The number of prosecutions for violence against women and children across England and Wales has risen, a pattern reflected in the Avon and Somerset force area.
There has been an 8% increase in the number of prosecutions in the force area, with 2085 offenders being brought to justice in the year up to April, up 151 (7.81%) on the previous year.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who released the report with today's figures, have highlighted how new technologies and the internet are increasingly being used by offenders to target victims.
Offences categorised as ‘violence again women and children’ include cases of rape and sexual assault, domestic abuse, so called ‘honour based violence’ and child abuse. The report’s figures are for crimes ‘primarily’ against women, but male victims are also included.
Tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence is a priority for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner and the Police, and the force work closely with a number of partner agencies and charity organisations to support victims and bring offenders to justice.
Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), who provide 1-2-1 support for victims of domestic abuse, recently worked with the constabulary’s Communications Centre to develop new call recording processes, putting victims at the heart of police response to crime.
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs), who provide support to victims of rape or sexual assault, are now collocated with police investigation teams in the constabulary’s three Safeguarding Hubs. Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care teams also provide support to victims throughout the criminal justice process, from report to court.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said, "Tackling domestic and sexual abuse, particularly towards women and children is one of my priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and is taken very seriously across Avon and Somerset. I want all victims to know that there is help available – from the Police and other agencies – and that no one deserves to suffer in silence.
"Domestic abuse is an inexcusable form of cruelty and will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset. No one has the right to abuse another person either physically or mentally. Raising awareness of this monstrous crime will hopefully continue to give victims the confidence to come forward and seek justice."
Earlier this year PCC Sue Mountstevens delivered a keynote speech at a domestic abuse conference. During her speech the PCC talked about the need to support domestic abuse victims, not only through a new integrated victim care service but by partner agencies working more closely together. Sue said:
"An important way to help victims and survivors is to have effective support services so that we can help them to cope and then recover from abuse. As an example, a male victim of domestic abuse was referred to Lighthouse by an officer. The Lighthouse officer was able to sensitively obtain additional information about the length of the abuse and also the presence of abuse against the eldest daughter by the mother. The Lighthouse officer was a consistent point of contact for the victim, ensuring that communication was maintained. This is having a positive effect both on the investigation and the victim.
"The follow-on support that this victim needs is crucial – drug and alcohol, social services, counselling and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to name but a few. My strategy simply doesn’t work without these local services. I have commissioned some Avon and Somerset-wide emotional support services, but local, specialist support, like IDVAs are just as important. That means that I must work with others, like the Local Authority to ensure that between us, we are making best use of public resources."
Last year Sue convened a panel of experts to help her scrutinise Avon and Somerset Police’s approach to domestic abuse. 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.
To find out more about Sue Mountstevens’ priority of tackling domestic and sexual abuse in Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Plan click here.
Assistant Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, NPCC National Lead for Domestic Abuse, said, "We understand that for victims of these crimes speaking out about their experiences may be difficult, so we are encouraged by these figures as more and more people have the confidence to come forward.
"We now have more tools at our disposal to help us recognise, identify and take action against people who commit violence and abuse, and every day we work closely with our partners, including the CPS, to bring offenders to justice.
"We all have a responsibility to tackle these issues and I would encourage anyone who suspects someone may be experiencing violence or abuse to report their concerns, either to police or a specialist support service, including Crimestoppers where reports can be made anonymously."
To help increase confidence in reporting crimes, Avon and Somerset Police run a number of media campaigns. Launched in November 2013 in partnership with local councils, This Is Not An Excuse looks to challenge myths that surround domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault and send the message that victims are never to blame. The force also delivers campaigns on male rape, child sexual exploitation and online safety.
Reporting and where to go for help and support
You can contact police however you feel comfortable:
For information about the agencies who offer help and support if you, or someone you know, is experiencing violence visit the links below:
Posted on Friday 26th June 2015