Women's Aid comments on police delays in responding to 999 calls

By Agencies
March 24, 2018

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces. On 22 March 2018 a report, Police effectiveness 2017: A national overview. 

Her Majesty’s Inspector Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, said, “In the face of substantial increasing pressures, dramatic increases in demand and rising numbers of complex crimes like sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse, most forces continue to do a good job in keeping us safe. It is especially commendable that almost all forces are taking effective action in the fight against organised crime. I congratulate officers and staff on the way they have largely kept policing standards high.

“But I have major concerns that policing is under significant stress. On occasions, that stress stretches some forces to such an extent that they risk being unable to keep people safe in some very important areas of policing.

“About a quarter of forces are all too often overwhelmed by the demand they face, resulting in worrying backlogs of emergency jobs, with officers not attending incidents promptly, including those involving vulnerable people.

“Last year, we warned of a national crisis in the shortage of detectives. Measures to address this are taking time to take effect. There is now a shortfall of 5000 investigators across England and Wales. This means one in five detective desks are empty or are filled with unqualified staff. It is not surprising that this often places a very great strain on existing detectives.

“I am pleased that forces continue to prioritise and improve how they keep vulnerable victims safe. But progress is stubbornly slow. Performance is still below standard in nearly half of all forces.

“Police officers, police staff and PCSOs rise to significant challenges every single day. It is vital that police leaders take effective action to stop the problems we have found becoming ever more entrenched and widespread.”

Commenting on the report, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said, “It is shocking to see that when survivors report domestic abuse to the police they are not always provided with an effective response when they reach out for help, with emergency calls being delayed in twelve forces for hours and in some cases days. According to today’s HMICFRS report, there is a domestic abuse crime committed every minute. While the overall response to domestic abuse continues to improve, it is clear that some police forces are overwhelmed by demand.

“This failure to respond efficiently when a survivor first reaches out for help not only compromises the chances of an effective investigation but also poses serious concern for survivors’ safety and access to justice. The falling arrest rate for domestic abuse, at a time when the number of incidents reported to the police is increasing, threatens survivors’ safety and sends out the dangerous message to perpetrators that they can get away with it. While we are also worried about the continuing trend for domestic abuse cases to be abandoned if the victim withdraws support for the prosecution; far too often poor evidence-gathering or over-reliance on the victim results in perpetrators not being held accountable for the crime. This is failing victims of domestic abuse, and undermining their confidence in the justice system to protect them.

“The government’s Domestic Abuse Bill promises to transform our national response to domestic abuse and ensure more victims have the courage to speak out. This new law must be underpinned by sufficient resources both for statutory agencies, such as the police, and specialist domestic abuse services, including refuges which are currently under threat by planned funding changes. These life-saving services are not an optional extra but an essential piece of the jigsaw in our response to domestic abuse. We want the government to give survivors a cast-iron guarantee that they will not go ahead with planned changes to how refuges will be funded. A truly transformative response to domestic abuse must both hold perpetrators accountable and keep women and children safe.”

* The national overview report, and reports for individual constabularies, are available here

* Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/

* Women's Aid https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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