Domestic violence deaths reach five-year high

Nearly three quarters of domestic violence victims are women
Nearly three quarters of domestic violence victims are women
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The government has been urged to tackle the “appalling” and “horrifying” rise in domestic violence killings, which have hit a five-year high.

Charities and domestic violence organisations appealed to the government to take urgent action by committing to funding for refuges and sticking to the promise that the Domestic Violence Bill, which was delayed by the suspension of parliament, is given prominence when it reopens.

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The number of domestic violence killings has hit a five-year high, figures published today show.

Data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK reveal that 173 people died in domestic violence-related homicides last year.

The statistics show there were 165 domestic killings in 2014, 160 in 2015, 139 in 2016 and 141 in 2017.

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Refuge said the figures were “horrifying” and called domestic violence a “national travesty”.

“These statistics should be a wakeup call for politicians and the criminal justice system.

“To put it simply, without the necessary action to address violence against women and girls, these appalling statistics are unlikely to be reduced.

She called for more funding for refuges, which have faced devastating cuts in recent years, and for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be given priority in the Queen’s Speech, “along with a clear and simple agenda for its passage into law”.

Independent Domestic Abuse Services, the largest specialist domestic abuse service in the region, told the Yorkshire Post: “This rise in the number of murders should highlight the stark reality and risks for people living with domestic abuse and the urgent need to act.

“Despite the delay to the domestic abuse bill, our teams continue to work tirelessly to support survivors across the region.”

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In Yorkshire, the organisation’s helpline received more than 3,500 calls over the summer holiday period and nearly 2,000 referrals for support.

Though the BBC did not publish regional figures, Mark Burns-Williamson, police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire confirmed there had been eight domestic violence related homicides last year in West Yorkshire, a rise on the five that took place in 2017.

Mr Burns-Williamson was speaking after a 21-year-old Leeds woman, Bethany Rae Fields, was killed in Huddersfield town centre on Thursday evening in a “domestic homicide”.

Other Yorkshire police forces also reiterated their commitment to tackling domestic violence.

Superintendent Allan Harder, head of safeguarding for North Yorkshire Police said tackling domestic abuse was “a major priority” and that the force sees safeguarding measures as “homicide prevention”.

In 2018 North Yorkshire Police used Domestic Violence Protection Notices to keep 158 victims of domestic violence safe. Supt Harder said it also worked closely with other organisations to share information to protect those who are at high risk of violence or murder.

He added: “We are also proactive in our use of Clare’s Law, where we can make a disclosure to a person, to make them aware of their partner’s history of domestic violence and if they present a physical risk to their safety. By taking this approach we prevent people from becoming victims of domestic abuse and it enables us to provide support to those who want to leave an abusive or violent relationship.”

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South Yorkshire Police Superintendent Shelley Hemsley said: “Domestic abuse can take many forms and in the most dangerous and extreme cases, domestic violence can result in tragic and devastating loss of life.

“We are absolutely committed to supporting domestic abuse victims. Domestic abuse is not solely about violence, it can include psychological abuse, sexual abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour.”

Speaking at the Convention for the North in Rotherham yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his commitment to including the Domestic Violence Bill in the Queen's Speech.

Responding to the figures, Victoria Atkins, Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said: “These tragic cases are a stark reminder of the devastating impact of domestic abuse and we are determined to do more to protect victims and bring more perpetrators to justice.

“Through Clare’s Law we have already empowered people to learn if their partner has a violent past and in the Queen’s Speech we will confirm that we will be reintroducing the Domestic Abuse Bill in the next session.”

She added that the government was taking action to restore public confidence in the justice system by recruiting 20,000 more police officers and reviewing sentencing.