Our ability to deal with domestic abuse has once again been brought into question.
Over the 25 years I’ve been a journalist, we’ve improved our response to this plague in our society. When I first started it was very common to hear police officers and court officials talk about ‘just another domestic’.
Domestic violence is thought to be behind almost a quarter of all violent crime. However, it’s disheartening to hear that Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) has concluded that our police forces are still not dealing with this issue effectively. A report was published earlier this month and said there was ‘alarming and unacceptable weaknesses’ in policing this crime.
In my experience Wiltshire Police has been one of the better forces in dealing with domestic violence. It’s often been something of a pioneer in terms of national policy.
It piloted Clare’s Law – where interested parties can find out if someone has a history of convictions for domestic violence. It was also at the forefront of Domestic Violence Protection Orders which provide for a violent person to be removed from an inflammatory situation immediately.
Even our police force has come in for some serious scrutiny. The report said: “Although HMIC found effective work being done, there are several areas of improvement which the police need to address before they can have confidence that they are providing a consistently good service to victims.”
It said that while officers understood the effects and risks around physical violence, they were not as fully trained in understanding coercive or controlling behaviour.
It also said that control room operators do not always “succeed in identifying if a caller is a repeat victim”. About four per cent of all calls to Wiltshire Police in the period up to August 2013 were domestic violence related. This makes up eight per cent of recorded crime. For every 100 domestic abuse crimes reported in Wiltshire, there were 82 arrests. Other forces’ figures vary between 45 and 90.
Of the 2,720 domestic abuse crimes reported in the year up to August 2013, 20 per cent resulted in a charge, 17 per cent resulted in a caution and one per cent in an out-of-court disposal such as a fixed penalty notice. What about the remaining 62 per cent? The answer to that is – no further action was taken.
In a statement, Wiltshire Police said: “Despite positive work around domestic abuse, we recognise that there are still ways we can improve.”
Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I will be discussing the report with the Chief Constable and with the local HMIC next month.”
n To see the report in full visit http://bit.ly/P10Dbz