Major investigation and public protection

Managing public protection information

This module provides details of the processes and standards for managing information in relation to sexual and violent offenders. It is intended to support all staff, including MOSOVO officers, frontline officers, and chief officers.

In order for the police and other agencies to make an effective contribution to public safety, information about offenders needs to be available to the right individuals and agencies at the right time, within the law. There may be a range of information for each offender. Some of this information (eg, medical details) may be sensitive and access to it should be restricted. Other elements should be available to all officers (such as modus operandi, risk factors, licence conditions and specific individuals at risk).

The following guidance should be read in conjunction with APP on information management, and MAPPA Guidance.

Contents

Overview

Chief constables should ensure their forces implement a system to flag registered offenders. This system must provide sufficient information for operational officers and other staff to take immediate action to protect the public.

Officers in charge of managing registered offenders should carry out a risk assessment, drawing on all relevant sources of information. They should develop plans to manage, as far as reasonably possible, the risks the offenders pose including ensuring that response and neighbourhood policing teams are able to contribute to the plans by taking actions and/or providing information and intelligence.

All local intelligence systems should have a nominal record of every registered offender indicating they are on ViSOR. Local intelligence systems should have settings that trigger notifications for each nominal. Supervisors must verify these settings are still appropriate at review periods and update them as necessary.

System checks should include the Police National Database (PND), Police National Computer (PNC) and local systems. MOSOVO officers should notify other responsible authorities (probation and prison) of any relevant activity involving any sexual or violent offender or PDP.

Where a PNC check has been made and a ViSOR nominal identified, ViSOR should be accessed to establish the current risk to the public. Each force communication centre/control room should be able to access this system.

Establish significance of information

Operational police officers and staff may become aware of information, in their routine duties suggesting that a person poses a risk of harm to another person or people. When information of this sort comes to notice, police officers and staff should evaluate its significance and any actions it may require. Staff can do this by asking the following questions:

  • Is there evidence of capacity to inflict serious harm by any individuals?
  • Does the incident, offence or behaviour in question raise concerns about risks to children or vulnerable adults?
  • Does the incident, offence or behaviour in question involve a breach of trust?
  • Is there evidence of established links or associations which might increase the risk of harm?
  • Are there concerns about substance misuse?
  • Are there concerns that an individual’s mental state might exacerbate risk?

Sources

Other agencies’ systems might hold useful public protection information. Those sources include:

  • Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service
  • the Scottish Intelligence Database
  • health service, GP’s, mental health services for example
  • voluntary and charitable organisations, eg, substance abuse support.

Collecting and collating

Officers must be alert to the potential for apparently trivial information to indicate more substantial risk of harm, eg, reports of a prowler or of an individual behaving suspiciously. Officers and staff should use their investigative mindset and professional judgement to reach decisions on what action to take, drawing on available information, and their skills and experience. Guidance and advice can only support the use of individual skills and experience.

Information relating to offenders and PDPs could be held on different information systems across one or more forces or agencies. All staff should recognise the value of piecing together different information to enable the police to carry out their public protection responsibilities.

When a member of the public provides the police with information, staff must be aware of the risk of harm and the police duty of care to that person and others who may be affected by the information. This duty may arise because of:

  • the nature of the information
  • how the information was obtained
  • the circumstances of the person providing the information which may require the information to be treated in a sensitive and confidential manner (eg, they have a relationship with the person to whom the information relates)
  • the frequency of contact between an individual and the police, indicating they may be maintaining a relationship in order to obtain that information.

Specific considerations regarding tasking member of the public

A police officer or member of police staff may request an individual to provide information. This may not include the requirement to provide evidential statements or the completion of diaries to record witness or victim experiences of a particular problem. Officers, however, should be aware of the potential of creating a CHIS if they are intending to use and existing relationship to obtain information for policing purposes.

Routine collection

Forces should develop procedures to route intelligence when an officer or member of police staff learns that an individual has a ViSOR record. This ensures that all staff can fulfil their responsibility of routinely collecting public protection information. These procedures should describe what happens next and the accountability for taking matters forward. This could include, for example, setting out who has responsibility for contacting the named offender manager, who may be a probation officer.

