Report welcomes police action on domestic abuse in pandemic – but Commissioner says there’s much more to do
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found the pandemic had put domestic abuse victims at greater risk, but it also praised police for making good use of technology and working with partners to find new ways to support victims.
However, the scale of the challenge being faced and the need for urgent improvements is reflected in the report which finds three in four domestic abuse crimes reported to the police are closed without the perpetrator being charged. There are also significant concerns about court backlogs and their impact on those who need justice to be done quickly to keep them safe.
Many of the recommendations from HMICFRS are already in place or being implemented in North Yorkshire – including reviewing how more can be done to support survivors, ensure those waiting for court hearings are safeguarded and can access support, and working with victims and support networks to understand why they do not report offences to the police.
But North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Philip Allott says ensuring we do more is one of his priorities:
“Survivors of domestic and sexual abuse deserve the best possible support to deal with the impact of the crime and help them recover as much as is ever possible. I welcome the recommendations set out in the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and will be reviewing North Yorkshire Police’s response to domestic abuse during the pandemic at my monthly Public Accountability Meeting in July.
“Like Her Majesty’s Inspector, I am also deeply concerned by the effect of Covid-related delays in the criminal justice system upon the welfare of victims and the risk of re-offending. As a newly elected Commissioner, I am determined to explore every avenue for driving improvement in the performance of the local criminal justice system as it recovers from the impact of coronavirus.
“In North Yorkshire and the City of York, the number of domestic abuse crimes during the pandemic remained at a similar level to 2019/20 – the first time we have not seen a marked annual increase in recorded domestic abuse crimes in several years. Although some may see this as a positive, I think it is much more of a concern. We know all too often domestic abuse is hidden, unseen and unreported and this is backed up by a significant rise in those accessing support through our jointly commissioned domestic abuse services.”
The Office of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner plays a lead role in commissioning support services for victims of crime. On domestic abuse, it jointly commissions services for victims and efforts to reduce offending alongside North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council.
Commissioner Philip Allott adds:
“During the pandemic, our services responded immediately to the requirement to work innovatively with victims and perpetrators to ensure the right support continued to be available to them during this period. This in part was made possible by securing additional Ministry of Justice funding which allowed us to provide more help at a time when services were coming under increasing strain due to the impacts of the pandemic.
“Lockdowns are hard for everyone, but I know they are particularly so for those whose homes are not a place of safety. We have amazing organisations and services across North Yorkshire and the City of York which help individuals and families in that position, and together with our partners we will keep supporting those in desperate need of help.”
The HMICFRS report comes during Safeguarding Week which is being marked in North Yorkshire and York with a week-long programme of online seminars sharing the key message that ‘Safeguarding is everybody’s business’.
Organised by partners from Safeguarding Adults Boards, Children’s Safeguarding Partnerships, Community Safety Partnerships across North Yorkshire, the City of York and East Riding, the events include a focus on domestic abuse and over 2,000 people have signed up. More details can be found at www.nypolice.eventbrite.com.
Anyone affected by domestic abuse in North Yorkshire or the City of York can contact IDAS directly for free and they provide independent and confidential support on 03000 110 110. In an emergency please dial 999, for non-emergency support please dial 101.