Tackling Male Violence Is ‘Not A Priority’ Within The Police, Watchdog Report Finds

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Sarah Everard protest

by Georgia Aspinall |
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The final report into how police tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), which was commissioned after the death of Sarah Everard, was published today. The six-month investigation by police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that there were devastating ‘problems, unevenness and inconsistencies’ dealing with the ‘epidemic’ of male violence.

One of the most haunting findings is that police do not list tackling violence against women as a priority, something Zoë Billingham – who is HM inspector constabulary - concluded should change immediately.

When asked if VAWG should be treated by police equally to counter-terrorism, she replied: ‘It is undeniable If we look at what policing priorities are … those crimes you have mentioned, county lines, counterterrorism, serious and organised crime, some forms of child abuse as well, those are priorities within the police’s strategic requirements.

‘Violence against girls is not highlighted specifically as a priority within the strategic policing requirement, [which is] the only real signal the government has to state what its priorities are.

While she stated that police will certainly have to tackle crimes like counterterrorism and organised crime differently, she confirmed that violence against women ‘should be afforded a priority that it is equivalent to those type of crimes’.

‘We think it should be highlighted in there, so that translates to an understanding at local force level that the government really means business about this,’ Zoe explained. ‘That not only is there the expectation on forces that they will treat this as an utmost priority but the government itself will also review and consider progress the forces are making too.’

Three quarters of domestic abuse cases are closed early without a suspect being charged.

The recommended comes after a series of startling findings by investigators, including a ‘staggering variation’ in the way domestic abuse is dealt with across police forces in England and Wales. According to their research, three quarters of domestic abuse cases are closed early without a suspect being charged.

The use of the domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS), otherwise known as Clare’s Law, was also ‘hugely’ different across forces. The scheme provides confidential information of a person’s criminal history to someone who is deemed at risk of domestic abuse. But in the year ending March 2021, only 52% of DVDS applications made by police (which might occur when a police officer is concerned about a person’s criminal history and wants to inform their partner) resulted in disclosures to a potential victim.

Only 39% of applications by concerned members of the public -such as partners of potential abusers – resulted in disclosure (although this includes cases where there is no information to pass on).

When it comes to official statistics on male violence, in the year ending March 2020 there were estimated 1.6 million female victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales, 618,000 female victims of sexual assault and 892,000 female victims of stalking.

While the HMICFRS said that police have made ‘vast improvements’ in the last five years, they concluded there was still a lot more to be done to protect women. Inspectors said that too often police were neither working closely enough with colleagues from other agencies nor giving the threat of violence the resources it deserves.

For women everywhere, particularly the countless who have experienced male violence, this kind of laissez faire attitude can be devastating to read. To read clear as day that the people in charge of protecting us from male violence do not consider it a priority, it’s just confirms all of our lived experiences: it’s exactly why so few women report their experiences of male violence at all.

For domestic violence charity Refuge, the recommendations to drastically change the way police tackle male violence is just the start.

For too long, Refuge has seen report after report which has outlined a positive path forward, yet failure to implement strong recommendations.

‘While these recommendations are necessary, the real success will be in the actioning of them,’ Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO told Grazia. ‘For too long, Refuge has seen report after report which has outlined a positive path forward, yet too often we see a failure to implement strong recommendations. This must change. The report rightly calls for “radical action” and we hope that the Home Secretary, who has commissioned this report, will look at the recommendations carefully and respond accordingly.’

Priti Patel is yet to comment on the report she commissioned, but in an interview with Sky News environment secretary George Eustice said she will now look into the findings.

‘Obviously Priti Patel will now look at these recommendations but I think this report does highlight some differences between police forces,’ he said. ‘I think in these sorts of situations, violence against women is a serious problem, domestic violence has also been a problem for some time now. What we really need to do is learn from those police forces that are addressing this well – and I think the report highlights that some of them are doing far better than others – and actually try and replicate those approaches that work in parts of the country.’

Violence against women a ‘serious problem’, domestic violence a problem for ‘some time’? Ground-breaking conclusion, George.

We’ll look out for a more considered statement or plan of action when Priti Patel chooses to address this damning report, but until then, we’ll be patiently preparing our protest placards to ensure police do actually act on the many recommendations to, you know, keep us alive.

To read the report in full, click here.

If you are suffering from domestic abuse and need help, please call Refuge on 0808 2000 247 or visit their helpline website here.

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Nimco Ali: 'Male Violence Against Women Creates An Endemic of Fear'

‘We Are Still Being Killed By Misogyny’

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