Tasked information

Public protection issues can require the collection of tasked information. This is information which is sought and collected for a specific purpose. Tasking can be at a national, regional, force, BCU or neighbourhood level. It can be the result of a long-standing intelligence requirement or a short-term operational need.

For example, at national level there may be concerns about links between groups of offenders. At force level there may be concerns about an unidentified individual acting suspiciously near a school.

Tasked information may be a general requirement for information about an ongoing issue, or a specific requirement for information about a particular individual. Tasking can occur as part of the daily briefing process or may require the deployment of specialist resources (eg, a surveillance team, CCTV or Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology (note: this material is restricted to PNN or GSI account holders only – users must be logged in to POLKA to access the link)).

Information collected from a tasking should be recorded by completing intelligence report, or by following local instructions depending on the nature of the tasking.

Information provided on a repeated basis

If an individual is asked to gather and provide information on a ViSOR nominal or to provide witness evidence, this may require CHIS authorisation in accordance with section 26 and section 29 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000.

If an individual (who is not a CHIS or undergoing recruitment or assessment for suitability of recruitment) contacts the police on a repeated basis with public protection information, staff should notify the relevant intelligence unit of the relationship between that individual and the police.

The FIB or equivalent will review the contact’s circumstances and the information they are providing in order to determine whether the individual is being managed with appropriate sensitivity and confidentiality, and whether they should be considered for authorisation as a CHIS.

Offenders often provide information about their own lifestyle and activities. This should be recorded in the offender’s case file and on ViSOR.

Offenders sometimes provide information about other MAPPA offenders or PDPs. This information should be recorded on an intelligence report and treated in the same way as information volunteered on a one-off or repeated basis by any other individual.

Information from prisons

There are a number of opportunities to acquire important information from prisons, either via the Police Prison Intelligence Officer/Liaison Officer or via the Prison Intelligence Officer.

Recording

Staff should follow local procedures and APP on information management when recording public protection information. Staff should maintain accurate and complete records so public protection information can be used to investigate offences and manage risks posed by registered offenders. There are considerable risks and consequences for recording inaccurate information or failing to handle it correctly, within the law.

Public protection information requires thorough evaluation due to its high-risk nature. Staff should evaluate relevant information by linking it to the intelligence system.

Forces that do not routinely record public protection information using the intelligence report system should instead use a marker on the intelligence system to indicate the existence of a public protection or ViSOR nominal record.

Staff must record the actions of others who have been notified of public protection information, such as other individuals, senior officers, internal police departments, (eg, MOSOVO or child abuse investigation unit) or other agencies.

Offender case files

The ViSOR database allows the police, probation and prison services to share sensitive information in order to identify, risk assess and manage sexual offenders, violent offenders and PDPs.

ViSOR is accredited to hold Official Sensitive under Government Security Classifications, and must be the primary mechanism for managing offender case files. All forces must adhere to Home Office ViSOR Standards when managing offender case files. Forces must also comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and ensure that information they hold or input about offenders is complete, up to date and accurate.

All case files should identify, where possible, if the case is under MAPPA (eg, specifying category 1, 2 or 3) and at what level the case is to be managed. Records should also be made of any conversation between police and any person about a particular offender.

All information from victims, third parties, and details of any police tactics should be kept separate from the offender case file or contained in a confidential section. Section 29 of the DPA allows personal data to be contained in a confidential section if necessary to prevent or detect crime, apprehend or prosecute offenders, and where disclosing the information to the offender would be likely to prejudice those purposes.

MAPPA guidance establishes consistency in managing MAPPA level 2 and 3 cases and sets standards for the quality and content of MAPP meeting minutes. All minutes form part of the offender’s ViSOR record. The Home Office ViSOR Standards contain details about recording MAPP meeting minutes on ViSOR.

Sharing public protection information

MAPPA guidance states that information sharing must:

  • be lawfully authorised
  • be necessary
  • be proportionate
  • ensure the safety and security of the information shared
  • be accountable.

