SafeLives welcomes progress report on the police response to domestic abuse

14th November 2017

SafeLives welcomes the publication of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's progress report on the police response to domestic abuse. The report clearly shows that progress has been made, but there is still much to do.  

We are pleased that the report recommends further commitment and investment in training to improve awareness and understanding of domestic abuse. Since the publication of the HMIC report Everyone’s business in 2014, we have been working with the College of Policing to develop and deliver Domestic Abuse Matters – a change programme for police forces, which changes attitudes and enhances understanding of the dynamics of abuse and the tactics of perpetrators. To date, we have trained 5.3% of all police officers in 14 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, the area covered by this report. The roll out of this programme needs to continue.  

SafeLives Chief Executive Diana Barran said: 

“The police play a critical role in the response to domestic abuse – protecting victims and children and helping to manage the risk that perpetrators pose. We are pleased this new report clearly highlights the importance of continued cultural change in policing. We know that four out of five victims of domestic abuse do not call the police. Often they are concerned about the response they will receive, and worried that the police won’t see the full picture of abuse, beyond what is presented to them. By investing in training, we can develop a common understanding of domestic abuse and the many different forms it can take. Only by doing this can we ensure that victims are given the right support, at the right time, to make them safe, and help them rebuild their lives.” 

The report highlights other gaps in the police response to domestic abuse. In particular, we are extremely concerned about the suppression of demand. Reports of downgrading the severity of calls and the assessment of risk, puts lives at risk. We know that 85% of victims of domestic abuse seek help five times on average before they get effective support, and on average people live with domestic abuse for three years. This leaves those who are already vulnerable at increased risk of serious harm and murder. Unstinting leadership is required to ensure that domestic abuse remains a priority and is resourced appropriately. This also relates to the response to perpetrators, not just at the time of a 999 call but also in relation to breaches of bail, restraining orders and injunctions. The Government will soon bring forward a new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill; we hope that in the meantime, the police will use their existing powers to address perpetrator behaviour creatively and robustly.

Reports of poor data management with regards to domestic abuse point to a persistent problem in the police. Without good quality data management, the police don't know the true scale of the problem they're responding to. They also can't properly understand the effectiveness of their response in supporting victims and holding perpetrators to account for breaking the law and harming those around them.  

It is encouraging to see an improvement in partnership working. This needs to continue. HMIC has repeated its concerns that the police and children's services need to resolve the issue of referring cases to each other in greater numbers but collaborating less. Unless this becomes meaningful joint working, neither agency will build the whole picture of how a family is being affected by domestic abuse and respond to the many risks this creates.   

The data for this report was collated in June 2016. We hope that since that point, police forces will already have taken on board the recommendations, and HMIC’s next report in March 2018 will show further improvement. Police forces must continue to invest in training that not only improves policies but also creates a culture change, which motivates all officers to offer effective support for victims of domestic abuse, and hold perpetrators to account.  

Read the HMIC progress report on the police response to domestic abuse

Notes to editors

About the HMIC report

This report is the third in a series of thematic reports from the HMIC to consider the response provided to victims of domestic abuse by the police service.

Since the publication of the HMIC’s first thematic report on domestic abuse Everyone’s business: improving the police response to domestic abuse in 2014, there have been considerable improvements in the overall police response to domestic abuse. This report identifies further improvements to ensure victims of domestic abuse are better protected and supported.

The report picks up some common themes to those mentioned in the Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) report into children living with domestic abuse, published on 19th September 2017. For our response to that report, see the SafeLives website.

About SafeLives

We are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives.

Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually.

No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop,

Every year, two million people experience domestic abuse. For every person being abused, there is someone else responsible for that abuse: the perpetrator. And all too often, children are in the home and living with the impact.

Domestic abuse affects us all; it thrives on being hidden behind closed doors. We must make it everybody’s business.

For interviews or more information, please contact Natalie Mantle, Senior Communications Officer at SafeLives, on
0117 403 3220 or by emailing natalie.mantle@safelives.org.uk