Refuge response to police super-complaint
In response to the joint report from HMICFRS, CoP and IOPC, Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive said:
“Refuge welcomes the findings in the joint report from the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), published in response to the super complaint submitted by Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) on police use of protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls. Refuge is grateful to CWJ for submitting this super-complaint and their tireless work fighting for better justice outcomes for survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG.)
The report illustrates a systemic failure within the police to use their powers to protect women and girls who have reported domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG. This culture of misogyny must change and this report should serve as a wake-up call to the police, who are supposed to provide support. How can trust in the police be achieved when they continually fail women and girls who need them?
These findings show that police are routinely not aware of the measures they can use to protect women reporting these crimes of violence and abuse, that they find the processes for applying protective measures confusing or claim a lack of understanding in how to use them.
This demonstrates the clear and urgent need for improved gender and trauma-informed training for police officers to ensure they are putting the safety of women and girls first. As Refuge knows too well, police officers not taking the safety of survivors seriously and leaving them at risk of further harm from their perpetrators, leads to women feeling deeply let down by the criminal justice system and contributes to underreporting of these crimes and to women withdrawing their support for prosecutions. We know that only around a fifth of women experiencing domestic abuse report to the police and we need to ensure there are better outcomes for those that do, as well as improving women’s confidence in how they will be treated by the police when coming forward.
Every day Refuge supports women who have been left unsafe when the measures designed to protect them – whether these be non-molestation orders, restraining orders, domestic violence protection notices/orders and pre-charge bail conditions – are either not applied by the police at the point of reporting or are breached by perpetrators who face no real consequences from the police as a result.
Prosecutions in cases of domestic abuse have halved in just three years, and whilst we support many of the recommendations in the report which aim to ensure that the full range of protective orders available to the police is properly understood by officers, consistently applied across police forces and effectively communicated to the women and girls who are victims of these crimes, we do not believe the recommendations go far enough in addressing the lack of resourcing within the police that is needed to make a real difference on the ground.
The Domestic Abuse Act is bringing new protective measures into force, with a Domestic Abuse Protection Order pilot scheme due to launch in the coming months. It is paramount that these new measures are properly implemented by the police and fit for purpose to protect survivors. Refuge calls for robust assurances that police are going to be provided with proper training that ensures they have a deep and thorough knowledge of how to use these new and existing powers to protect women and girls.
The report also calls for increased data collection but doesn’t give enough detail on what purpose this will serve. Refuge urges improved data collection across police forces be consistent and provide valuable insight into the experience of women and girls who face barriers in reporting such as Black and minoritised women and other minoritised groups so that better outcomes can be achieved for all survivors of abuse.
Whilst new legislation and a stronger government focus on domestic abuse via the VAWG strategy and incoming Domestic Abuse strategy is welcome, we need to stop kicking this issue into the long grass and deferring the problem of responding to domestic abuse to a future date. Government policy and legislation is only effective if it is being put into practice and properly monitored, with real consequences for agencies that are falling short of expectations. This report shows the police response is falling wide of the mark and failing those it seeks to protect.”
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Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and 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 www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.