2.4 Safeguarding and Criminal Investigations
- 2.4.1 Introduction
- 2.4.2 Suspected Criminal Offences
- 2.4.3 Consent
- 2.4.4 Safeguarding enquiries and criminal investigations
- 2.4.5 Safeguarding Investigation Units
- 2.4.6 Achieving Best Evidence interviews
- 2.4.7 Appropriate Adults
- 2.4.8 Sexual Assault Referral Centre
- 2.4.9 Vulnerable Victim Fraud
- 2.4.10 Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements
- 2.4.11 Information sharing within criminal investigations
- 2.4.12 Principles of preserving evidence
This section outlines the interface between safeguarding adults procedures and criminal investigations, clarifying the expectations regarding the roles and responsibilities of the local authority and police when working in partnership during enquiries concerning abuse or neglect.
Everyone is entitled to the protection of the law and access to justice. Some types of abuse and neglect often constitute criminal offences (for example physical or sexual assault or rape, psychological abuse or hate crime, anti-social behaviour, wilful neglect or unlawful imprisonment). Other criminal offences could be theft and fraud and certain types of discrimination.
Although the local authority has the lead role in undertaking safeguarding enquiries or requesting others to do so, where criminal activity is suspected, early involvement of the police is essential. Police investigations should be coordinated with the local authority who may support other actions, but should always be police led.
2.4.2 Suspected Criminal Offences
The primary focus must be to ensure the safety and well-being of the adult who is alleged to have been harmed. In an emergency situation call the police / ambulance immediately on 999.
Anyone can report a crime or suspected crime to police – This can be done by calling 101 or online at https://www.sussex.police.uk/
In situations where there has been, or may have been, a crime committed it is important that any evidence is preserved / secured wherever possible.
The police response will depend upon which criminal offences are suspected, whether the crime is still taking place, and on other factors such as whether anyone is at immediate risk of harm. The police may need to attend the scene and agencies and individuals can play an important part in ensuring that evidence is not contaminated or lost. They will liaise with Trading Standards Service in relation to some crimes, particularly those relating to scams and doorstep crime.
Wherever practicable, the consent of the adult affected should be sought before reporting a suspected crime to the police.
There may of course be circumstances where consent cannot be obtained because the adult lacks the capacity to give it but it is in their best interests to contact the police.
Whether or not the adult has the capacity to give consent, the police will need to be informed if other people are already or would be at risk. The police should also be informed where it is in the public interest due to the seriousness of the alleged criminal offence.
In certain circumstances an adult’s right to confidentiality is overruled. Information about a suspected crime should be shared with the police in the following circumstances:
- If others are, or may be, at risk of abuse or neglect.
- Where there are legal or professional responsibilities of staff who have become aware of the concern, for example, if this relates to a breach of regulation, professional code of conduct, or an offence appears to have been committed.
- Where the adult to whom the concern relates lacks capacity and in this situation the Mental Capacity Act should be followed.
- If the adult is believed to be subject to undue influence such that they are unable to exercise free will, for example Modern Slavery, controlling and coercive behaviour or domestic violence and abuse.
If an adult is disclosing potential criminal offences, any initial questioning should be intended only to elicit a brief account of what is alleged to have taken place. This brief account should include where and when the alleged incident took place and who was involved, and should be recorded in writing at the time or as soon as possible afterwards. A more detailed account will be obtained by the police at later stage.
Where police are informed and a criminal investigation is started, the adult’s views will be considered by the police investigating officers even when the adult had not consented to the report being made.
2.4.4 Safeguarding enquiries and criminal investigations
Where the local authority receives a safeguarding concern from a third party agency or individual, consideration should be given if the information indicates that a criminal offence has, or may have been committed. Where a criminal offence has, or may have, been committed and there is any doubt if it has previously been reported to police, a referral should be made to the police.
If the police decide not to undertake a criminal investigation where there has an allegation of a criminal offence, the rationale for this decision making should be shared by the police in writing with the Lead Enquiry Officer. If more information becomes available which indicates this decision needs reviewing then the Lead Enquiry Officer must inform the police.
Where a safeguarding concern is received which does not, at the outset, appear to constitute a criminal offence, there is no requirement to notify police, but this decision should be kept under review. In the event that new information comes to light through the course of an enquiry, which then indicates that a criminal offence has been, or may have been, committed then it should be reported to the police.
Where it is identified that a police referral is required, whether at the outset of an enquiry, or as a result of new information received, the referral should be completed without delay.
