In a report released today, Lancashire Constabulary has been praised for the work it does to tackle domestic abuse following a visit by government inspectors. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) visited the force in November 2013 after being commissioned to conduct a domestic abuse inspection of all forces.
The HMIC noted that the public in Lancashire 'can have confidence that police officers and staff provide a good service to victims of domestic abuse in all areas to keep them safe'.
The findings also show that tackling domestic abuse is a priority for the Constabulary which has invested in well trained and specialist staff who demonstrate a 'high level of commitment and awareness'.
The report highlights the force's good IT systems which alert call handlers to repeat callers; these are people who have previously been a victim of abuse, regardless of how long ago this was. The inspectors also found that staff are well trained to establish risk levels and that they have a clear understanding that repeat and vulnerable victims are at a greater risk.
The report also shows how Lancashire Constabulary has continued to invest in specialist staff to deal with domestic abuse throughout a period of austerity, with considerable investment in domestic abuse training and information for staff. Positive action is encouraged by the force, which means in the majority of cases, perpetrators are arrested promptly. For every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded, there were 90 arrests in Lancashire - for most forces the number is between 45 and 90.
Other areas of good practice include the force's efforts to make victims safer from the first point of contact. HMIC found a strong focus in Lancashire on safeguarding the victim as well as dealing with the offence.
Lancashire Constabulary has learned lessons from other forces which resulted in the creation of the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) - a single point for information exchange between various agencies. Further to this the report noted that there are robust processes in place to ensure that high-risk victims are kept updated throughout the whole process.
Lancashire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques said:
"Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Lancashire Constabulary and as such I am pleased with the findings of this report. Despite the current financial restraints we have continued to invest in this area and as a result we have dedicated, specialist staff who are completely committed to keeping victims of domestic abuse safe. Lancashire also benefits from outstanding partnership support, in particular with the numbers of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA) who work across the county assisting the Constabulary to safeguard victims and their families.
"Domestic abuse can affect anyone and is often seen as a hidden crime. Many assume it's just about violence, but it isn't, it covers any type of physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence or control. The effects of domestic abuse can be devastating but we want people to know that help is out there. We will continue to work with our partners in order to provide the best possible service we can to victims of this devastating crime and we would always encourage anybody who is a victim to contact us.
Facts and figures
· Domestic abuse accounts for 10% of all recorded crime.
· Lancashire recorded 946 assaults with intent to cause serious harm, of these 217 were domestic abuse related. This is 23% of all assaults with intent to cause serious harm recorded for the 12 months to the end of August 2013.
· The force also recorded 9,789 assaults with injury, of these 3,452 were domestic abuse related. This is 35% of all assaults with injury recorded for the 12 months to the end of August 2013.
· The force recorded 1,574 harassment offences, of these 992 were domestic abuse related. This is 63% of all harassment offences recorded for the 12 months to the end of August 2013.
· The force also recorded 1,817 sexual offences, of these 128 were domestic related. This is 7% of all sexual offences recorded for the 12 months to the end of August 2013.
· On 31 August 2013, Lancashire had 35,603 active domestic abuse cases, 8% were high risk, 26% were medium risk and 67% were standard risk.
· For every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded there were 90 arrests in Lancashire. For most forces the number is between 45 and 90.
· Lancashire recorded 8,935 domestic abuse related crimes between 1 April 2013 and 25 March 2014 with a positive outcome rate on 65.8%
The report did, however, make a number of recommendations for Lancashire Constabulary to consider. These included reviewing training currently provided to staff, to ensure they understand coercive control, stalking, harassment and honour based violence; reviewing the use of body cameras; and reviewing how we monitor the ongoing welfare of repeat victims, amongst others.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques added: "We will look at the recommendations made by the report and ensure appropriate action is taken."
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: "Tackling domestic abuse, protecting victims and bringing offenders to justice are clear priorities for me - and I am delighted to see HMIC has recognised the Constabulary's performance in these areas.
"The impact domestic abuse can have on both victims and their families should not be underestimated. Abuse devastates lives and unfortunately I am all too aware of the tragic consequences it can have. Therefore, despite the force's excellence being acknowledged, the Constabulary cannot afford to be complacent. I am committed to ensuring Lancashire continues to strive to improve the way it deals with domestic abuse and the support given to victims, to make sure the force is the best it can possibly be.
"In order to do this, despite the extreme financial pressure the force is under, I have ensured funding is not cut from the Public Protection Unit (PPU). The financial situation facing both the Constabulary and our partners has made partnership working even more important than before, and I am very proud of the relationships we have in Lancashire. I am pleased HMIC has recognised this, and it is something I intend to ensure the Constabulary continues to build on in all aspects of business.
"I am committed to continuing scrutiny of the Constabulary's performance around domestic abuse, and a number of recommendations have been made by HMIC which I will monitor to ensure they are acted upon."
For more about the activities of Lancashire Constabulary please visit:
http://www.lancashire.police.uk or visit Lancashire Police on facebook.
See also Monday's news item: Labour candidate calls for Action on Domestic Violence