Insight

Why domestic abuse and sexual violence are not being treated as 'violent crime'

Credit: PA

Priti Patel has announced an independent inquiry into the failures in policing that resulted in a serving officer kidnapping and murdering, Sarah Everard.

Questions will be asked about why it isn’t being placed on a statutory footing, allowing the chair to compel people to give evidence, but overall the move will be welcomed.

The home secretary also spoke about funding to tackle these crimes, a dedicated national police officer to try to reduce them, and a government survey that has gathered the stories of some 180,000 women and girls.



But what she didn’t do, was address an issue that is causing angst among a number of significant figures in this debate across Westminster.

Women like the Conservative peer, Gabby Bertin, the domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, and Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence, Jess Phillips, fear that in large parts of the country these crimes are simply not being treated as violent crime.

And it is clear why they are worried. Take these three facts:

  • Only eight of 18 Violence Reduction Units across England include domestic abuse in their strategy

  • Only half of police forces have opted to take up specialist training on domestic abuse that has been evaluated and approved by the College of Policing

  • Amazingly, the government’s own Serious Violence Strategy doesn’t recognise domestic abuse and sexual violence as serious violence

Given all of that, campaigners hoped that the government might use its policing bill, which is making its way through Parliament right now, to try to address this issue.

After all, it is setting in place a new duty on authorities to tackle violent crime in their local areas.

The bill could be used to make explicitly clear to these groups, which includes councils and police forces, that they MUST include domestic abuse and sexual violence in their definition of violent crime.

In fact, Ms Bertin has put forward an amendment in the Lords to try to include just that - but so far ministers have failed to accept it.

Why not? They say that it is about regional variation, arguing that councils and local police forces need the flexibility to decide which types of violent crimes need most attention in their locality.


Is Boris Johnson doing enough to tackle violence against women? Political Producer Dominique Heckels reports:

But Ms Bertin and co point out that there is not any serious variation when it comes to these crimes against women – in fact they are ubiquitous across the country with the national domestic abuse helpline reporting roughly equal contacts from all nine regions in England.

The government has not included a list of specific crimes within the duty on violent crime- because of its arguments around regional variation.

But it does make clear that local groups must include two within its definition – because of fears that otherwise they will be missed.

They are violence against property and threats of violence. Campaigners ask why - given the statistics above- domestic abuse and sexual violence isn’t added to the list.

When I put this exact point to Boris Johnson in Manchester this week he said there was a “massive job of work to do”, saying we need to “make sure we change the culture of policing”.

He didn’t address this specific point but I’m told that the home secretary is considering the amendment.

Many think tweaking the policing bill like this is no-brainer.