Domestic Violence – Everyone’s Business
A response from the Kurdish & Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation
The Kurdish & Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO) would like to express its appreciation for the report on domestic violence (Everyone’s Business), prepared by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary HMIC). This is a very long and comprehensive report which will obviously take some time to read and digest. However, what is clear from an initial skim is confirmation that, generally speaking, the police have for many years systematically failed the victims of domestic violence.
The report brings into focus what victims and those dealing with the problem of domestic abuse have been stressing for years. It states that seventy seven women were killed by their partners or ex-partners in 2012/2013 and that one in four young people, age 10 to 24, reported that they had experienced domestic violence during their childhood. On average the police receive emergency calls, relating to domestic abuse every thirty seconds and that in some areas domestic violence represents eight percent of all recorded crimes. Apart from these tragic human the report estimated the economic cost to the Country at about £15.7 million each year.
The conclusion of the report is both succinct and uncompromising; “the overall police response to victims of domestic abuse is not good enough” and that “unacceptable failings in core policing activities, investigating crime, preventing crime, bringing offenders to justice and keeping victims safe are the principal reasons for this”. The report made eleven positive recommendations, which if implemented should go some way towards addressing the problem. These are detailed below with the following introduction;
“There are fundamental weaknesses in the service provided to victims of domestic abuse by the police service and this must improve radically and rapidly. This report must act as a catalyst for forces to make the necessary and essential improvements. Victims have waited too long in this respect”.
There should be a renewed national effort to tackle domestic abuse. The Home Office, working with the College of Policing, chief constables and police and crime commissioners, needs to inject urgency and energy into solving the material problems identified in this report.
A national oversight and monitoring group should be established and convened immediately to monitor and report on the progress made in implementing these recommendations. This group should have a wide membership (including non-government domestic abuse organisations), be chaired at a senior level, and be able to influence government departments and other national and local bodies where multi-agency issues are raised about domestic abuse.
The group should report publicly on progress every quarter. There should be a full review of the police service’s progress in relation to all recommendations in 12 months’ time.
By September 2014, every police force in England and Wales should establish and publish an action plan that specifies in detail what steps it will take to improve its approach to domestic abuse. This action plan should be developed:
- In consultation with police and crime commissioners, domestic abuse support organisations and victims’ representatives;
- After close consideration of all the recommendations in this report;
- With reference to all relevant domestic homicide reviews and IPCC findings, whether in connection with the force in question or another force; and
- Drawing on relevant knowledge acquired or available from other sources such as CPS scrutiny panels and MARAC self-assessments
The action plan should be established on the basis of best practice, based on revised relevant guidance from the College of Policing. To ensure consistency, the College and the national policing lead on domestic abuse have agreed to provide advice on the areas that each plan should cover by the end of April 2014.
Chief Officers in each police force should oversee and ensure full implementation of these action plans. This should be a personal responsibility in each case. Police and crime commissioners should hold forces to account in this respect. HMIC will inspect forces’ progress on domestic abuse as part of its new annual all-force inspection programme. Police and crime commissioners and chief constables should be called upon to report publicly on progress, as well as to the national oversight and monitoring group.
To inform the action plan specified in Recommendation 2, chief constables should review how they, and their senior officers, give full effect to their forces’ stated priority on domestic abuse. This should consider how action to tackle domestic abuse is prioritised and valued, and how staff is given the appropriate level of professional and conspicuous support and encouragement. This should be done through a clear and specific assessment of the following issues in respect of domestic abuse:
- The force’s culture and values;
- The force’s performance management framework;
- The reward and recognition policy in the force and the roles and behaviours that this rewards currently;
- The selection and promotion processes in the force;
- The messages and communications sent by the senior leadership team to the rest of the force about tackling domestic abuse;
- The development opportunities for officers and staff in the force; and
- Force policy on how perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse in the force are managed.
Where the review identifies shortcomings, the chief constable should ensure the implementation of prompt, adequate and effective remedial action. Those remedial steps should be incorporated into the action plan specified in Recommendation 2. HMIC should be provided with a copy of each review and the action plan.
Data collected on domestic abuse needs to be consistent, comparable, accessible and accurate so that it can be used to monitor progress. This requires the Home Office to develop national data standards in relation to domestic abuse data. The data should be collected by police forces and provided to the Home Office, for example as part of the annual data return. These should include data standards for both crimes and incidents, and clear and unambiguous definitions of important terms such as ‘repeat victim’, to ensure like-for-like comparisons can be made.
In addition, the views of victims are an essential element in monitoring police effectiveness. The Home Office should ensure that the views of victims of domestic abuse are incorporated routinely and consistently into national monitoring arrangements.