Sussex Police has a direct referral process for police officers to raise a safeguarding concern with the local authority. The Vulnerable Adult at Risk (VAAR) section of the Single Combined Assessment of Risk Form (SCARF) should be completed by the police for every safeguarding concern. It is important that when the police are completing a SCARF that they add sufficient and accurate detail to allow specialist teams and the local authority to act on it. The expectation is that the submitting officer will also state on the form why they are making the referral and whether the adult at risk is aware of it.
Partnership working within safeguarding enquiries and criminal investigations:
If, as a result of a safeguarding concern, both a safeguarding enquiry and a criminal investigation are required the following will apply:
- The criminal investigation will take primacy.
- Depending on the nature of the safeguarding concern, a joint visit to the adult may need to take place with the police and the Lead Enquiry Officer.
A multi- agency planning meeting may need to be convened to agree:
- The main lines of enquiry for the criminal investigation.
- The safeguarding plan for the adult and any other vulnerable adults including the suspect.
- The lead individual for each action within the safeguarding plan.
- Ownership of any actions ancillary to the investigation(e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service referrals).
- The process and time scales for ongoing updates and reviews.
Ending safeguarding enquiries when a criminal investigation is ongoing
When there is a safeguarding enquiry involving a criminal investigation, the police will lead the criminal investigation and contribute towards the safeguarding enquiry.
The safeguarding enquiry may be closed whilst a criminal investigation is still ongoing, when the local authority is satisfied that it has discharged its Section 42 duty to undertake a safeguarding enquiry, and established a safeguarding plan, where necessary. The police will notify the local authority on the outcome of the criminal investigation and at which point any further follow up or further safeguarding enquiry required will be led by the local authority.
2.4.5 Safeguarding Investigation Units
Sussex Police has established specialist Safeguarding Investigation Units (SIUs) within each local authority area. These teams manage both the criminal and safeguarding aspects of investigations involving child and adult abuse, high risk domestic abuse, rape and serious sexual offences.
Officers and staff working within these teams include specialist detectives, trained in conducting joint investigations with the local authority, Sexual Offence Liaison Officers who are trained to provide an initial response and support to reports of rapes and sexual abuse, and specialist caseworkers who will develop safety plans and offer referrals to partner agencies for ongoing support for those who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse.
Each Safeguarding Investigation Unit also has specialist interviewers who are trained to conduct video witness interviews called Achieving Best Evidence (ABE). Each local authority also has ABE-trained staff and, where necessary, video interviews can be conducted jointly between police and local authority staff.
2.4.6 Achieving Best Evidence interviews
Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) is the national approach to securing evidence or accounts from vulnerable witnesses / victim by means of video recorded interviews (often referred to as ABEs). Sussex Police will adhere to the Authorised Professional Practice (College of Policing) in relation to investigative interviewing to ensure the best possible outcome for victims and witnesses of crime.
The main principle of an Achieving Best Evidence is to maximise the chance of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses giving their best evidence at court by the use of ‘special measures’.
The purpose of an Achieving Best Evidence is to ensure that accurate and reliable accounts are obtained from victims and witnesses.
A vulnerable witness as defined within Section 16 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 concerns witnesses eligible for assistance in criminal proceedings on grounds of age and incapacity:
- If under the age of 18 at the time of the hearing, or,
- Suffers from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983, or,
- Otherwise has a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning, or,
- Has a physical disability or is suffering from a physical disorder.
An Intimidated Witness as defined within Section 17 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act1999 concerns witnesses eligible for assistance in criminal proceedings on grounds of fear or distress about testifying. This includes complainants in cases of sexual assault, victims of domestic abuse, some hate crime and adults with care and support needs.
2.4.7 Appropriate Adults
If a vulnerable adult is detained or questioned in relation to a suspected crime, the police are required to consider whether the services of an Appropriate Adult are necessary:
2.4.8 Sexual Assault Referral Centre
A Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) provides services to victims/survivors of rape or sexual assault regardless of whether the survivor/victim chooses to reports the offence to the police or not.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres are designed to be comfortable and multi-functional, providing private space for interviews and examinations, and some may also offer counselling services.
Where a sexual offence is reported the police will make, or offer to make, a referral to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre. Individuals may also self-refer to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre without involving the police. Sexual Assault Referral Centres have specialist staff who are trained to help individuals make informed decisions about what they want to do next.
2.4.9 Vulnerable Victim Fraud
It is recognised that some types of offending disproportionately affects some groups of people who are vulnerable but who do not lack capacity.
