Chief Constable Colette Paul fully accepts that the service provided to victims of domestic abuse by Bedfordshire Police fell short of expectations, following publication of a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) published today (Thursday, March 27).
While acknowledging the findings, which gives a snapshot of the service provision last November and a revisit in February, Chief Constable Paul has already addressed many of the issues raised with an immediate review, restructure and implementation of a detailed improvement plan.
At the heart of the plan is a vision to create a culture within Bedfordshire Police which makes ‘safeguarding everyone’s responsibility’ with the emphasis on ‘wrap around care’ to ensure victims have the support they need and that includes the all-important job of keeping individuals informed – a major driver of victim satisfaction.
Chief Constable Colette Paul said: “While I have no doubt that our frontline officers and staff have been and continue to work very hard to fight crime and protect the public, following the inspection it was clear things were nowhere near as good as they should be when it comes to dealing with victims of domestic abuse. Since then we have worked even harder to improve the service we provide and we are committed to making safeguarding those affected by this crime the number one priority. The number of officers working on the assessment of victim’s vulnerability has been increased and there is now also greater scrutiny.”
“We all know that this type of offence is one that is traditionally under-reported for a whole variety of societal reasons. However we have seen an increase in reporting of domestic abuse, which is very encouraging. I want to give confidence to victims to carry on reporting abuse so that we can focus on looking after them and putting the abuser behind bars.
“Overall the numbers of victims reporting incidents of domestic abuse has increased over this last year by 10.1%, which I believe is a significant achievement and demonstrates that people do have the confidence to report matters to us. We are also arresting 7% more people who are committing domestic abuse than in previous years, particularly when it comes to those most at risk of violence, but I accept we need to do more to support victims who are at low to medium risk, and it is that piece of work that is now very much underway.”
The plan now in place to improve the service includes:
1. Bedfordshire Police have acknowledged and accepted the feedback that has been provided by the HMIC throughout the inspection process and responded positively to the key recommendations and findings by implementing a detailed action plan starting with immediate structural and procedural changes to improve processes and increase the capability and capacity of the force.
2. Chief Constable Colette Paul has increased strategic accountability via the Bedfordshire Criminal Justice Board as she has recently taken over the chair of this Bedfordshire wide board. A Bedfordshire wide partnership Domestic Abuse sub group will scrutinise the performance, outcomes and victim care of all agencies. CC Paul has also engaged with Women’s Aid who has offered to help in medium and standard risk cases and the force is very grateful for their offer of support.
3. Bedfordshire Police have completed a full review of our victim pathway from beginning to end, ensuring a victim focused approach to all victims of Domestic Abuse at every stage of their contact with police.
4. We are improving the quality, consistency and frequency of the risk assessment process.
5. We have created a High Risk Domestic Abuse Team to increase capacity and deliver an enhanced service to victims whilst maintaining a focus on the highest risk offenders and set up a Vulnerability Co-ordination Unit.
6. We have implemented a bespoke domestic abuse safeguarding tactical toolkit for our local front line officers. It provides a minimum set of standards for officers when responding to and managing domestic abuse incidents.
7. We have looked at best practice and national expertise to provide support and specialist knowledge to the force to act as a critical friend to ensure we continually improve.
8. We are committed to improving the service to victims of Domestic Abuse and look forward to the re-inspection by HMIC in September to have an independent perspective on what we have achieved.