People living with domestic abuse need to seek help, say police in new campaign to help victims

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Bedfordshire Police is raising awareness on how it tackles domestic abuse as part of a national focus this week.

Forces across the country are explaining what they do to protect victims of abuse and highlighting the support available from charities, local authorities, social services and probation services.

The aim is to encourage more people living with domestic abuse to seek help.

Chief Constable Colette Paul said the force is pulling out all the stops to enhance the service the force gives to victims of domestic abuse.

She said: “Nationally it is an under-reported crime and the more we can do to encourage victims to come forward and get the protection they need, the better.

“It could, quite literally, save a life.”

On Sunday, March 2, Bedfordshire Police and other agencies supported an International Women’s Day event in Midland Road, Bedford, during which officers handed out information about the help and support available and on Monday, March 3 the force played host to a meeting of the new Domestic Abuse Scrutiny Panel, a multi-agency group that reviews cases to identify learning points and good practice.

Partners around the table included representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service and Probation Service to the Independent Domestic Advisory Service and Beds, Central and Luton Domestic Abuse Partnership.

The Chief Constable added: “The emphasis in Bedfordshire is all about providing ‘wrap-around care’ to ensure victims have everything they need at every stage of the process. That includes keeping individuals informed.”

National police lead Assistant Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said: “Improving our response to domestic abuse is a priority for the police. This week forces are doing a lot to raise awareness of domestic abuse as well as introducing new schemes that give the police additional powers to protect victims. We still have much to do in ensuring every police officer who responds to an incident understands the nature of abuse – the many forms it can take and how it can isolate the victim – and knows what to look for. We need every officer to use this knowledge to determine how to best protect the victim and progress a thorough investigation and prosecution without increasing their fear.

“This is where we need to concentrate our efforts, with other agencies using their expertise to provide advice, counselling, help with drawing up safety plans or progressing housing applications.”

She added: “The service victims of domestic abuse receive has greatly improved due to police investment in specialist officers, training call handlers to better assess risks and building working partnerships at local and national level with charities representing and supporting victims, and social care, health and probation services. The conviction rate for domestic violence has increased 15 per cent in seven years and the number of recorded domestic abuse incidents has also increased in recent years, which may be due to police forces improving their recording and increased public confidence in the police response. But many people still suffer in silence.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: “We welcome the renewed focus from ACPO on getting the basics of domestic violence right, and on the importance of police and specialist domestic violence services working together to address domestic violence. As ACC Rolf says, it is vital that all police officers understand the different forms of violence and the impact of coercive control on victims and are able to respond appropriately, keeping the woman’s safety as their first priority and holding perpetrators to account.

“That’s why we call for specialist-led training on domestic violence for all police officers. It’s also crucial that specialist local domestic violence services have enough resources and support, to ensure that such services can work together with the police to ensure women are protected and supported from the moment they report domestic violence.”