October 28, 2016

Theresa May says victims still let down

Domestic violence

Police forces in England and Wales are to be investigated over the way they handle domestic violence cases.
Home Secretary Theresa May told the Police Federation’s annual conference victims were “still being let down”.
Mrs May said improvements had been made since a 2013 review but “examples of the same shameful attitude” persisted.
The Women’s Aid charity said it routinely saw victims who had been let down by police and there was “still a long way to go”.
Mrs May said she had asked police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, headed by Sir Tom Winsor, to investigate the issue.
She told delegates: “Victims of abuse are still being let down and reports are not being taken seriously enough.
“The right skills, training and commitment to protect the vulnerable are still not held by every single police officer.”
Think of Hillsborough, May tells police
Mrs May said that she commissioned a review by HMIC into the way police handled domestic abuse in 2013.
Referring to the findings, she spoke of “officers who couldn’t spot dangerous patterns of abuse”.
“Victims who weren’t treated with dignity and respect,” she continued.
“And the shameful attitude of some officers towards victims who had suffered violence and psychological abuse. The officers who accidentally recorded themselves calling a victim ‘a bitch’ and ‘a slag’. The victim who overheard the responding officer say: ‘It’s a DV, we’ll be a few minutes and we’ll go to the next job’.”
‘Care to admit’
She said the police had “listened” and “acted” and “real improvements” had been made since then.
Every police force in England and Wales now had an action plan to tackle domestic abuse, she said, and they were collecting standardised data.
“We are seeing more victims coming forward, more crimes being properly recorded and more convictions,” she said.
She quoted some figures from last year – police forces in England and Wales received more than 100 calls an hour about domestic abuse and domestic abuse cases made up around one in three violent crimes with injury. Police officers recorded more than 100,000 sexual offences.
Sir Tom told the reporter At One that he thought it was “very likely” that an increase in reporting of domestic abuse was down to “increased confidence in the way the police will respond”.
However, the home secretary said reports of domestic abuse were still “not being taken seriously enough”.
“We know of officers who develop inappropriate relationships with victims of domestic abuse. They have ignored their professional duty and their moral responsibility and instead abused their position of power to exploit victims,” she said.
“We do not know the true scale of this, but everyone in this room will know it goes on far more than we might care to admit.”
Speaking generally about the treatment of other vulnerable people, including the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, she said: “As HMIC found last year, not a single police force in England and Wales is outstanding at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims, and 31 forces are judged to be either inadequate or requiring improvement.”
‘Strong leadership’
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which represents senior officers, said it was important that police understood what was going on in domestic violence cases, listened to victims and looked for signs of coercion or control.
Its chairwoman, Chief Constable Sara Thornton, said: “Last year, HMIC found that the police had significantly improved their response to domestic abuse: treating it as an ‘important priority’ and achieving better support for victims.”
Domestic violence charity Refuge said it applauded the commitment shown by Mrs May to improving the police response.
Chief executive Sandra Horley said: “Refuge is pleased that the home secretary has shown strong leadership on this issue, and is continuing to scrutinise the police response to domestic violence.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We routinely work with victims of domestic abuse who have been let down by the police. Whilst there have been improvements in some areas, there is still a long way to go.”
Mark Brooks, chairman of Mankind Initiative, said: “We are pleased that the home secretary emphasised the need for police to continue to improve the support for all victims of domestic abuse, as in the past the emphasis has been on supporting just female victims.”
‘Never forget’
Also in her speech, Mrs May told the conference that the Hillsborough disaster should be a “touchstone” for everything the police do.
Officers must never forget the victims and must put professionalism at the heart of every decision, she said.
In April, the inquests in to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield found they were unlawfully killed.
She said police had failed to put justice first, obstructing investigations and trying to blame fans for what had happened.

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