Domestic abuse charity says victims 'didn't feel listened to' by police

  • Watch Louisa Britton's report

A charity in Wiltshire that supports thousands of people experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence has told ITV News some victims didn't feel listened to by police.

Fear Free, based in Trowbridge, gets up to a hundred referrals every week and those who work there have seen the surge in cases seen during the pandemic continue.

Claire Marshall, the charity's CEO, says they work closely with Wiltshire Police and that she has welcomed the force's decision to make tackling violence against women and girls a priority.

But Claire says more needs to be done, in particular when it comes to training.

She said: "Our relationship as an organisation is very positive with the police, we're experiencing a good working relationship with them and they are taking feedback on board.

"Some of the feedback from clients, victims, has been a bit more mixed, with some clients saying that they didn't feel listened to. Some clients feeling that some officers weren't taking their concerns seriously, or the impact the abuse was having on the individual."

Fear Free: Wiltshire Police has 'an awful lot more work to do'

Claire added another concern raised was the lack of keeping in touch by the police. She believes a lot of these issues are down to a lack of training for officers, something the force has been carrying out recently.

She said: "It shows there's more work to be done and the cultural change required and the change in belief and understanding of what the victim is dealing with, particularly someone who is traumatised and living in fear can't be overstated.

"I think there's an awful lot more to do. A start has been made and that's really positive but there is so much more to do in terms of individual officers understanding how to interact with the victim."

Wiltshire Police: 'It's our fault women and girls don't have trust and confidence in us'

It comes after a survey carried out by police in Wiltshire found more than a third of women and girls who have been victims of crime did not report it.

It also found the majority of respondents didn't feel safe while out at night in the county, and they would feel safer if there was more police presence in towns and busy areas.

Wiltshire Police has carried out a second conference on 4 December aimed at highlighting violence against women and girls. It is part of a 16-day push focusing on domestic abuse.

  • Watch Wiltshire Police's chief constable speak to ITV West Country

Speaking at the conference, chief constable Catherine Roper said she was "saddened" by the force's shortcomings.

She said: "I'm truly, truly sad that they (women and girls) don't have the trust in us - and it's my fault. It's the fault of my officers and I and our teams, that they don't have the trust and confidence in us.

"It's our responsibility to work much harder to gain that trust and confidence. I'm just saddened that we're not providing the service and people don't trust us to pick up the phone."

The force's most senior officer added that she believes additional training will lead to the police being trusted by more people.

She said: "Am I frustrated that we are not always providing that consistent service? Yes, beyond frustrated.

"With the training, with the investment, with the dedicated support, a much greater focus on the vulnerable - on people who are vulnerable and people who need our support - I truly do believe our service will improve, but I do understand why we're in this situation.

"Over the last year, we have trained every operational, frontline member of staff - be it police officer or police staff member - in a training programme called DA Matter.

"So, we've actually recently completed a force-wide training programme for people to understand for people to become more inquisitive with regards to domestic abuse and domestic violence - so we have invested in that area.

"Violence, domestic violence and also violence against women and girls is one of my priority areas," she said.