NYSCP Operation Divan - North Yorkshire

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Operation Divan

Operation Divan

Operation Divan is a Police-led partnership  initiative to challenge and discourage the carrying  of knives by young people in North Yorkshire.  This guidance explains the context of Operation  Divan, and the role which Children & Family  Services have in supporting it.

Youth knife crime is still very low in North  Yorkshire, but we are seeing a rising trend  consistent with the national picture. Agencies,  communities and families must work together to  protect our children from this grave harm.

When NY Police receive reports or intelligence  about young people carrying knives, these will  initially be investigated to establish whether a  crime has occurred, and if there is sufficient  evidence for criminal charges.

If this is so, the Police are required by national  crime reporting rules to process it through criminal channels. This may be by referral to the Youth  Outcomes Panel or by charging directly to Court.

Operation Divan arises when the circumstances do  not establish that a provable crime has occurred,  but there are general concerns that the young  person may be putting themselves or others at risk  through association with knives. Operation Divan  is a prevention and safeguarding intervention,  offering positive support to those young people.

Instigation

If the investigating Police Officer is satisfied that no  provable crime has occurred, but that the circumstances indicate general concerns about  knives, they will arrange to carry out a joint  Operation Divan intervention with a worker from  Children & Family Services.

If the young person or their family is currently or  recently open to a CFS team, then it is presumed  that their allocated worker will participate in the  Operation Divan intervention. If the young person  and family have no current or recent CFS  involvement, Early Help Service will provide the  Operation Divan response. If the young person has  previous recorded criminal outcomes, this will be  undertaken by Youth Justice workers.

Importantly, this is a swift and informal response.  Police officers will instigate an Operation Divan  joint visit via a streamlined notification pathway.

Intervention

Operation Divan is simply a focused discussion  with the young person and their parents, to share  our concerns and offer positive support.

This meeting will usually take place by  appointment at the family home, but it may  sometimes be preferable to use a private room in  a school or other venue. Arrangements in each  case will need to be negotiated to fit availability,  but should be prioritised as a safeguarding action.

This is a non-statutory process, and families are  entitled to refuse to participate. CFS staff should  not emphasise or encourage this, and it may be  more effective in some cases for the Police Officer  to make the arrangements. If the young person is  under YJS supervision, this visit should be  incorporated into their plan.

The investigating Police Officer will state clearly  that the criminal investigation has finished, no  provable offence has been identified, and this is  not a criminal “PACE Interview” of a suspect. What  the young person says now is not admissible in  evidence, and they can talk freely (but see  important note below).

The Police Officer’s main objective will be to  explain the risks of knives to the young person and  parents. This will include references to the  criminal penalties, but the main focus is the very  serious risks of personal injury or death.

We then want to understand the young person’s  perspective and experiences. Are knives becoming  more common in their school or community? If  so, why do they think this is? We should be alert  to issues like bullying, peer pressure or fear of  being attacked with a knife.

We should also capture intelligence and learning  for services, to help us more effectively discourage young people from carrying knives. Which shops  are selling knives to children, how are they being  smuggled into schools, etc? Is there a connection  to organised drug distribution, or a particular  threat in their community which causes the young  person or their friends to feel unsafe?

The CFS worker should support and develop this  discussion, moving towards agreement of what  positive actions the young person and parents can  take to reduce risk, and what support they may  need. If continued support will require new  service referrals and consents to be completed,  this can be completed with the family.

At the end of the visit, the Police Officer will wish  to leave a leaflet or notice which summarises key  points of the anti-knife message. They may ask the  young person or parents to sign an  acknowledgement that they have received this.  This has no legal effect, the intention is only to  symbolise and reinforce the discussion. But if they  prefer not to accept or sign anything, that’s okay.

Important Notes

Admissions and Disclosures

The primary aim of Operation Divan is to promote  safer choices, by providing information and advice  to young people and their families, supplemented  by service support if needed.

It is however possible that during this discussion,  new information may come to light. Police officers  cannot ignore new information which suggests  that the child may have committed a serious crime.  We do not expect this situation to arise often.

If new information causes the Police officer to  suspect a serious crime, they cannot continue with the informal discussion. The child has now become  a criminal suspect, and they can only be interviewed under strictly-regulated arrangements  to ensure evidential integrity (a “PACE Interview”).

The Police officer would be ethically obliged to  immediately explain this change of circumstances.  There is no advantage to them by avoiding this,  because nothing that the child says in informal  discussion can be used in evidence against them.  To obtain admissible evidence, they must arrange  a formal PACE interview.

In that situation, the CFS worker should remind the  young person and family that nothing previously  said is admissible in criminal proceedings, and they  should take legal advice before engaging in a  formal PACE interview. The Operation Divan visit  would terminate.

The young person may also mention events or  circumstances involving others. They may not wish  to identify the other people, and they should not  be pressured to do so. But it is also possible that  they might want to tell us that a friend is being  bullied, or a drug dealer is threatening their peers.  In those circumstances, the CFS worker & Police  Officer will need to consult and agree an  appropriate course of action.

Legal and Illegal Knives

Broadly speaking, the possession of knives and  weapons is prohibited in public places. However  this does not apply to small folding pocketknives  with a blade less than 3 inches, which are legal to  carry except with intent to use as an offensive  weapon. And although schools usually have rules  against this, there is (surprisingly) no law which  prohibits a young person taking a small folding  pocketknife into school.

This may be mentioned during an Operation Divan  intervention, as an excuse or justification for  carrying a knife. If so, we have to recognise that  this right does exist and that young people can  lawfully carry small folding knives, but we should  push beyond this to challenge the more important  risk and safety issues. A small folding knife can still  cause grievous or fatal injuries, and can still be  taken from it’s owner and used against them.

Use of Operation Divan Materials after Criminal Process

A range of good intervention materials has been  assembled to support Operation Divan, and these  are often very suitable for work with young people  who have admitted or been convicted of knife- related offences.

It is however important to maintain the distinct  purpose and scope of Operation Divan as an  informal, pre-criminal safeguarding intervention.  For example, when giving advice to YOP or Referral  Panels we cannot suggest “referring to Operation  Divan”, because those young people have gone  beyond the range of Operation Divan.

Download the OMG

Download the Operation Divan OMG

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