A POLICE force branded 'failing' and put in special measures has welcomed a new report highlighting the progress it is making – but there is still work to do.

Cleveland Police received the worst verdict in an inspection of any force in history in 2019 when an independent watchdog rated it as 'inadequate' in every area it inspected.

Now the force believes it has turned the corner and expects to continue making progress as it works to rebuild its reputation.

Vulnerable people, including children and domestic abuse victims, were being routinely let down by the force, the highly critical report concluded.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) carried out a further inspection and found the force has made 'notable improvements'.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis praised the efforts of frontline officers and staff for their dedicated work in transforming the reputation of the force.

The Northern Echo: Chief Constable Richard LewisChief Constable Richard Lewis

He said: "We are delighted with the progress we have made when confronted with this global pandemic, lots of forces are struggling to standstill while we have managed to move forward with notable improvement in a number of areas.

"It isn't a day for celebration, these were improvements required on the back of a poor HMICFRS report. This is a day to note the improvements we have made and understand there are other areas we need to focus on and go again."

The watchdog's latest inspection highlighted how it has prioritised the way it supports victims of domestic abuse, taking positive action at the scene to arrest offenders and applying for orders to protect the most vulnerable victims.

Mr Lewis said: "My job as chief is to decide what areas we focus on and the main area for us was domestic abuse, the improvements we have seen there are notable.

"When we see arrest rates, we have gone from one of the lowest in the country to one of the highest in 18 months."

The inspectors noted some areas that still required improvement, including how it investigates cases involving missing children, domestic abuse against a child, child abuse and child exploitation.

They also called for the force to make sure children are not held in custody overnight unnecessarily because of delays in finding suitable representation.

Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “I am pleased that the force is starting to show progress in tackling these issues, and it has made significant improvements in some areas.

“However, there has been limited improvement in other areas – particularly in how the force protects children, and how it records violent crimes such as domestic abuse. The force still has work to do to respond to the areas of concern we have identified in the past."

The Northern Echo: Lisa OldroydLisa Oldroyd

Acting Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Lisa Oldroyd said: “There has been notable progress in some areas, namely within the Force control room, in responding to domestic abuse and in how the Force records crime. That said, there is still more to do – particularly within in the area of protecting vulnerable children."