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Domestic abuse is everyone's business

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Making domestic abuse everyone’s business was the fundamental message of a domestic abuse scrutiny meeting hosted by Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

Sue Mountstevens, supported by a panel of experts including professionals, academics and survivors came together at Police Headquarters, to scrutinise the police response to domestic abuse following a report by the HMIC earlier this year.

Opening the scrutiny meeting, Sue said: "When the HMIC published its report I was very clear that I did not want that to be the end on the focus while we move on and prepare for the next inspection. Since the inspection, the Constabulary have impressed me with their drive and determination to make progress.

"However, we know that we still have much to do; victims remain unable to seek support, offenders continue to abuse their partners, friends, families and neighbours continue to see abuse as a private matter and victim-blaming remains pervasive both in society and amongst professionals.

"I hope the event helps police and partners alike to spark fresh ideas, foster new and develop existing relationships and take us one stop further in our battle against domestic abuse."

HMIC Report: Everyone’s business, improving response to domestic abuse

In September 2013, the Home Secretary commissioned the HMIC to inspect the police response to domestic violence and abuse.  Avon and Somerset Constabulary were asked to provide a report on their approach to tackling domestic abuse.  

Across the 43 forces inspected, 700 recommendations were made.  The inspection found that, while most forces and PCC’s have said that domestic abuse is a priority this isn’t being translated into operational reality.

PCC Sue Mountstevens submitted a response to the inspection highlighting the importance of this issue and her commitment to continue scrutinising this area of policing, pushing for improvements while addressing HMIC’s recommendations.

Since the conclusion of the inspection and subsequent report, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have focused on tackling domestic abuse working to ensure the best possible service for victims and this is outlined in the Domestic Abuse Action Plan. 

#DAScrutiny Meeting

The aim of the domestic abuse scrutiny meeting was to support the improvement of the police response to domestic abuse in Avon and Somerset, with an expert panel putting questions to the Constabulary and making recommendations.

Panel members included representatives from colleges and universities, Local Safeguarding Board, CAADA, VOICES, Survive, Police and Crime Panel, Clinical Commissioning Group, Community Safety Partnership and Crown Prosecution Service as well as from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office.

As well as presentations from VOICES and Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Superintendents Rachel Williams and Carolyn Belafonte, and a roundtable discussion, the Panel scrutiny session centred around five key questions:

  1. How effectively are perpetrators of domestic abuse being tackled?
  2. Given the volume of domestic abuse, how do we truly make it ‘everyone’s business’?
  3. What is a good outcome for a victim of domestic abuse?
  4. How does policing culture affect victim outcomes?
  5. How effective are current efforts to prevent domestic abuse?

Questions were also submitted by local people online during the event, which was live tweeted using the hashtag #DAScrutiny. Notes from the meeting will be available on the PCC’s website soon.

On concluding the event, Sue Mountstevens said: "Victims don’t care which uniform solves their problem, they just want some help.  It is clear that partnership working is crucial and only by adopting a truly multi-agency approach, sharing intelligence and training at all levels can we be there for all victims when they need us."

How have the Constabulary responded to tackling domestic abuse?

Following the HMIC inspection the Constabulary were advised of several recommendations to improving their response to domestic abuse.  These included reworking specific terminology, quality assurance checks and creating a consistent allocation process for domestic abuse investigations.

Superintendent Rachel Williams said: "Domestic abuse is core police business and we are committed to tackling this crime – from first response, to the investigation and the subsequent action to protect victims. We are working hard to ensure we provide the best possible service for victims, working with charities and a range of partner agencies from health, social care, probation, education and housing services.

"Taking on board recommendations made by HMIC, in October we published our Domestic Abuse Action Plan. The plan outlines work we are undertaking, including the use of new police powers, a partnership with domestic abuse charity CAADA and the launch of our new victim care programme, Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care. We will be updating the plan to show our progress as we continue to improve our response to domestic abuse."

What are some of the examples of work being carried out by the Constabulary?

    • Raising awareness, developing understanding and encouraging people to report domestic abuse, feature heavily in key messages emitted by the Constabulary both in training processes and through internal and external communication channels www.thisisnotanexcuse.org microsite, developed by the Constabulary, aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and signpost to organisations who can provide help and support. The site has received over 8,500 visits since its launch earlier this year.
    • Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) are another powerful tool that officers are now able to use to provide victims with immediate protection following a domestic incident.
  • The recently launched Lighthouse victim and witness care programme is a pioneering approach in Avon and Somerset and aims to transform the way the police and criminal justice agencies deliver victims services.  Lighthouse is committed to supporting individuals who are vulnerable, intimidated and persistently targeted and putting victims first, providing them the support they need, when they need it.

Reporting domestic abuse

If you or someone you know has been affected, we encourage you not to suffer in silence and report it to the police on 101 or online.

If you do not want to speak to the police, please contact one of the specialist agencies who can offer practical help. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, always call 999.

Posted on Wednesday 26th November 2014
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