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Can We Trust the Police?

In light of recent scandals, the Tonight programme investigates public attitudes and speaks to Policing Minister, Damian Green

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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."

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

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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".

Home Secretary: Policing change needed 'urgently'

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced she will chair a new national monitoring group in response to one of the key recommendations made by the inspectors, to ensure every police force overhauls its approach to domestic violence.

"There needs to be action, and it needs to happen urgently," she told ITV News.

"What we see from this report is that the police have not been dealing with victims properly, they've not been dealing with domestic violence cases properly, and that needs to change," she added.

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Abuse victims 'at unnecessary and avoidable risk'

Her Majesty's chief inspector of constabulary for England and Wales Tom Winsor pictured in 2011. Credit: PA

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: "Domestic abuse casts a terrible blight on the lives of very many people, and can have tragic consequences.

"In too many police forces we found there were serious weaknesses in services, which are putting victims at unnecessary and avoidable risk."

He added: "Domestic abuse is not only about violence, it is about fear, control and secrecy.

"It is essential that the police make substantial reforms to their handling of domestic abuse, including their understanding of the coercive and psychological nature of the crime as well as its physical manifestations."

'Alarming weaknesses' in domestic violence policing

Greater Manchester, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire Police forces were of particularly serious concern.

Thousands of domestic violence victims are being failed by police forces across England and Wales due to "alarming and unacceptable weaknesses" in the way cases are investigated, inspectors have found.

In a damning report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said only eight out of the 43 forces responded well to domestic abuse and the most vulnerable victims faced a "lottery" in the way their complaints were handled.

Poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence-gathering were all heavily criticised by the watchdog, which has called for an urgent overhaul of the response to domestic abuse - from frontline officers up to police chiefs.

Public offered information in hunt for Lola

Police say they received a number of calls from the public with information following the disappearance of 13-month-old Lola Page, who has now been found.

Detective chief inspector Matt Markham from Force CID, said: "We are pleased to say that Lola is now returned to a place of safety and she is doing well.

“We want to thank the public for their assistance with this appeal. We received a number of calls from people with information, who were keen to help.”

Lola's mother, 18-year-old Stacey Ball and three other men have now been arrested in connection to the child's alleged kidnap in Walsall.

Read: Mum and three men held as missing baby Lola found

Mum and three men held as missing baby Lola found

Missing baby Lola Page has been found "safe and well" in Walsall.

Police have arrested four people in connection with the alleged kidnap, including the child's mother, 18-year-old Stacey Ball and another man, who were both found with the 13-month-old at an address in Willenhall, West Midlands.

18-year-old Stacey Ball and baby Lola Page before the child's disappearance
18-year-old Stacey Ball and baby Lola Page before the child's disappearance Credit: West Midlands Police

Ms Ball is accused of kidnap, while the other man is accused of assisting an offender.

Shortly after, officers arrested two more men on suspicion of conspiracy to kidnap. All four are in custody and will be questioned later today.

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