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Chaos

Harassment warnings / PINs

RISK OF CLOSURE

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Chaos

A recent policy change after a review from HMIC and CPS has ment that harassment warnings / PINs are to be abolished.

 

Officers are no longer able to give a first warning to a suspect of harassment incase it escalates the situation. Instead of there is a course of conduct, especially in DV cases then officers should investigate the criminal offence and arrest if a criteria is present.

 

What has happened to common sense and officers discretion. What about those cases were an ex wants to get back with his girlfriend and he's texting er to much and a simple warning would suffice.

 

Does anyone else have similar policy in their area?

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TheMoo

Yeah,  we had PINs knocked on the head a few months ago, because they had no legal basis (as I understand it, in case it was breached).

That being said, I have been to deliver some sort of Harrassment Warning since then, when someone was warned to stop contacting an ex, or else they'd face arrest.

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JulietAlpha1

I imagine that in your example you could still issue words of advice/warning but it will just be recorded as such rather than a ‘Harassment Warning.’ It’s either going to work or it isn’t. 

If the victim just wants words of advice issuing and isn’t prepared to support a prosecution then you can’t effectively investigate it anyway. Minor inconveniences such as victim cooperation seem to go straight over these reviewing bodies’ heads.

Unfortunately it isn’t as easy for police to take no action at all when there isn’t any evidence as for other agencies. (I.e when the police go to CPS with a case, there’s either enough evidence to charge or there isn’t. CPS aren’t criticised for failing to take positive action when there’s no evidence and nobody suggests that a prosecutor contacts a suspect and advise them against their behaviour.)

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Chaos
Yeah,  we had PINs knocked on the head a few months ago, because they had no legal basis (as I understand it, in case it was breached).
That being said, I have been to deliver some sort of Harrassment Warning since then, when someone was warned to stop contacting an ex, or else they'd face arrest.
But what's being said is that if there is a course of conduct then it should be crimed as harassment and dealt with accordingly. Otherwise if it's a one of incident then their would be no requirement to go around and tell him to stop.

I just don't get why that option is being taken away from us with low level harassment jobs.

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JulietAlpha1
1 minute ago, Chaos said:

I just don't get why that option is being taken away from us with low level harassment jobs.

No doubt because somebody, somewhere has abused the hell out of them.

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Sceptre
32 minutes ago, Chaos said:

What has happened to common sense and officers discretion. What about those cases were an ex wants to get back with his girlfriend and he's texting er to much and a simple warning would suffice.

Then give them informal words of advice and reference the crime off as outcome 15 or 16. Or apply for cancellation it if you have AVI showing that from the victim's perspective it never amounted to harassment in the first place. If your force won't let you do that then the problem doesn't lie anywhere else... 

I'm not surprised PINs were abolished, the concept became a bit of a farce in the end. They were being used for things which clearly were crimes and clearly required some more effective action simply because cops had this mindset that issuing a PIN was the first thing they had to do even when there was an obvious crime made out, or because it was just the easiest way to get rid of a griefy job. They were being used as mini-restraining orders with restrictive conditions which victims believed were binding; when they were breached and lo and behold nothing happened then the victim would feel let down and the offender embolden to keep going. Having started simply as an evidential tool to help prove that someone knew their conduct amounted to harassment, the gradual mission creep ended up with them delivering a pretty poor service. 

Edited by Sceptre
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Reasonable Man
No doubt because somebody, somewhere has abused the hell out of them.

Not ‘somebody, somewhere’ but many bodies in many places.@Sceptre has it spot on above.
I’m just surprised this is a recent change in some forces. It’s way over a year since ‘Living in Fear’ was published and PINs effectively banned.

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JulietAlpha1
5 minutes ago, Reasonable Man said:


Not ‘somebody, somewhere’ but many bodies in many places.

I was being facestious. I’m aware it takes more than ‘one bad apple’ to provoke a reaction such as this.

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stewie_griffin

In my day the issuing of a PIN constituted a detection.

True story: I once issued a PIN to someone for walking past a particular house.

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Hyphen

I’m glad this has been posted. Harassment  is one of the most abused and overused offences that we have. Personally I think there should be a review on it, more so than the likes of Section 5 when that was reviewed and the people who shout about stop search.

To clarify I am not against dealing with people for Harassment or Stalking offences, however, we are frankly pathetic at times when things are reported and there is any hint of a DV marker. The usual one being a couple have recently split up and one party rings/texts the other to try and get property back or child contact etc. One party makes a call to police saying they’re being harassed. We then end up having to download phones and potentially interview the other which is complete overkill.

Usually with most of the low level ‘harassment’ it gets crimed and the person just gets spoken to. It gets closed as victim doesn’t support or evidential difficulties. Most people just want the Police to tell the other person to stop it and the last thing they want is to end up with the prospect of going to court and supporting prosecutions, which I can completely understand.

