Guarding the Guardians: Herefordshire Independent Advisory Group

Peter Ellis, formerly one of our Green town councillors, came to speak to us at a recent Green Party meeting in Leominster as Penny, Chair of HIAG. Penny is Trans and very aware of the problems that can face members of minority groups. She agreed to write a short piece for Greengage.

Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) were formed in the 2000s to give advice to police forces in their interaction with minority groups. This followed the Macpherson report on the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence which discovered that prejudice and discrimination was present in the Metropolitan Police. The minority groups represented by an IAG were those listed in the Equality Act of 2010 viz. ethnicity and religion, disability and LGBT. The Herefordshire IAG (HIAG) was formed in April 2015 following a review of IAG provision on the formation of the alliance between West Mercia and Warwickshire Police Forces.

HIAG consists of members of the public who have volunteered some of their time to act as a “critical friend” of the police in the county. There are currently ten members drawn from a variety of minority communities or with an interest in supporting communities. The group meets quarterly with other contact by email. A regular task is to scrutinise, with senior police officers, data on use of stop and search powers and reported hate-crime and to examine reports of hate-crime incidents. For the purpose of recording incidents, the definition of a hate-crime is an act motivated by prejudice, hostility or hatred to an identifiable group of people to which the victim is perceived to belong i.e. the reason for the incident was the appearance or behaviour of the victim. This definition includes groups not included in the list of protected minorities mentioned in the Equality Act. For example, the murder of Sophie Lancaster was classed as a hate-crime because she was attacked for being a goth.

 

The group also advises the police on how they should proceed in dealing with specific incidents. This could potentially be during or immediately following an incident. The group has also been involved in the preparation and dissemination of publicity campaigns to improve the reporting of hate-crime. In the year Oct 2105 to Oct 2016 the number of reported hate-crime incidents went up by more than a third. It is impossible to say however whether this was a result of improved reporting, or an increase in the number of incidents following the Brexit referendum.

Some members have addressed groups of trainee police officers as part of their diversity training, but this is not a requirement of group members. In the same way, some members attended Herefordshire Pride in July and are involved in other community cohesion initiatives.

HIAG performs a very important role in both supporting the work of the local police force and ensuring that every citizen is treated fairly. There is no limit to the number of members of the group and the aim is to have representatives from as many minority groups resident in Herefordshire as possible. Anyone interested in knowing more can contact me at pennyellis1@btinternet.com.

Penny Ellis, Chair HIAG