Police failures 'leave victims of domestic violence at risk'

Police watchdog finds 'alarming and unacceptable' weaknesses in way police service deals with victims

Theresa May
(Image credit: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

A DAMNING report from the police watchdog has found "alarming and unacceptable" weaknesses in the way the service deals with domestic abuse.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report said many police forces were failing to protect people from domestic violence, with some victims left feeling that they were not taken seriously.

The inspectorate condemned the police service for treating domestic abuse as "a poor relation" and said some officers showed a "considerable lack of empathy" when handling cases.

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It concluded that only eight out of 43 forces in England and Wales respond well to domestic violence, meaning victims face a "postcode lottery" in the way their cases are handled.

There were 270,000 domestic violence-related crimes in England and Wales between 2012 and 2013, the report said, with 77 women killed by their partners or ex-partners over a 12-month period.

Inspectors said Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Gloucestershire forces were causing "serious concern", while Lancashire Constabulary was highlighted as having the best response to domestic abuse.

HMIC also identified "risky gaps" in provision of specialist domestic abuse units as a result of cutbacks, leaving some with "unsustained workloads" and a lack of specialist support and provision, reports The Guardian.

Home Secretary Theresa May described the report as "depressing reading" and is to take charge of the way chief constables act on its recommendations, by chairing an oversight group.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has said its members will carefully consider the report, but admitted that its challenge was "not an easy one".

Assistant chief constable Louisa Rolfe, national police lead on domestic abuse, said: "We grapple with a staggering level of acceptance of domestic abuse in our communities and a genuine reluctance from victims to come forward in the face of a very traditional justice system that doesn't recognise the complex and very personal impact on those individuals who do come forward."

She added that there were "many dedicated officers" working hard every day to make victims safer. "But we can and must get better still," she said.

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