With the subject of domestic violence reaching greater parliamentary attention over recent years, the Domestic Abuse Bill receiving Royal Assent this year, and the rise in cases of domestic violence heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic & lockdown rules, one would think now was the time for the police to pull up their socks and deliver proper law enforcement to ensure protection of victims and accountability on behalf of the perpetrators. Contrary to that, recent reports have highlighted systematic failures on behalf of the police to protect victims of domestic violence.
Before we get into the depth of the topic, let’s go back to defining domestic violence to ensure we fully understand its broadness and gravity. According to statute, domestic violence constitutes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass the following types of abuse:
We all know that the issue of domestic violence has affected families for a long time, but why has it suddenly come into sharper focus? The requirement to stay at home intensified already challenging family situations for some, resulting in increased cases of domestic violence, placing already vulnerable victims at greater risk of harm.
With a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, domestic abuse has been described as an ‘epidemic within the pandemic.’ It has been estimated that during the first three weeks of UK lockdown, there had been sixteen domestic abuse killings of women and children, the highest for at least 11 years.
In light of these worsening circumstances, it is important to consider the role of the criminal justice system, and whether they are acting to achieve justice on behalf of these victims. The police, often being the first port of call for victims of domestic abuse, ought to play a pivotal role and set the bar on protecting vulnerable women. But is this really happening?
On the contrary, the police force seem to be doing more to enable abusers and even less to protect victims. Numerous alarming reports have been made of the police consistently failing to impose restraining orders or bail conditions on men accused of rape, domestic abuse, harassment, and stalking, placing women and girls at harm’s way.
Rather than doing their actual job and seeing to it that victims of domestic violence receive appropriate remedies or protection measures, police forces are abstaining from making use of protection measures. For example, Domestic Violence Protection Orders are obtained in just
The concerns about police dealing with cases of domestic violence are widespread. A super-complaint is submitted when a feature, or combination of features, of policing in England and Wales by one or more than one police force is, or appears to be, harming the interests of the public and allows designated organisations to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing. Such a complaint, filed against the police by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) in 2019. The super-complaint detailed concerns of the police failing to use protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls. A further investigation by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the College of Policing solidified these concerns as their results found a lack of understanding within police forces about how and when to use protective measures, which ultimately leads to more women being harmed and
Domestic abuse has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the figures show that domestic abuse prosecutions have decreased by 50% from 18% of reported cases in 2017 to just 9% in 2020. But why is that? The real reason can only be an unchanging failure to adequately deal with cases of domestic abuse not just on behalf of the police, but a wider issue within the criminal justice system. There is concrete evidence of the police failing to protect women, so the question is, what is going to been done about it?
I suggest that instead of writing endless consultations and bills which take years to come into force and are hardly ever read, the Government use their time and resources wisely to ensure that those on the frontline (the police) are adequately trained in dealing with cases of domestic violence and are empowered to actually make use of protection measures to ensure the safeguarding of women and young girls across the UK.