While MAPPA guidance focuses on those managed at levels 2 and 3, the principles outlined in the guidance are equally relevant to those managed at level 1.

Decisions relating to sharing public protection information

Because of the sensitivities involved and with consideration to Article 8 ECHR, when making decisions about sharing information, staff should take into account and record the answers to the following:

  • Why should the information be shared?
  • Are information sharing protocols with the relevant agency in place?
  • How would sharing the information reduce risk to the public, thereby protecting their rights under Articles 2 and 3?
  • Is there another practical and less intrusive means of reducing risk to the public?
  • What is the legal basis for sharing information in this particular case (eg, the purpose under the DPA)?
  • Is there a possibility of increasing risk of violence against an individual(s) leading to public disorder?
  • Could the offender or PDP be driven underground?
  • What would be the effect on victims?
  • What would be the effect on the offender’s or PDP’s family?
  • What would be the effect on an offender’s or PDP’s ability to live a normal life?
  • Exactly what information should be shared and with whom?
  • Has the offender or PDP been consulted about the proposed information sharing as part of the risk management plan?

If information is shared, even on a restricted basis (eg, to a school or employer), that information may (officially or unofficially) reach the public domain and become known by national or local media. Staff considering sharing information should seek advice from supervisors, advisers and other agencies, as appropriate.

All decisions to share or not to share information about a MAPPA offender or PDP should be made in accordance with the national decision model, APP on information management. The decisions and outcomes must be recorded on ViSOR.

Whenever public protection information is shared, the individual doing so should:

  • consider common law duty to disclose
  • consider the powers under which to share the information – for example Crime Disorder Act 1998
  • follow the above guidance on sharing public protection information and provide documentation as appropriate
  • establish what information the individual or agency receiving the information has already, so no information is shared unnecessarily
  • ensure the correct individual receives the information and knows what to do and not to do with it (eg, the confidential status of the information and any action expected as a result of it)
  • share the correct information
  • record full details, including when the information was provided, the content of the
  • information, with whom the information was shared and the purpose of sharing it.

Domestic violence disclosure scheme

This scheme, also referred to as Clare’s Law is based on a principle of a right to know or a right to ask. It gives an individual the right to make enquiries about a person they are involved with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, and there is a concern about a violent background. This scheme is a preventive measure and enables individuals to make decisions about their relationship.

If police checks show that the individual has a record of abusive offences, or there is other information to indicate a person is at risk, the police will consider sharing this information with the person(s) best placed to protect the individual involved with the subject of the check. Guidance is available on the government website.

Child sex offender disclosure scheme

This scheme allows members of the public to register a child protection interest against an identified individual who has unsupervised or potentially unsupervised access to a particular child or children. It is more commonly known as ‘Sarah’s Law’, following the campaign by Sara Payne after her daughter Sarah was murdered by a convicted sex offender. This scheme is not a law, but was introduced by the Home Office following a review of the protection of children from sex offenders, using common law powers to share information.

If an individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children and poses a risk of serious harm, this information should be disclosed to the person best placed to protect the child or children.

A presumption of disclosure only exists in cases where the individual has convictions for child sexual offences. The police should consider seeking representations from the individual prior to making a decision about disclosure. Guidance on this is available on the government website.

Sharing information in the police service

Forces should ensure that all staff have access to appropriate information about registered offenders to enable them to carry out their roles. This includes NPTs, communications room staff, operational police officers, specialist investigators and crime analysts. Staff should be trained in accessing information and using it to assist in managing sexual offenders, violent offenders and PDPs.

Criminal justice disclosure

The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA) introduced the statutory test for disclosure of unused material to the defence in a criminal case. This statutory disclosure regime applies after an individual is charged with an offence. It should not be confused with sharing information before an individual is charged.

The regime covers any prosecution material not previously disclosed to the accused which might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused, or of assisting the case for the accused.

CPIA provides that material need not be disclosed if the court, on an application by the prosecutor, concludes it is not in the public interest to disclose it and orders accordingly (sometimes referred to as public interest immunity or PII). Full information on the statutory regime for criminal justice disclosure can be found in the:

Police duties under the statutory disclosure regime are part of investigators’ obligations to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry whether these point towards or away from the suspect.

