Police 'overwhelmed' by domestic abuse cases

Police forces in England and Wales are being "overwhelmed" by a "staggering" rise in domestic violence cases, watchdogs have warned.

There were 353,100 domestic abuse crimes recorded in the year to April - an increase of nearly a third, according to a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

Zoe Billingham, of HMIC, said: "In some forces, there are simply not enough specialist staff to cope with the case loads and the increase in demand.

"This needs gripping now, but we don't think it's too late."

But she said the increase in domestic abuse incidents was a good thing as it meant more people were reporting violence - and the police are acting.

Charities said it was a 'postcode lottery' for victims seeking prosecution of violent partners. Credit: PA

Last year, a report on the issue made a string of damning findings and concluded that only eight out of 43 forces responded well to domestic abuse.

Nine forces were assessed as having a "cause of concern" while a further 15 had "areas for improvement."

Other findings included:

  • Some forces were still poor at identifying and monitoring the number of repeat victims.

  • Seven forces were unable to provide data on the number of domestic abuse arrests, which HMIC said was "unacceptable".

  • A large number of victims felt that responding officers did not always understand the dynamics of domestic abuse.

  • The charge rate for domestic abuse crimes in England and Wales is 27%, a fall from 30% compared with the year to August 2013, and nearly half of forces have seen a reduction.

  • Application of domestic violence protection orders, which were introduced by most forces last year, has been limited.

Mark Castle, chief executive of charity Victim Support, welcomed improvements.

But he said "serious concerns" remained around variations in prosecution rates which "result in a postcode lottery for many victims".