'Wake-up call' report finds domestic violence victims consistently failed by police

Police are failing victims of domestic abuse, a damning report by HMIC said today. Photo:

A damning report into how police deal with domestic violence has found there are "alarming and unacceptable" failures.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found only 8 of 43 forces in England and Wales were currently providing a substantial service.

Thousands of domestic violence victims are being failed due to poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence gathering, HMIC said, as it called for an urgent shake-up of the response.

Video report by UK Editor Lucy Manning.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tim Winsor said it was essential for police to make "substantial reforms" to their approach to domestic violence and said there was a lack of understanding of the nature of the crime, as well as a failure to adequately respond to its physical manifestations.

More: Alarming weaknesses in domestic violence policing

Between 2012 and 2013, 77 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners and there were 269,700 domestic abuse related crimes.

Police receive a call for help every 30 seconds from a woman reporting abuse, HMIC said.

Read: 77 women killed by partners or ex-partners every year

Four police forces were singled out by inspectors as being of particularly serious concern:

  • Greater Manchester
  • Bedfordshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Gloucestershire

Among the forces found to be of serious concern, Bedfordshire had one officer working in its domestic violence unit, and in a case in Greater Manchester, the 13-year-old daughter of a victim was asked to act as a language interpreter for officers investigating allegations against her father.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said she had spoken to "plenty of examples" of domestic abuse victims who had been failed by police

More: Inspectors finding 'plenty of examples of police not taking domestic violence reports seriously'

A domestic abuse victim told ITV News her compliant was "not taken seriously enough".

She recounted an incident where an officer who initially took her statement refused to take certain details and only took pictures of her severe injuries after she prompted him.

Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley said she was pleased by the report and the changes urged by HMIC, but sadly not surprised. Speaking to Daybreak she said:

For decades we have been highlighting police failings, and these failings are absolutely shocking.

Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner...and to use the words of HMIC the police response is just not good enough.

Home Secretary Theresa May said it was time for an urgent change in the "culture of the police from the top down" to enable officers to respond better to victims.

Mrs May said the HMIC report was "appalling reading" that showed up "significant failings" and vowed to personally oversee a strategy group that would ensure police take proper action when a domestic abuse crime is reported.

Among the scathing findings of the report, HMIC hit out at the "unacceptable" variations in charging abusive partners with criminal offences, and said that in some forces there were "high levels" of cautioning, whilst the number of prosecutions pursued without the support of victims was too small.

Forces were also found to be using so-called "restorative justice" as a way of resolving abuse assaults - bringing together victim and perpetrator in a way that failed to protect the victim and gave rise to "unacceptable risk".