Fraud is a hidden and under-reported crime, with victims often in denial or unaware of the criminality behind it. Increasingly fraud is becoming more complex and sophisticated, much of which is targeted at vulnerable and elderly people.
The nature of fraud victimisation is not only financial. The emotional impact is significant and includes guilt, misplaced trust and diminished confidence, resulting in detrimental effects on physical and mental health and increased social isolation. Operation Signature is the Sussex Police response to vulnerable victim fraud, whether it takes place by telephone, on the doorstep, by mail or online.
A number of victims of fraud remain in denial having been successfully groomed by fraudsters. This can result in extensive losses sometimes amounting to whole life savings. These victims can refuse to allow officers to inform their next of kin or family members. Whilst the gravity of overriding a victim's wishes should never be ignored, there will be circumstances when it may be in their best interests to do so. This will often be the most effective way to reduce the victim’s vulnerability from further financial loss.
Each Safeguarding Investigation Unit has a nominated officer to act as a single point of contact between police and Adult Social Care for safeguarding those who are assessed as being at the highest risk of repeat victimisation. Victim Support also have dedicated fraud case workers, providing on-going longer term support to high risk victims referred to them.
Due to the risk levels of the victims being referred, the caseworkers will come into contact with clients who need safeguarding. The majority of these victims have wider vulnerabilities and needs, including possible mental capacity issues, outside the remit of the caseworkers, which need to be addressed with other agencies and partners.
The amount of contact with Adult Social Care and the number of safeguarding referrals made show the importance of there being a link between police, victim support services and Adult Social Care to ensure these vulnerable people do not fall through the gaps and to help prevent future victimisation and any further harm.
2.4.10 Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements
Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are in place to ensure the successful management of violent and sexual offenders. The MAPPA guidance sets out the responsibilities of the police, probation trusts and prison service.
The Lead Enquiry Officer should be aware of this guidance which includes information on the following:
- identification and notification of MAPPA offenders,
- ViSOR which is the secure database that holds details of MAPPA offenders,
- information sharing,
- disclosure and risk assessment,
- risk management plans,
- multi-agency public protection meetings,
- MAPPA documents set,
- custody, recall and transfer of MAPPA cases,
- critical public protection cases,
- mentally disordered offenders and MAPPA.
Further information on MAPPA can be found at www.mappa.justice.gov.uk
2.4.11 Information sharing within criminal investigations
If a safeguarding enquiry has a criminal element to it, information may need to be shared between agencies.
The police have a general power at common law to disclose information for the prevention, detection and reduction of crime.
Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 established the power for agencies to disclose information to the police and other agencies. The purposes of the Act broadly cover the prevention and reduction of crime and the identification or apprehension of offenders.
This is a power and not a duty and the requirements of the Human Rights Act, Common Law and the Data Protection Act must still be met.
The disclosure of confidential information held by an agency is allowed with that adult’s consent, or if not, where there is a serious overriding public interest to do so if the information relates to serious crime, danger to life or the community, serious threat to others (including staff), serious infringement of the law or risk to the health of the person concerned (see Section 2.9 Adult Safeguarding and Sharing Information).
2.4.12 Principles of preserving evidence
The preservation of forensic evidence is time critical. Much can be lost from the victim within the first few hours through activities such as washing, using the toilet, eating, smoking or other forms of contact. Therefore, to maximise the opportunities for forensic recovery and remove the need to unduly restrict certain basic needs of the victim, there are a number of simple considerations that can be considered which will benefit both the victim and any possible future investigation. These actions will be guided or directed by the police.
Where a crime or incident has occurred in a particular place, for example in an adult’s home or a particular room within their home, the police may wish to examine the scene for evidence. Evidence recovered from scenes can help establish who was present when an incident occurred as well as indicating what, specifically, did occur.
Where a suspected crime has recently occurred, care should be taken to try to avoid moving things (for example clearing up) and try to prevent people going into the area who do not need to be there. When the report is made to the police, advice will be given about what may be needed to help preserve the scene.
If the victim or vulnerable adult is present at the scene, their immediate safety and welfare, including any requirement for medical attention, must always be prioritised over scene preservation.
If the victim discloses that they have an item which they took from the suspect, this should be brought to the attention of the police at the earliest opportunity as there may well be a chance to recover fingerprint or other forensic evidence from the item. Similarly, if the victim discloses that the suspect has taken an item of personal property from them, again, this should be disclosed to the police at the earliest opportunity.