Press Release

23 June 2021

Refuge responds to HMICFRS inspection into policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Refuge responds to HMICFRS inspection into policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

In response to the publication of the inspection findings, Lisa King, OBE, Refuge director of communications and external affairs said:

‘Refuge has serious concerns about some of the findings from today’s HMICFRS inspection into the policing of domestic abuse, particularly how they relate to the wider criminal justice response to domestic abuse.

Despite a 15% increase in arrests between April and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, the charging rate has dropped – from 23.2% in 2016 to a shocking 9% in 2020. Considering only 1 in 5 survivors ever report to the police, the reality is that a vanishingly small number of survivors of domestic abuse will ever see their perpetrator charged, let alone convicted. As the inspectorate themselves have said “the exceptionally low volume of domestic abuse cases resulting in a charge remains unacceptable”. Refuge agrees and demands better for women and their children.

These statistics are against the backdrop of a sharp rise in the number of calls and contacts logged by Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the pandemic. Our Helpline, which acts as a gateway to specialist services across the country, saw calls and contacts rise by an average of 61% compared to pre-pandemic. While specialist services remain overwhelmed with demand, in stark contrast, the number of domestic abuse calls to many police forces decreased in the first part of 2020, before returning to normal levels.

This doesn’t add up – and does show yet again the lack of confidence women experiencing domestic abuse have in a criminal justice system which is riddled with institutionalised misogyny and repeatedly fails women.

One element the inspection has laid bare is the ‘unacceptably high use of outcome 16’ where a staggering 54.8% of domestic abuse cases were discontinued because women did not support police action. Refuge knows first-hand the huge range of reasons why women withdraw support – fear of repercussions from their perpetrator, trauma, and the widespread distrust of the police and wider criminal justice system. This is why Refuge has long-supported evidence-led prosecutions and welcomes the inspectorate’s recommendation that the police urgently review the use of this outcome. We also support the recommendation that the police review their use of outcome 15, which cites ‘evidential difficulties’ as the reason for dropping cases. The police must be better trained in evidence gathering in domestic abuse cases.

When it comes to the police response to migrant women – these problems are compounded yet more. Refuge is concerned that migrant women experience even more barriers to reporting for fear their information will be shared with immigration officials. This practice must stop and a firewall urgently introduced between the police and immigration enforcement if women are to feel safe enough to report.

Year after year, inspection after inspection, we see police reports which show abject failure to women and children who experience domestic abuse. What sort of a message does this send to women who need support? The police are failing in their duty to protect women and children who experience domestic abuse – an overhaul of the police response is much overdue. With two women being killed every week in England and Wales women’s lives depend on changes being made swiftly.’


About Refuge:

Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.