News | Press Release

14 March 2024

Refuge responds to NPCC VAWG strategy and Crimestoppers police misconduct helpline

Responding to new measures announced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to tackle police perpetrated abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG) crimes, Policy Officer at Refuge, Amy Bowdrey said:

“Yesterday the NPCC updated their VAWG national framework, vowing to tackle crimes against women with the seriousness that they do terrorism, this is a message we’ve heard for three years now. Whilst we welcome police initiatives to take VAWG seriously and will work with them to prioritise this, updated frameworks and recycled reports mean nothing if they are not paired with action and accountability of police forces to deliver effective, local VAWG action plans and improve the response to domestic abuse.

The NPCC VAWG framework illustrated the importance of this work, showing that domestic abuse accounts for 17% of all crime, and over a quarter of children under eighteen live in a household where an adult has experienced domestic abuse. NPCC also separately this week released statistics showing the prevalence of domestic homicide and women who die by suicide after experiencing domestic abuse. This is the reality of the scale of the problem, and it is underreported because for some women going to the police for support does not feel like an option. There is a very real fear that the person meant to be protecting them may themselves be a perpetrator of abuse.

We know issues within policing have always extended beyond The Met and so welcome the decision to roll out a Crimestoppers Helpline on police perpetrators nationally. This reflects the reality of widespread police perpetrated abuse across the UK. Survivors should never have been put in a position where they fear they are dealing with a perpetrator when reporting a VAWG crime.

Of the nearly 3,000 contacts to the anti-corruption hotline, we know that 700 investigations into police misconduct have been launched into The Metropolitan Police Force. Yet, we remain in the dark on what the outcomes for these investigations will be for perpetrators. We are further concerned that it remains up to the discretion of each force whether police officers are allowed to continue serving whilst under investigation for VAWG crimes. In essence this amounts to a postcode lottery for whether women can trust their police force when reporting a VAWG crime.

Rebuilding women’s confidence in the police as an institution that will serve and protect them, begins with listening to women. In a poll conducted by Refuge, more than half of women (59%) said that immediate suspension of officers accused of VAWG would increase their trust in the police. Our message to the police is clear: suspend officers and staff in policing accused of any form of violence against women and girls pending quick and thorough investigation. We also demand that the time between the initial police vetting, and re-vetting period is reduced from 10 years to 5 years or less. The police’s failure to implement these measures, is symptomatic of the very misogynistic culture, we have repeatedly urged them to address.

We have all witnessed the devastating consequences of the systemic failure by the police to take women’s concerns seriously. To prevent future Wayne Couzens and David Carrick’s from rising through their ranks, the police must listen to women and radically reform policing.”