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Service provided to domestic violence victims improving, says HMIC

Report notes 31% increase in domestic-abuse related recorded crime

In March 2014, HMIC published a report, 'Everyone's business', which found significant weaknesses in the service provided to victims of domestic abuse by the police. Between June and August 2015, as part of its PEEL: Effectiveness inspection programme, HMIC therefore visited every police force in England and Wales to assess the progress they had made in responding to and protecting victims of domestic abuse.

The findings from this inspection (published in the national thematic report, 'Increasingly everyone's business') show that the police service has acted on the messages of Everyone's business, and now sees tackling domestic abuse as an important priority.

More importantly, says the HMIC, this is resulting in better support for and protection of victims. In particular, HMIC found improvements in the identification and assessment of the risks faced by victims of domestic abuse; better supervision of police officers' initial response at the scene; and a rise in the standard of subsequent investigations. Organisations that work with the police, as well as domestic abuse professionals, recognise the progress that the police have made, especially around safeguarding victims and their children.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, said:

"When we first inspected the police response to domestic abuse, we found most forces demonstrated a startling lack of awareness of domestic abuse and inconsistent or poor practice. Our report in 2014 was intended to be a wake-up call, and I am pleased to say that the police service now offers a better service to victims of domestic abuse.

"There has been a determined effort by police leaders to make domestic abuse a priority and the attitudes and understanding of frontline police officers are improving. Police officers and staff increasingly see domestic abuse as their business, not someone else's, and are acting in a supportive and sympathetic way when responding to victims.

"We know that the scale of change needed on domestic abuse will take time to bring about in full, and that there is still much more to be done. We're particularly concerned that the workload in many specialist investigation units is becoming overwhelming, which is slowing and hindering some investigations. Forces should also do more to understand the nature and scale of domestic abuse in their area, and ensure that there is effective and consistent operational practice everywhere.

"But this does not diminish the value of the often excellent work being completed by a large number of police leaders, police officers and staff supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

"HMIC remains committed to inspecting forces' progress in tackling domestic abuse during 2016 and beyond."

HMIC noted that domestic abuse accounts for 10% of all recorded crime. Moreover, since the publication of Everyone's business, there has been a 31% increase in domestic-abuse related recorded crime. This is, in part, due to forces getting better at identifying and recording domestic abuse, and also may show victims are now more confident in coming forward.

However, HMIC found there are still a number of areas for improvement in the way the police respond to, support and protect domestic abuse victims. In particular, forces need to:

As part of its report, HMIC has made a series of recommendations to ensure that the momentum for change demonstrated so far continues at pace.

The report is here.