Nottinghamshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Cutland has welcomed a Bill introduced today (Wednesday) designed to strengthen the law around domestic abuse but warned the reality of the problem is still largely hidden.
Deputy Commissioner Cutland said there is a contradiction between the Bill, which encourages the use of the law to deal with perpetrators and support victims, and the pressures on the police to reduce the number of recorded crimes. She added that forces also needed to sharpen their response to apprehend perpetrators under the new Domestic Violence Protection Orders.
Welcoming the increased attention on domestic abuse issues, Ms Cutland said that the Bill represents a further leap forward for all those working hard to support survivors. However, she emphasised that police forces needed to embrace the problem in its entirety to provide long-term recovery.
The new Bill aims to make domestic violence and coercive control an offence in its own right. The Bill is modelled on legislation introduced in the US which has led to a sharp increase in convictions and reporting of domestic abuse and allows sentences to reflect for the first time whether domestic abuse has been part of a pattern of behaviour. It comes after the recent introduction of stalking laws in England and Wales and places statutory responsibilities on police forces to develop and implement domestic violence policies to encourage the arrest and the charge of a perpetrator.
Reacting to today’s announcement, Deputy Commissioner Cutland said: “I really welcome these new laws which will increase the protection the police can offer vulnerable people, particularly women, who find themselves in an abusive relationship. Reports of domestic violence are increasing which is a good thing because it means more people feel confident that police will respond sympathetically and effectively to their problem. However, we cannot ignore the rather unhealthier picture which reveals only 6.5% of domestic abuse cases reported to police end up in a conviction and even more worryingly that only 25% of cases are ever reported in the first place.
“Domestic abuse encompasses all manner of controlling behaviour from systematic disparagement and financial oppression through to forced isolation from family and friends and persistent threats – and it isn’t always physical. Whether such controlling, aggressive conduct is physical or mental, it constitutes intimate terrorism and should be categorised appropriately to give the public and partner agencies responsible for tackling this crime a truer picture of what they’re dealing with.
“Domestic abuse can happen in every household and in every relationship, not just those trapped in poverty, as recent high profile cases have shown. Where forces recognise there is a problem, they need to invest energy into supporting victims and protecting them better through swift action towards the perpetrator. Domestic abuse is rarely a one-off, it’s usually systematic abuse characterised by a catalogue of incidents and should be treated in the same way as other acts of gratuitous violence.”
Home Office figures show 7% of women reported having experienced domestic abuse last year, which is the equivalent to 1.2m women per year. Two out of three incidents were experienced by repeat victims. The Home Office also revealed that two women are killed by a partner, ex-partner or lover per week.
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Posted on Wednesday 26th February 2014