19 Jun 2023
by Naomi Bolton

Building Digital Foundations to tackle VAWG | Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days

The VAWG Strategic Threat Risk Assessment (STRA), published in April 2023, highlights the strategic importance of data now and in the future, while also noting that there are significant gaps in the way it is currently utilised to prevent and detect crime. A blog submitted for Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days by Naomi Bolton from Cloud Gateway

Data, although all around us, is often hidden from plain sight and requires the correct approach to pinpoint, gather and organise. And for police services specifically, there is even more pressure to get it right, as data is the key to gathering evidence, managing investigations and supporting a better citizen experience.

Whilst all forces are prioritising VAWG and are developing their own plans, each force faces a unique set of challenges in terms of digital provision, and there is not a single digital roadmap that will suit all forces. Balancing regional and national priorities remains an issue for UK policing.

Digital Forensics 

The increased use of technology has caused a significant growth in the number of sources from which data can be extracted, as well as the volume and variety of data captured. Digital forensics data from victims, witnesses and suspects is typically from non-police sources and is approximately 20 times the volume of all other police data combined. 

This has placed challenges on policing in terms of both capability and capacity. HMICFRS found that police forces are often unable to keep pace with the volume of digital evidence being collected, which has led to a considerable backlog. 

The proliferation of end-to-end encryption and use of the dark web are also adversely impacting the identification of offenders. The use of emerging technologies as counter detection measures creates new challenges around the means and methods by which data and evidence is captured, stored and used. 

Use of data and analysis 

Developing the policing response to VAWG must be based on a sound understanding of the threat landscape. To do this effectively there is a need for investment in local and national analytical and data capabilities. 

Data is an underused and underinvested asset for policing. Access to, and analysis of, non-policing data (such as that collected by health, local authorities and other partners) on VAWG will facilitate an improved collective understanding and response to VAWG. Investment in analytics and a single data and intelligence repository is crucial.

What are we working with?

While the National Digital Policing Strategy (NDPS) has set out guidelines that police forces should follow, there remains a gap between where they want to be and where they are now. It points to the adoption of public cloud as a means of:

  • Digitising core processes, increasing collaboration and driving operational efficiencies
  • Connecting distributed systems, data and users through technology
  • Leveraging data as a strategic priority
  • Accelerating innovation for the benefit of UK citizens

Options to digitise critical services are plentiful, but this can be a challenge where teams are overwhelmed and unsure of how to connect the innately sprawling nature of vendors, providers and more. This is particularly prevalent within legacy estates, where the growth of networks is quick and therefore may require new technologies to be hastily implemented.

Introducing the Digital Foundation

Blending the right processes, people and technologies together is key to achieving any digital ambition. And it is never too late to begin preparations.

The Government’s Cloud First initiative requires public sector organisations to utilise cloud services where possible. This means connecting legacy technologies and applications with cloud environments securely and without disruption to services or users. Forces need their IT infrastructure to be future-ready, providing a foundation for them to adapt and adopt seamlessly as technology evolves and collaboration with IT teams, forces, and other public sector bodies increases.

Having the right digital foundation in place early on gives a solid base to buy, use and consume technologies, capabilities and skills.

Perfecting collaboration

The volume of data is substantial for these services, and it needs to be able to move between other forces and agencies with ease.

Unfortunately, the UK faces challenges when it comes to county borders, and a lack of interoperability between organisations can often make it difficult for forces to work together and combat crime. This can be particularly impactive in VAWG offences that often involve other forces and agencies.

To reach this collaboration, teams will need the right support from the right supplier to facilitate a data-first approach. Data is central to any service progression and it should be treated as seriously as the likes of firearms training.

Safeguarding critical information

While this is all true, security must remain the principal component in this. Data handled by critical services is, of course, especially sensitive and must be treated so. Police forces are feeling the strain of having to demonstrate compliance with the existing regulations around security and assurance. As we continue to digitise services and processes, these regulations are expected to grow with them too.

Nonetheless, people deserve – and expect – for their data to be handled and protected unconditionally, meaning that justice and emergency services must have technology that is safe, reliable, and effective. Wherever forces or teams fall on the level of harnessing digital and data, this needs to remain at the forefront of all that is done.



Naomi Bolton

Naomi Bolton

Account Manager Blue Light Services, Cloud Gateway