In addition to the provisions in the CPIA, criminal justice disclosure includes a range of issues relating to disclosure during the criminal justice process. These issues may not undermine the prosecution case or assist the case for the defence, but are covered by other rules (eg, disclosure of pre-sentence reports and police misconduct).

Sharing information as part of the MAPPA process

The information-sharing chapter in MAPPA Guidance clarifies how MAPPA agencies may share information among themselves, and when the responsible authority may disclose such information to other persons or organisations.

Sharing information with individual agencies

Police forces should already have information sharing agreements (ISAs) with all lead agencies (eg, prison and probation) and duty to cooperate agencies (such as mental health, social services, housing), making separate ISAs unnecessary if disclosures are made under MAPPA. It may be necessary to set up an ISA for other third sector providers and voluntary agencies. APP on information management explains the process of developing an ISA.

Under Transforming Rehabilitation (TR), some private sector companies (called Community Rehabilitation Companies or CRCs) are involved in the MAPPA process. As part of each company’s contract, there is a clause which stipulates that, under MAPPA, they must disclose information to other agencies.

The following national protocols and guidance may also apply:

Sharing information with the Parole Board

The Parole Board must have access to information about offenders so that they can make appropriate decisions about an offender’s release and licence conditions. The Parole Board should be informed of the MAPPA risk management plan. See the section on recall in MAPPA Guidance for detail.

Sharing information about supervision, revocation and recall for prisoners released on licence

When sharing information about prisoners released on licence, chief officers should processes exist to:

  • create intelligence records for all MAPPA offenders, including details of the probation offender manager and guidance for alerting probation service staff if the offender comes to police attention
  • update records with relevant new police information
  • ensure the MAPPA lead agency carries out a risk reassessment when offenders are recalled to prison
  • record the results of the risk reassessment on police intelligence (and any other relevant local) systems so they can be accessed during the arrest process
  • ensure all relevant police staff know which offenders are on licence and are MAPPA-eligible
  • ensure all police staff know the importance of passing to probation services any relevant information they have from dealings with offenders
  • make timely contact with relevant partners to check for new information such as significant developments or further charges
  • communicate relevant information to partners promptly.

Sharing information with the UK Border Force

The UK Border Force (Immigration Enforcement Agency (IEA)) is a duty to cooperate agency under MAPPA – see MAPPA Guidance for further information.

ACRO and the IEA jointly perform remote data matching between all live ViSOR subjects and the Home Office Warnings Index. This creates an alert when an offender’s passport is checked at an IEA terminal on their return to the UK, indicating foreign travel. The IEA sends a notification report to the relevant local MOSOVO SPOC’s email address.

Force administrative procedures must enable the transfer of intelligence to the ViSOR Foreign Travel Attachment. This allows staff to monitor and evaluate confirmations of foreign travel in a timely and accountable manner.

Sharing information with the Disclosure and Barring Service

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) replaced the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority on 1 December 2012. The DBS helps employers to make safer recruitment decisions and prevents unsuitable individuals from working with vulnerable groups. For example, a MOSOVO officer would share information on an offender with the DBS of the offender was known to work with children.

Sharing information with specific members of the public

If there is a particular risk to an individual or individuals, staff may share information about offenders with specific members of the public or groups. Examples include the victims or potential victims of an offender, the partner or neighbours of an offender, or teachers and parents when an registered offender has unsupervised access to children. Staff should keep all documentation relating to contact with victims or potential victims separate from the offender case file, or contain it in a confidential section.

The responsibility to disclose information about a MAPPA category 1 offender who is managed at level 1 rests with an officer of superintendent rank. While the superintendent may choose to delegate this for day-to-day operational ease, they retain overall responsibility.

In MAPPA level 2 and 3 cases, decisions about disclosure/sharing information with individuals should be made as part of a MAPP meeting and should involve all appropriate agencies (eg, children’s social care services when there are children involved). The chair has the responsibility to make the decision of whether to disclose and will draw on the advice of other members of the MAPPA group and record the decision in the minutes.

