In recent years, the charity ‘Refuge’ has been calling for an inquiry in to police responses surrounding domestic violence and abuse. Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by their current or former partner, and cases such as Maria Stubbings, Sabina Akhtar, and Julia and Will Pemberton, have shown that clear police failings have contributed towards their deaths.
In September 2013, the Home Secretary commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to conduct a national review of the police response to domestic violence and abuse. Today, the HMIC have released the findings of their report in to police responses in Wales.
Each of the four police areas of Wales were independently assessed and each were found to be committed to providing the best response, and making domestic abuse a priority. However, it was found that improvements were still needed within each area.
In South Wales, it was found that for every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded, there were 96 arrests made. For most forces this number is between 45 and 90. Also in South Wales, it was observed that the force had good systems in place to identify domestic abuse incidents and provide adequate support, as well as an understanding among officers about their role in safeguarding victims of domestic violence and taking positive action to minimise the risk. However, there were concerns that the increasing workload of specialised staff, and complex partnerships between local authorities in the police area which might create challenges to provide a consistent service to domestic abuse victims.
Dyfed-Powys police were also found to be committed to identifying victims of abuse, and tackling domestic abuse was a priority for staff at all levels of the organisation. For every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded in Dyfed-Powys, 85 arrests were made. Within the area it was said that further development could improve the consistency of support for domestic abuse victims.
In Gwent, the report found that domestic abuse was a priority, but a lack of systems and processes impacted on the force’s ability to minimise risk to victims. HMIC found inconsistencies regarding how the force responded to domestic abuse victims and the implementation of risk management. For every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded in Gwent, 60 arrests were made.
Also, in North Wales, all staff were found to be committed to making domestic abuse a priority, however, it was observed that some victims might not be getting the responses or quality of service they need, and their procedures were insufficient to consistently identify repeat or vulnerable victims. For every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded in North Wales, 62 arrests were made.
On a national level, the report shows that police responses to domestic abuse is not good enough and must be improved. Domestic violence and abuse must be a priority for all police forces, and a commitment must be made to continually strive to improve services and procedures.
Calan DVS’s CEO Rhian Bowen-Davies was invited to discuss her response to the report on the Post Cyntaf programme, BBC Radio Cymru, and her thoughts about what can be done to move forward. She says, “We welcome the report and its findings, which acknowledges the progress that has been made by Police Services, as well as the areas for improvement that have been identified. However, there is still progress to be made in terms of training for frontline staff, so that individuals experiencing domestic abuse can be confident that they will receive a consistent response which places their safety as priority wherever they are in Wales.”
The full report is available at the HMIC website here.