The new national arrangements for collecting data and capturing the views of victims should be in place by the start of the 2015/16 financial year.
The College of Policing is updating authorised professional practice for officers on domestic abuse alongside other areas such as investigation and public protection. This update should be informed by the conclusions of and recommendations in this report, together with existing reviews of domestic abuse best practice, and should be developed with contributions from a wide set of interested parties.
The authorised professional practice update should reiterate and clearly set out principles and minimum standards in the following areas:
- Approaches to identifying repeat and vulnerable victims;
- Information that responding officers must have available to them on or before arrival;
- Victim care and safety planning;
- Evidence-gathering to support domestic abuse investigations (in the context of professional police investigation) and evidence-led prosecutions;
- Positive action and arrest in cases of domestic abuse;
- Risk assessment;
- Standards of supervision;
- Effective targeting of domestic abuse perpetrators, including the use of covert tactics and the definition of serial and/or persistent perpetrators;
- Use of different criminal justice disposals, in particular simple cautions and restorative justice; and
- The principal components of multi-agency arrangements (such as the MARAC and MASH) to tackle domestic abuse.
The College of Policing is reviewing the evidence base for risk assessment in cases of domestic abuse. The College should urgently consider the current approach to risk assessment with others, such as practitioners in forces, academic experts and organisations supporting practitioners and victims. It should make an assessment of the sufficiency of the tools that frontline officers are given to assess risk, and of the training they receive in connection with risk assessment. This approach should:
- In the immediate term, examine whether the approach to identifying the risk of domestic abuse can be made more efficient and assess how forces can be assisted to improve awareness and training to ensure that risk assessments link directly to risk management and safety planning actions; and
- In the medium term, establish a ‘task and finish group’ (a specific action-orientated group with a set deadline) to consider, over the next six months, the evidence base that underpins identification of risk and determine whether more fundamental changes are needed to the current approach.
The College of Policing should conduct a thorough and fundamental review of the sufficiency and effect of training and development on forces’ response to domestic abuse. Training for officers and staff should reflect the fact that tackling domestic abuse is core policing business; all relevant officers and staff should be trained to understand the dynamics of different types of domestic abuse, particularly coercive control. Domestic abuse training should link to:
- Other relevant areas of training and development, for example investigative practice, working with vulnerable people, and developing communication skills, including a specific focus on empathy with victims;
- The College of Policing’s revised guidance and professional practice, and the developing evidence based on effective ways to tackle domestic abuse.
The College of Policing should include successful attainment of professional standards in domestic abuse in the foundation skills threshold and specialist skills threshold tests which police officers have to pass to progress up their pay scales, so as to ensure that a sound professional understanding of domestic abuse becomes part of officers’ continuing professional development and is embedded throughout the careers of all serving officers.
Police forces should ensure that their approach to domestic abuse training is evidence-based. Training should tackle the specific problems of lack of knowledge and poor attitudes to domestic abuse which exist in forces. It should be face-to-face training rather than provided through e-learning.
Forces need support in how they target and manage perpetrators of domestic abuse. The College of Policing, through the national policing lead for domestic abuse, should disseminate to forces examples of how forces are targeting serial and repeat domestic abuse perpetrators in order to prevent future offending. The College’s What Works Centre for Crime Reduction should provide to forces evidence about how effective programmes of managing perpetrators achieve reductions in domestic abuse. They should work with departments such as the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, academic institutions and organisations working with perpetrators to build a strong evidence base in this area.
The Home Office should reconsider its approach to domestic homicide reviews. It needs to re-assess whether the current process, guidance and quality assurance arrangements provide the best opportunities for the improvement of forces’ knowledge of and approach to domestic abuse cases. It should consider whether there is a better way of communicating the contents and conclusions of reviews and the lessons learned. Police and crime commissioners should track how and when recommendations from domestic homicide reviews are implemented.
Police and crime commissioners should consider the findings and recommendations of this report when commissioning services for victims of domestic abuse. In particular, they should take note of the strong value placed on the role of independent domestic violence advisers by the victims, police and other criminal justice agencies.
Tackling domestic abuse requires a number of organisations in both the statutory services (including health, local authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service and probation) and voluntary and community services to work together. Following HMIC’s inspection, there should be a further multi-agency inspection of these services. This should consider how local services provide advice, assistance and support to victims of domestic abuse. The inspection should not only consider how individual services contribute to keeping victims safe, but also the quality of the partnerships and the ways in which joint working is scrutinised.
The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation welcome the findings and recommendations of the report and look forward to working with the police and others to defeat the scourge of domestic violence in this Country.