If disclosure is made at any level, the lead agency must ensure it is appropriately managed and documented. For more information, see MAPPA Guidance.

Sharing information with the media and general public

If a violent or sexual offence or issues relating to a registered offender has triggered major press interest, the force press office should develop a media strategy and  produce a press statement.

Staff should reinforce the need to avoid vigilante action, and make it clear that such action may be illegal. When dealing with the media, staff should refer to some or all of the following issues:

  • Action by the public against a person suspected of being a MOSOVO offender may be illegal or prevent prosecution.
  • The primary aim of the police and partner agencies is to ensure public safety and protection.
  • Managing offenders in the community and public protection issues are multi-agency responsibilities which include the police, prison and probation services.
  • There is a range of options available to the police and other statutory organisations to deal with sexual offenders and violent offenders, but the priority is to manage the risk to the public.
  • The term ‘sexual offender’ applies to all sexual offenders and not just to those who sexually abuse children.
  • The police do not discuss individual cases and only issue details in full consultation with relevant agencies when it is in the public interest to name or identify an individual who could pose a serious risk of harm or threat to the community.
  • The responsible authority is managing the situation and would be grateful for the help, cooperation and tolerance of the community.

If there is danger to the general public or specific groups, the force should hold a press conference to provide safety information.

Staff should only refuse to respond to media enquiries in the most exceptional cases and as a last resort. Information about specific individuals should generally not be shared for a range of reasons. These include the risk of violence to others and the risk that sharing information might drive the offender underground, thus increasing the risk to the public.

General media enquiries about offenders

Staff should direct requests from the press for public protection information to the force press office or, where appropriate, the NPCC press office. The press office must contact the MOSOVO unit and involve them in any decisions about releasing information.

If other agencies are involved in managing a particular offender or PDP, they must be consulted before a police press statement is issued. Other agencies must also be involved if circumstances are relevant to them. For example, if there is a risk to children, staff must consult children’s social care services.

Forces should respond to general media enquiries about managing sexual offenders by providing information about local MAPPA processes. In general, staff should not identify or discuss individual offenders or reveal anything which might jeopardise future police operations.

Specific enquiries about an individual offender

If information about an offender enters the public domain, police and other relevant agencies should decide how much detail to confirm. All such matters should be referred to the force media team for advice. Decisions on releasing information of this sort into the public domain should be made by a very senior officer after considering the risks and Article 8 issues very carefully.

Proactive release of information about an individual offender

There are a number of situations where a proactive stance to releasing information about an offender might be appropriate. For example:

  • a high-profile offender recently released from prison moves into the area and this becomes known to the public or media
  • an offender is considered to be of such a high risk of reoffending that the public need to be warned
  • an registered offender fails to meet notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and efforts to trace the individual are unsuccessful. (see notification requirements).

All such matters should be referred to the force media team for advice. Decisions on releasing information of this sort into the public domain should be made by a senior officer, in line with an informed media strategy.

When releasing information proactively, a police press officer should be part of risk assessment and management discussions with the MOSOVO unit and other agencies. This ensures that there is an effective communications strategy, including processes for releasing information, eg, via a news conference, statement or interviews.

Sharing sensitive information from a third party

In some cases, third parties share sensitive information with the police which should not be shared without the consent of the originator of that material, such as medical records. Where such sensitive information is shared for public protection purposes, staff should follow local information-sharing protocols.

Requests to the police for public protection information

Partner agencies should request information according to local arrangements. Generally, the MOSOVO unit should respond to such requests where  appropriate. Partners should consult MOSOVO units to ensure they receive full information, for example, requests for checks by children’s social care on people caring for children on a temporary basis.

Requests for personal information from offenders

Staff should treat requests for personal information from offenders as subject access requests under the DPA and process them accordingly.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

There are risks associated with disclosing information held by the police service. These risks range in severity from the minor upset of a partner agency to the death of an individual and damage to national infrastructure. Refusing to provide information, even if appropriate, can sometimes be more damaging than releasing it. This is because of the adverse publicity and complaints it may attract. A force’s freedom of information unit addresses these issues and reduces risks.

