Police response to domestic abuse in Notts, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire ‘not good enough’ says report

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Police forces in Derbyshire, Notts, and South Yorkshire have responded to a report which found responses to domestic abuse ‘is not good enough.’

The report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) follows inspected all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

It says that despite progress being made in this area over the last decade, not all police leaders are ensuring the domestic abuse is a priority in their forces and is often a poor relation to other policing activity.

The HMIC said it found ‘alarming and unacceptable weaknesses’ in some core policing activity, in particular the quality of the initial investigation undertaken by responding officers when they are called to the scene.

The report said that Notts Police’s approach to tackling domestic abuse is effective in some areas and is a high priority for the force, but there is important aspects of the service to victims that require further improvement.

Superintendent Helen Chamberlain, head of public protection, said: “Domestic abuse is a priority for Notts Police and we have a dedicated team who use their professional judgement in dealing with cases. No two are the same and we do not subscribe to a ‘one size fits all approach.’ This is something that we reinforced recently and we continue to work with officers on this approach.”

“We have developed strong links with other organisations to share information in an effort to protect high risk victims and we are already working on ways to better protect those at all risk levels. All of this work is done through the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) with close involvement from our partner agencies.

“The force has a high arrest rate in the county for dealing with offenders which reinforces our proactive approach to tackling domestic abuse. To support this, guidance is made available at all times to all officers in force.”

“We deal with a high volume of acceptance of abuse in our communities and often a genuine reluctance for victims to come forward. However, our focus is on victims having confidence in the force to feel able to come forward and get the support they need.”

“There is always room for improvement and we have been working hard to improve our response, how we treat victims and how we follow-up with repeat offenders. We have just completed a second training DVD which will be shown to every officer in force.”

“We will take HMIC’s recommendations on board and in some cases, work is already being done in the areas highlighted.”

The report said that there was some effective working by Derbyshire Police to tackle domestic abuse, but there are some inconsistent practices across the force and gaps in the service provided to some victims.

Detective Superintendent Andrew Stokes, head of public protection, said: “Over the past year the force has introduced a number of processes to improve the level of service given to victims and potential victims of domestic abuse. The identification of risk is a key element of our response to domestic violence and we use nationally recognised risk assessment tools to do this.

“The police service is only one element of the response to domestic abuse and we work closely with partner agencies to reduce the risk victims face. This is done through the application of professional judgement by police officers through to the MARACs that take place across Derbyshire.

“We’re disappointed that the report on our force did not completely reflect the immense amount of work that has been carried out to improve our response to this type of crime. However we welcome the recommendations around the development of some standardised training products and guidance for police forces.

“There is always room for improvement in dealing with this difficult crime and the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner are fully committed to tackling domestic abuse. This is strongly reflected in the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.”

Domestic abuse is a high priority for South Yorkshire Police said the report, but some victims, assessed at being at less risk, are not getting the quality of service which high risk victims are getting.

Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick said: “We accept and welcome the findings of the HMIC report and we have already developed and implemented an action plan to address areas where we could improve in protecting victims of domestic abuse.”

“Further extensive training has been provided for all officers and staff who come into contact with those affected by domestic abuse to ensure that victims in South Yorkshire receive the best possible service.”

“We’ve also made changes to where we deal with the domestic abuse referrals we receive. They are now dealt with at one central location by one team, rather than at different locations throughout the county, to ensure a consistent and unified approach.”

“The force continues to work closely with victims and partners to ensure we deliver an excellent service, and the report highlights that South Yorkshire Police responds well to high risk victims and a lot of attention is given by officers to the children involved, something which is crucially important.”

“The force works with a range of partners, including Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), to support victims. Protecting vulnerable people is our highest priority and we are committed to providing the best possible service, and support, to victims.”