AROUND ONE in every five cases relating to domestic violence is being dropped, despite a huge rise in cases across the region, an investigation from The Yorkshire Post has revealed.
Of the cases dealt with in 2014/2015, 2,066 were dropped for “evidential or public interest reasons” and there were just 6,705 convictions - almost half the number of cases initially sent to the CPS.
State agencies have been accused of letting victims down at every stage, and today victims’ charity Refuge has called for a national inquiry into the problem.
Chief executive Sandra Horley CBE said: “We know a huge number of domestic violence cases never even reach the police and therefore the courts. Many women are simply too frightened to come forward. Women who are brave enough to report their experiences to the police are often disbelieved, ignored and denied protection.
“Last year, an investigation into police forces found damning evidence that the police response is “not good enough” and that serious failings in policing were putting women and children at “unnecessary risk”. All too often, evidence is not collected, photographs of injuries are not taken, and a ‘canteen culture’ still exists in forces where domestic violence is not taken seriously.
“We also know, through our work with victims, that every day women are let down by the CPS. The court process is long, stressful and can be re-traumatising.”
The Yorkshire Post’s investigation found that South Yorkshire has the worst record when it comes to failure to prosecute. Of the 3,243 pre-charge decisions referred to the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of the CPS in the last financial year, 737 - or 22.7 per cent - were not pursued through the courts. Each is counted in terms of suspects.
Superintendent Natalie Shaw, who leads on domestic abuse for South Yorkshire Police, said: “The protection of vulnerable people is a priority across our force and this includes the work we do alongside our partner agencies to safeguard and protect victims of domestic abuse.
“We have seen the number of reported domestic abuse cases rising but given that in the past, crimes of this nature were under-reported, I take this as a positive indication that victims are reassured by the service we are providing and have the confidence to come forward and report their abuse to police.”
For West Yorkshire Police, the decision to take ‘no further action’ occurred in 17.3 per cent of the 5,477 for what it describes as evidential or public interest reasons.
Assistant chief constable Russ Foster, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Every report of domestic abuse is attended by a Police Officer and where appropriate a crime is recorded, investigated and the victim safeguarded. We have a policy of positive action against perpetrators and where justified an arrest will be made.
“Approximately half of all crimes result in a positive disposal, which is comparable with other most similar sized forces.”
The CPS’ budget has been cut by 25 per cent since 2010. A spokesman said that despite the increased financial pressures, the service does not make charging decisions based on financial reasons, except for in “very limited circumstances”.
Martin Goldman, chief prosecutor for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “These crimes are amongst the most difficult to prosecute given that many of these offences take place in private.
“The CPS is prosecuting more of these crimes than ever before. In the last financial year, nearly 76 per cent of the cases we prosecuted ended in a successful conviction.
“This track-record of successful prosecutions demonstrates that our specially trained prosecutors are able to build strong and successful cases against the majority of these offenders and bring justice to victims.
“We welcome a rise in reporting of domestic abuse incidents – this represents increased confidence in our ability to prosecute these difficult and sensitive cases. We also recognise how much courage this takes, and we will do all we can to support all victims in seeking justice.”
“As an organisation we are determined to continue to provide a quality service to victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and honour-based crime.”
Earlier this year The Yorkshire Post revealed that campaigners were seeking improved domestic violence training for doctors after figures revealed victims suffer in silence for up to three years before getting help.
A study by domestic abuse charity SafeLives - formerly Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse - found that within a three-year period some women will suffer more than 50 incidents of violence.