Domestic Abuse: A Second Class Crime?

News  |   28 March 2014

Once again, domestic abuse is back at the top of the news agenda, following the publication of a new report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Once again, domestic abuse is back at the top of the news agenda, following the publication of a new report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. The report claims that a widespread failure of Police Forces in England and Wales to effectively tackle domestic abuse, is exposing thousands of people to risk of harm, or even murder. In this exceptionally critical report, HMIC called for chief officers to recognise that domestic abuse constituted a ‘major problem’and that it should therefore merit comparable resources and focus to those deployed to tackling other high incidence crimes - such as burglary.

Depressing Reading

Home secretary, Theresa May, who commissioned the report said it made “depressing reading” and that the findings were “deeply worrying”. She added “HMIC makes a series of recommendations to forces and I expect them to all be implemented quickly”. She then goes on to say that she is establishing “a new national oversight group, which I will Chair myself. I expect Chief Constables to respond to the report by changing radically their response to domestic violence”. This criticism is in marked contrast to the much praised ‘Claire’s Law’. Named after Claire Wood, who sadly lost her life after suffering abuse from her partner, Claire’s Law was introduced to tackle abuse, by giving women the opportunity to find out about their partner’s Police Records. This thereby enables them to establish whether the individual in question has a record of offending.

Out of the forty three police forces across the UK, the report said that there were only eight that were performing well with regard to domestic abuse. According to the report, victims often report the sense of ‘not being taken seriously’ and of feeling ‘judged’. Additionally it is claimed that some officers demonstrate a ‘considerable lack of empathy and understanding’.

An attitude problem?

This resonates with what we frequently hear from victims that come to us for advice. So, how has we come to apparently ‘tolerate’ such behaviour. Well, according to my colleague, Jody Green, it’s an unfortunate result of both a lack of understanding of what defines domestic abuse, coupled with a reluctance on the part of many victims to come forward: “I speak to victims frequently and they tell me that it is often easier for them to think ‘I am just imagining it’, or ‘this is normal’,’ I can put up with it’ ,‘It is what I should expect’, particularly if there has been a history of them being in violent relationships.” So therefore, tragically, the person best able to draw the abuse to the attention of the police, is often the one least inclined to so do.

Seeking help:

“It’s an education issue” continues Jody. “If we could just raise awareness of what constitutes abuse, then perhaps people might feel more confident in coming forward. Mrs May is calling for radical change to the way police respond to domestic abuse and violence, which is as we know, all too common. We thoroughly support her in this initiative.”

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this story please contact our family department.