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Domestic violence victims 'failed by police response'

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.

Read: Domestic abuse victims 'at unnecessary and avoidable risk

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.

UK Editor Lucy Manning reports.

Watch: Domestic violence victim says police response was 'too casual'

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Victim: Officers need more domestic abuse training

A domestic abuse victim has told ITV News that frontline police need more training.

Kimberley (not her real name) said that after being repeatedly abused by her partner she eventually went to police but felt their initial response was too "casual".

She claimed the officer who initially took her statement refused to take certain details and only took pictures of her severe injuries after she prompted him.

She added: "He was very casual. I think he did believe me but he didn't take it for the seriousness that it was."

Kimberley says her case was not handled properly at the outset, although the situation improved when it was passed to more senior officers.

She said more training was needed: "The first line of response has got to be stronger more sensitive, more training is required for these people."

Four police forces 'failing domestic abuse victims'

Just eight of 43 police forces responded well to domestic abuse and the most vulnerable victims faced a "lottery" in the way their complaints were handled, inspectors said.

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

  • Greater Manchester
  • Bedfordshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Gloucestershire

Lancashire Police was hailed as having the best response to domestic abuse.

Read more: Police 'failing' domestic violence victims

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.

Courts not 'set up' for 'complexity' of domestic violence

Louisa Rolfe
The "traditional justice system" needs to be updated to help the victims of domestic violence, Lousia Rolfe said. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

The British legal system is not "set up to deal with the complexities" of domestic violence, a senior police officer told Daybreak.

Assistant Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said officers "worked tirelessly" to protect victims of domestic violence, but legislation had not evolved enough to allow them to properly police the situation.

"It is absolutely right that when we get it wrong that we are held to account and those cases where we get it wrong are well documented but there are many cases where officers work tirelessly to protect victims everyday.

"But it is a difficult challenge for us. Our traditional justice system is not set up to deal with the complexity of these challenges."

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Police response to domestic violence 'not good enough'

Sandra Horley
Refuge are calling for a public inquiry into the way police handle domestic violence, chief exec Sandra Horley said. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

Police failures in the treatment of domestic violence victims are "just not good enough" but have been prevalent for decades, the head of a woman's charity told Daybreak.

Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley explained: "We are very pleased by the HMIC report but we are not surprised. It confirms what Refuge has been saying for decades.

"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."

Read: Report: 77 women killed by partners in a year

Police 'not taking domestic violence reports seriously'

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

"They were expecting the responding officer to come over the threshold and actually stop the abuse from happening, and all too often the officer was listening to the radio of waiting for the next call to come in," she told ITV News.

One victim said she heard an officer tell a colleague: "I'm just at a DV [domestic violence case], I'll be a couple of minutes."

"It's not taking it seriously."

Domestic violence victims 'feel judged' by police

Police attitudes were recently laid bare in a case in the West Midlands, where officers were inadvertently recorded calling an alleged victim a "f***ing slag".

In the report, inspectors said:

HMIC is concerned about the poor attitudes that some police officers display towards victims of domestic abuse.

Victims told us that they were frequently not taken seriously, that they felt judged and that some officers demonstrated a considerable lack of empathy and understanding.

HMIC warned the quality of response of an officer attending a domestic abuse incident was entirely dependent on the individual attending and was left "almost entirely to chance".

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