecure and re-victimised by the way the police officers handled my case. Even now, my trust in the police has gone. I feel unprotected and unsafe. How can you change this feeling in me? How can I trust you? I believe more BLACK FEMALE officers should be employed
- Will there be more women police officers appointed to deal with the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee women?
- What actions will you be taking to support and ensure the safety and wellbeing of asylum seeking, refugee and EU migrant women in the city
Stop and search
- As a Black woman and mother of sons I want to know what you will do to tackle the disproportionate impact of stop and search (from your own figures) on young black men.
- What are your solutions to the stop and search of young black men?
- The latest British Crime survey indicated that 13% of people aged 65-74 and 6% aged 75+. have a high level of worry about violent crime This equates to nearly 5,000 people in Coventry, affecting more women than men. Crime is a major cause of public concern, but crime issues which affect older people are often marginalised. Older people can be accused of ‘worrying about nothing’ when it comes to crime. This belief masks the fact that some older people are at greatly increased risk of crime, and propounds the assumption that fear of crime is nothing to worry about; even though it can increase feelings of isolation and decrease community involvement. There is evidence that older people who are victims of crime often experience poor health and well-being as a resultWhat steps do you think are most important in tackling crime and the fear of crime particularly affecting older people to help make older people feel, and be, safer and more able to participate in their communities?
- What will you do to tackle fear of crime among older people?
- Research undertaken by Hidden Marks has shown that 1 in 7 respondent experienced physical or sexual assault during their time as a student. The research also revealed that 68% of respondents had experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment on campus during their time as a student. Coventry is an area full of students from Coventry University and Warwick University. How do you propose to address the concerns of such students who worry for their safety?
- In such a student heavy areas how do you proposed to combat physical and sexual assault towards students? Statistically they are a very vulnerable group.
- Re-offending is at an all-time high. What will be your strategy to reduce reoffending?
- How are the police going to tackle anti-social behavior, especially by teenagers?
- Is it true that police officers only can work in one department for 5 years? If so why?
- What will you do to increase the numbers of police on the streets?
- How will you increase public respect for the police?
- Police response times are very poor. What will you do to improve them?
Role of the commissioner
- So few people will vote – how can the Commissioner say they represent the public?
- How will you prove you can be fair, open and honest?
- What do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of being linked to a political party in respect to making a difference in this role?
- If turn out is very low will you feel justified in taking on the job of commissioner?
- How will you if elected maintain relationships with the different local authorities and community safety partnerships in your constituency? Also how will you take account of local needs and priorities in the Police and Crime Plan when covering such a large and diverse area?
- Who is the instigator or ‘commissioner’ who said we needed to change the present system. If it’s not broken don’t mend it!
- Given the multitude of demands that will be placed on this role what is your approach to prioritization?