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Victims of domestic abuse supported in "innovative new ways" during pandemic

23 Jun 2021

The independent inspectorate of policing has praised forces for how they "responded proactively" and "made good use of technology and innovated" to support victims of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) credited the Service’s effective response to "the most challenging of situations" and applauded forces for the "rapid, innovative steps they took in difficult circumstances."  

HMI Zoe Billingham said police had shown they are "dedicated to protecting victims of domestic abuse” and added “the police responded proactively by communicating with known victims, reaching in to those locked down, rather than waiting for them to reach out. We saw brilliant examples of forces up and down the country using innovative new ways to keep victims safe during the pandemic."

Though the report did also highlight areas where police can still improve the service provided to victims. A full review of the recommendations set out by HMICFRS will take place. 

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Domestic Abuse, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe said:

“Supporting victims of this cruel crime and bringing offenders to justice has remained a priority for police throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and this report recognises how forces have stepped up their response to domestic abuse and have been innovative during these challenging times.

“Domestic abuse is not something that only the police can put an end to and we’re grateful for all the collaborative working happening across the entire sector. Forces have been working hard with a range of partners and organisations across the country to support and safeguard victims.

“However, as this reports highlights, police must continue to support victims when restrictions are fully lifted and while issues of court backlogs are addressed by our partners in the criminal justice system.

“We also accept that there is still work to be done to improve the experience and service victims receive when they report abuse. Domestic abuse cases are some of the most complex crimes that police deal with, and we’ve worked hard to increase victims’ confidence to report. I want to reassure victims of domestic abuse who come forward that they will be listened to, treated with respect and compassion and a thorough investigation will be launched.

“We know that many people may feel scared or frightened about reporting their abusive partner and even when they do come forward can feel forced into withdrawing their allegation. We will work with victims and respect their wishes but their safety is our priority and in these cases, where possible, we will look to use body worn video and officer’s statements to bring an abuser to justice.”

“Though policing alone cannot solve domestic abuse. We must work with others in education, probation, health, social care and housing to ensure support is joined up and intervention is effective.

“The police response to domestic abuse has improved over recent years and that is reflected in our greater recording standards, enhanced training for officers and better risk assessment. That said, we are constantly learning and developing, and will carefully consider the inspectorate’s findings and recommendations as we continue to get better.”

Domestic abuse cases are some of the most complex crimes that police deal with, but we accept that there is still work to be done to improve the experience and service victims receive when they report abuse.

We are looking at what more police can do on top of action already underway to improve our response to domestic abuse, and to build strong cases to maximise victims’ opportunities to have their cases heard in court.

Too few victims are seeing their cases go to court. We are already doing a number of things to rectify that:

  • We have implemented a Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework with the CPS, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service that aims to drive up prosecutions.
  • We are increasing the use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, obtaining more Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) at court and strengthening the vital multi-agency collaboration to tackle offenders’ behaviour and improve the safety of victims.

The full report is available on the HMICFRS website