Radical and urgent action needed to tackle national epidemic of violence against women and girls, says police watchdog

A police watchdog has called for radical and urgent action to tackle a national epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Councils, schools, health and social care bodies and all areas of the criminal justice system must work together to create a "fundamental system-wide" change to address the problem as the police "cannot solve this alone", an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has revealed.

The watchdog’s initial findings, in an interim report of an inspection commissioned by Home Secretary Priti Patel, were published on Wednesday in a bid to inform the Government of the work being carried out on Whitehall's strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.

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Inspectors said offending against women and girls is "deep-rooted and pervasive" in society, while an estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2020.

A police watchdog has called for radical and urgent action to tackle a national epidemic of violence against women and girls.
A police watchdog has called for radical and urgent action to tackle a national epidemic of violence against women and girls.

In the same period, more than 20 women reported being assaulted or raped each day in Yorkshire.Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: "We are living during a national epidemic of violence against women and girls. The prevalence and range of offending and harm is stark and shocking. We are clear that the police have made great progress over the last decade against a backdrop of greater demand, and we want forces to maintain this momentum and build on these improvements. But there is still evidence of inconsistent support for victims and low prosecution rates.

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“A radical and immediate change in approach is needed, supported by sustained funding and mandated responsibilities, potentially through a new statutory framework. We need to end violence against women and girls by preventing it, supporting victims, and bringing perpetrators to justice with the full force of police powers and the law."

The findings recommend:

– Government, police, the criminal justice system and other public bodies should “immediately and unequivocally commit to prioritising the response to violence against women and girls”, with sufficient funding and mandatory responsibilities.

– The police should make the “relentless pursuit and disruption of perpetrators a national priority, and their capability and capacity to do this should be enhanced”.

– Funding and “structures” are provided to make sure victims receive “tailored and consistent support”.

A final report will be published in September.