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Police need to change approach to protecting women and girls, watchdog says

Written by on 24/08/2021

Police forces do not always safeguard women and girls effectively despite some officers working to protect victims, a new report by a policing watchdog has found.

The report suggested changes need to be made to the way police, civil and criminal courts coordinate their work so that important information about violent cases does not fall between the gaps.

The investigation was conducted by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the College of Policing.

It was ordered after the Centre for Women’s Justice filed a super-complaint against the police.

The charity claimed police forces in England and Wales were failing to use protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls.

The officer was reportedly in abusive relationships with both of his accusers. File pic
Image: The report suggested changes need to be made to the way police handle violent cases

While the report found good examples where police were applying such measures along with support from a legal team, it also found evidence that some forces had a lack of understanding about how and when to use or enforce appropriate levels of the measures.

These include pre-charge bail conditions Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs), Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and non-molestation orders.

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This resulted in some women and girls being harmed or less likely to report a crime in the future.

The report raised one example involving a drunk man ringing police to say he was at his partner’s address and needed to be arrested.

Despite the call handler logging that the man was subject to pre-charge bail conditions, which would prevent him from contacting his partner or visiting her address, this was not written in the appropriate section, meaning officers were not made aware of the condition.

Police attended the address but later left without making an arrest.

The man was arrested the following day after he was found on top of the woman and strangling her, saying he was trying to kill her.

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 resulted in some “unfavourable consequences” for victims, according to the report, including bail not always being used when appropriate.

It was hoped the upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would change that and several recommendations were made.

The report concluded that better data collection on the use of protective measures was required to help the police determine which measures are most effective in different situations.

Zoe Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said the police had made “vast improvements” over the past decade in how they respond to crimes.

But she said on some occasions officers were unaware of the powers available to them, or the processes were confusing – leading to women and girls being harmed.

She said: “We thank the Centre for Women’s Justice for submitting this super-complaint. Ultimately, making sure women and girls are properly protected is not a matter for the police alone. A joined-up approach across the police, government, criminal justice system and victim support organisations is urgently needed so that victims do not fall between the gaps.”

Nogah Ofer, solicitor at Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “Passing yet more legislation won’t change women’s experiences if powers are not being used. The super-complaint recommendations are welcome, however they do not get to grips with the severity of the problem or go far enough to ensure that police forces make real changes in practice.

“Some recommendations require improved data gathering and tell chief constables in general terms to prioritise and monitor use of orders, but there is a lack of specifics and no discussion of under-resourcing, which is the elephant in the room.

“We fear that in five years’ time the situation will not be much different to today.”

 Sky News

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