Forces must forward all requests on MAPPA and registered offenders (except those relating to published MAPPA reports) to NPCC CRU, which will provide advice, best practice and consistency. After referring a request, staff should not respond to the applicant before hearing from the CRU. All FOI requests should be managed through local FOI officers. NPCC CRU can be contacted at [email protected].

Review, retention and disposal of public protection information

In order to promote the effective review, retention and disposal of public protection information, managers and supervisors should:

  • ensure staff adhere to information management protocols
  • ensure staff are trained to understand their legal responsibilities and the operating rules for relevant information systems, including internal force systems, PND and ViSOR
  • ensure staff adhere to ViSOR standards
  • use the PND and ViSOR to ensure links with other force and agency information systems and databases so information relevant to public protection is available
  • establish systems to ensure police officers and staff record relevant information to identify public protection concerns and identify, assess and manage risk
  • establish appropriate systems between MOSOVO units and the FIB to ensure information is evaluated and assessed for risk and that CHIS policies are followed
  • ensure staff adhere national and local information sharing agreements.

Performance management and key performance indicators

Strategic management boards (SMBs) must collect performance data. The police representative on the SMB should support working towards the key performance indicators (KPIs). The MAPPA coordinator submits figures quarterly in compliance with the responsible authority business plan.

Quantitative data

Forces are required to provide the following data annually to support the government’s MAPPA annual report:

  • the number of category 1, 2 and 3 MAPPA offenders living in the community
  • the number of serious further offences committed by MAPPA-eligible offenders
  • the number of offenders breaching licence conditions
  • the number of offenders breaching notification requirements
  • the number of offenders breaching preventive orders (eg, sexual risk orders or sexual harm prevention orders).

Any FOI request relating to registered offenders and other individuals managed through MAPPA must be referred to the NPCC FOI CRU unit, which will advise on the response.

Suspicion of further offences

If a registered offender is suspected of committing an offence, MOSOVO officers should brief other investigators involved in the case about the offender’s previous modus operandi and other relevant information.

Information obtained during offender management and other investigations may be relevant in several different contexts. These could include:

  • identifying, assessing and managing risk
  • investigating or prosecuting particular offences
  • providing evidence of bad character in accordance with sections 98 to 113 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003
  • providing information to allow suitable sentences, court orders (see court orders and notices), bail conditions and licence conditions to be imposed, and to ensure licences are revoked when necessary.

Most police action to deal with offending by MOSOVO suspects will need to be taken after consultation with other agencies, depending on the circumstances of the case. Urgent action should not, however, be unnecessarily delayed by such consultation.

Officers should consult CPS prosecutors to obtain early legal advice and decisions on charge when managing offenders. Crown prosecutors can advise investigators throughout the investigative process. This advice can include lines of enquiry, evidential requirements and assistance in pre-charge procedures which can rectify evidential deficiencies.

All MOSOVO officers should be familiar with the MG3 procedure for recording pre-charge advice. The MG3 should not be disclosed as it is subject to legal privilege between the police and the CPS.

Crown prosecutors are responsible for the decision to charge and for specifying or drafting charges in the majority of offences encountered when managing sexual offenders and violent offenders.

Whenever the CPS is involved in prosecuting a registered offender, it has a role in managing risk in terms of prosecution decisions, presenting evidence in court (including bad character evidence), providing information to the court to make bail decisions and conditions, and sentencing. The CPS can also apply for civil orders on conviction. See court orders and notices for further information .

Public protection and covert investigation

Covert investigative techniques may be necessary when developing intelligence or subject profiles due to associated tactical and risk management plans. These  techniques may be part of a proactive investigation or the ongoing management of a sexual offender, violent offender or PDP. Officers seeking to use covert techniques should contact the relevant department in their force. Covert police activity should support the investigation by being focused on obtaining evidence and protecting people from harm.

Page last accessed 22 July 2018