Back in September 2013, the Home Office commissioned HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for England and Wales to look at the way our Police Services deal with domestic violence.
The report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has looked at how all 43 forces in England and Wales responded to domestic violence understandably does not make pleasant reading and contains some grim statistics.
It is time, I think to finally seperate the word ‘domestic’ from what is simply violence and to change the way offenders are dealt with. Serious consideration needs to be given to removing the reliance on initiating prosecution for the repeat offences from the victim to the Police Service, some preliminary work in this direction was done in Lambeth, by the Metropolitan Police Service in the 1990’s, but more work clearly needs to be done.
While reform of the law in relation to domestic violence is long overdue, there has been some progress but we are continually confronted by grim statistics in relation to domestic violence. The HMIC report has criticised some aspects of the way both Gwent Police deals with domestic violence and the victims of domestic violence. HMIC has accused Police forces of unacceptable weaknesses in relation to dealing with incidence of domestic violence and this despite domestic abuse being linked to 8% of crimes and police chiefs stating that abuse was a priority.
The HMIC investigation revealed that of some 600 domestic assault files, half did not include pictures of injuries - a standard piece of evidence for a prosecution. Police, the HMIC report noted, receive more than one million calls a year relating to domestic abuse and almost 58,000 victims - the vast majority of them women - were at risk of serious harm or murder.
The report stated that three women a fortnight were being killed by a partner or former partner and a third of all assaults recorded by the police related to domestic violence. In an exceptionally critical report, HMIC have said that chief police officers need to recognise that domestic abuse constitutes a major problem that demanded comparable resources and focus to those devoted to tackling other high volume crimes such as burglary. The report noted that only eight out of 43 forces were responding well to domestic abuse.
HMIC noted that it had significant concerns about how Gwent Police responded to some victims of domestic violence, it noted where there had been improvements and made specific recommendations for improvement for Gwent Police. Historically our Police Services had a poor record when it came to dealing with domestic violence, with offences of violence in a domestic context being effectively written off. At the end of the day violence against a person, is violence against a person, the setting (‘domestic’ or otherwise) is irrelevant, it is an offence.