HMICFRS report on violent crime against women and girls welcomed

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne has welcomed a new report calling for a reformed multi-agency approach to tackling an increase in violent crime against women and girls.

The findings in the interim report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) acknowledged the “vast improvements” the police service has made in the way it responds to such crimes but also warned that a fundamental overhaul of the system was desperately needed.

HMICFRS described an epidemic of offending against women and girls with an estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experiencing domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2020.

But the inspectorate said it was not just down to the police to deal with the problem and called for fundamental reform involving partner agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service, health, social care and education.

Steve said: “We would clearly back any reforms that help us tackle violence against women and girls. But I would echo the inspectors’ interim report and say that there has to be a partnership approach to tackling the issues involved. While the police service has improved, we need to work closely with other agencies to build on this and ensure that we are effectively dealing with these crimes.”

Officials reviewed evidence from previous inspections, consulted with experts from policing, Government and victim support organisations and analysed the progress made by the police.

After reviewing the evidence, the inspectorate has recommended that transformation of the whole system is needed, including:

  • The Government, police, criminal justice system and public sector should immediately and unequivocally commit to prioritising the response to violence against women and girls, supported by sufficient funding and mandated 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; and
  • Funding and structures should be put in place to ensure victims receive tailored and consistent support.

Her Majesty’s 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.

“Offending against women and girls is deep-rooted and pervasive in our society. Urgent action is needed to uproot and address this and police cannot solve this alone. There must be a seamless approach to preventing and tackling violence against women and girls across the whole system, including education, local authorities, health, social care and those from across the criminal justice system – with all agencies working together.

“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.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, said police officers should not face anger from victims for the failings of other agencies and called on other sectors to step up and play their part.

He explained: “This isn’t something that can be solved overnight, or by just recruiting more officers. It’s a complex issue that demands time, attention, and money.”

The inspectorate’s interim findings have been published to help inform the Government’s violence against women and girls strategy. The final report is due out in September.