Police ‘are not doing enough’ to aid abuse victims

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YORKSHIRE’S police forces have been told to improve the way they deal with the victims of domestic abuse in a scathing national report by a Government watchdog.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) says the response to domestic violence victims nationwide is “not good enough” and found “alarming and unacceptable weaknesses” in the way some forces tackle the issue.

Though some forces performed well, poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence-gathering were all heavily criticised by the watchdog, which has called for an urgent overhaul of the response to domestic abuse, from frontline officers up to police chiefs.

The region’s forces also came in for criticism, though inspectors praised some work being done to help the thousands of people each year who report domestic violence in Yorkshire.

In South Yorkshire it said “there are risks some victims may not be getting the service they need”, while Humberside Police was said to have a “fragmented and inconsistent approach”.

HMIC said there were “some risks and inconsistencies” in the way West Yorkshire Police tackles domestic abuse. North Yorkshire Police was said to have “effective working practices” but still had opportunities to improve.

Reacting to the findings, campaigners warned domestic violence was still treated as a second-class crime by police, while Labour demanded action from Home Secretary Theresa May.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: “Domestic abuse casts a terrible blight on the lives of very many people, and can have tragic consequences. In too many police forces we found there were serious weaknesses in services, which are putting victims at unnecessary and avoidable risk.”

West Yorkshire Police, the largest force in the region, recorded 10,690 domestic abuse related crimes for the 12 months to the end of August 2013. HMIC said the force saw tackling domestic abuse as a priority and worked well with its partners, but said improvement was needed in some areas. One weakness was that call handlers received little training in how to deal with domestic abuse incidents.

Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Dodd said: “The report properly identifies a number of significant strengths in our response to domestic abuse and we are delighted that these have been highlighted. However, we cannot be complacent and we recognise that there is more that we can do to deal with this blight on individuals and families.”

Humberside Police’s control centre staff were said to have an “inconsistent” ability to identify abuse. Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver said: “We are disappointed with the report because we don’t believe that it accurately reflects the good work done by the force.”

Matt Fenwick of South Yorkshire Police said the force had an action plan to address areas of improvement and that officers and staff had been given “further extensive training”.