In terms of PINs and Harassment warnings I never saw the point, it’s no different surely to having a word with someone and updating their intel which we do now anyway. 

I agree with the above,  many of the charities, other organisations and many senior officers don’t get that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to try and bring a prosecution for a low level harassment without any form of victim complaint or evidence.

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SimonT

Stalking is our new harassment. If something could just squeeze by as a harassment it's now crimed as stalking. 

It just has to be multiple contacts and maybe a changed number and boom, stalking. 

So our stalking detection rate is awful. A genuine stalking gets a full and proper investigation because that's some high risk stuff, but it gets undermined by the others. 

We banned harassment warning a few years ago, occasionally get other forces demand we issue them and getting upset when we won't. 

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Sceptre
9 hours ago, Hyphen said:

To clarify I am not against dealing with people for Harassment or Stalking offences, however, we are frankly pathetic at times when things are reported and there is any hint of a DV marker. The usual one being a couple have recently split up and one party rings/texts the other to try and get property back or child contact etc. One party makes a call to police saying they’re being harassed. We then end up having to download phones and potentially interview the other which is complete overkill.

It's worth knowing about R v O'Neill [2016] for this sort of job, where it was held that conduct amounting to harassment must not only cause alarm or distress but also contain an element of oppression: "‘Harassment’ is generally understood to involve improper oppressive and unreasonable conduct that is targeted at an individual and calculated to produce the consequences described in s.7." There is also a statutory defence in S1(3) that in the particular circumstances the course of conduct was reasonable, which is likely to capture polite and sensible requests for the return of property etc. If there's no instance of controlling or coercive behaviour, violence or abuse then you could question whether it even fits the definition of a domestic incident.

Of course if a crime is made out hopefully you still have the latitude to investigate it sensibly and to decide not to do things you feel are out of proportion to the conduct at hand. Given the collateral intrusion downloading a phone is a substantial interference with someone's human rights to a private life and the peaceful enjoyment of their property, as well as a considerable amount of sifting work for the OIC - it is certainly a useful tool where we have some credible grounds to think there is valuable evidence to be gained but if we get into the habit of overusing it as a box-ticking exercise for all sorts of questionable things then it'll end up being criticised and heavily restricted.

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Hyphen

Thanks @Sceptre for your post. I’ve had a little read online about the stated case, it is helpful.

You are right, in theory many harassment reports I deal with would fit with this. The problem I find is the issue comes from above. People who have got themselves in to senior positions insist on bringing people in, VA interviews and as I mentioned insisting on phone downloads etc all in the name of evidence led investigations and over zealous attempts to prosecute people because its DV related.

It flows downwards and many front line supervisors can be very difficult and will not close down a ‘crime’.

We waste so much time on this area of policing. The problem is the real harassment and stalking cases get lost in the noise.

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JulietAlpha1
20 minutes ago, Hyphen said:

We waste so much time on this area of policing. The problem is the real harassment and stalking cases get lost in the noise.

 

6 hours ago, SimonT said:

Stalking is our new harassment. If something could just squeeze by as a harassment it's now crimed as stalking. 

As usual, no common sense is applied which leads to everything being treated as a priority, which results in nothing being a priority.

We were urged not to report harassment, but to report the “substantive offence,” - the public order, mal comms offence etc. which in many cases I found myself thinking that those offences were secondary to the full blown harassment that is in fact being reported. We are now told to report a harassment as well as the substantive offence! On the other side I’ve seen a report of harassment which was constituted of two unwanted phone calls. Nothing more. This was crimed by the call centre before a police officer even had the chance to look at it.

We completely overface ourselves with work and lose focus on the victims and the evidence that we’re unable to serve and collect because we’re too busy recording crimes.

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Hyphen
32 minutes ago, JulietAlpha1 said:

 

As usual, no common sense is applied which leads to everything being treated as a priority, which results in nothing being a priority.

We were urged not to report harassment, but to report the “substantive offence,” - the public order, mal comms offence etc. which in many cases I found myself thinking that those offences were secondary to the full blown harassment that is in fact being reported. We are now told to report a harassment as well as the substantive offence! On the other side I’ve seen a report of harassment which was constituted of two unwanted phone calls. Nothing more. This was crimed by the call centre before a police officer even had the chance to look at it.

We completely overface ourselves with work and lose focus on the victims and the evidence that we’re unable to serve and collect because we’re too busy recording crimes.

Totally agree. I think a lot of common sense has gone in many areas of policing.

Unfortunately I too have seen such crimes being recorded from a couple of contacts. The problem is many supervisors are now too scared to close them down without at least interviewing the suspect.

We also had an input recently about crime recording, our latest thing is we should record the harassment and then the other offences too. 

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