A national report into how domestic abuse was policed during the pandemic has been cautiously welcomed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published a report saying the pandemic put domestic abuse victims at greater risk but police forces had risen to the challenge.
Kieran Kilgallen, OPCC Chief Executive, said he welcomed the report’s findings, generally, but a national overview should not be used to gloss over the actual picture in force areas.
He agreed with the report's findings which highlighted that on average, three in every four domestic abuse crimes reported to the police are closed without the perpetrator being charged – a situation which has gradually worsened over the last five years.
“Hearing that forces responded proactively to prevent domestic abuse and protect victims in the round is helpful, of course, but there is still so much more that needs to be done," said Mr Kilgallen.
“In Wiltshire we saw a 10 percent increase domestic abuse-related crimes in the 12 months up to December 2020 but a reduction in outcomes – we cannot be complacent about that.
“Any increase in domestic abuse is worrying, and both the OPCC and the force continues to work together to improve those outcomes.
"We are already taking steps identified in the report to understand why domestic abuse cases are being closed without action and addressing this.
“The introduction of a domestic abuse scrutiny panel to identify areas of improvement to ensure offenders are dealt with appropriately is just one measure will go some way to aid improvements."
The OPCC and Wiltshire Police, alongside both unitary councils and Splitz and Swindon Domestic Abuse Service, are launching a new county-wide campaign called ‘Do you want to stop?’ to encourage domestic abuse perpetrators to get help to stop their abusive behaviours.
Alongside this, the OPCC has commissioned Swindon Domestic Abuse Service (SWA) to help children affected by witnessing or living with domestic abuse. The pilot project offers one-to-one support for those aged seven to 18.
HMICFRS also said it had significant concerns about court backlogs, which whilst not for the police to solve, may increase the likelihood of victims disengaging from the criminal justice process.
Mr Kilgallen added: “We are pleased that more people are confident in reporting this type of crime but we must ensure that offenders are brought to justice, victims are supported and protected through the process and that they don’t lose hope with the criminal justice system that is there to protect them.”