A report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) states that police forces in England and Wales are seriously failing victims of domestic abuse.

The response from many forces is stated to be ‘alarming and ineffective’. Police forces are currently receiving around 1 million calls a year in relation to domestic abuse and around 58,000 victims are at risk of serious harm or murder. Only 8 of 53 forces were noted in the report to be responding well to domestic abuse reports. In many cases officers failed to take photographs of the injuries of victims and police statements were reported to be missing very important pieces of information required for a successful prosecution of perpetrators.

The Home Secretary Theresa May has referred to the findings of the report as alarming and ‘depressing reading’. She has stated that she will now take personal charge of the way in which police forces respond to domestic abuse. Acknowledging the issues raised in the report, Assistant Chief Constable and ACPO lead on domestic abuse, Louisa Rolfe, said, “Police need to get the basics right – the first response to victims of abuse, the investigation and the subsequent action to protect victims from violence and abuse – but we cannot tackle domestic abuse alone. Since forces were last inspected by HMIC in 2004, much work has been done to develop a much tighter partnership response with domestic abuse charities and health, social care, probation, education and housing services.”

Clearly there are significant training issues being highlighted here and it is encouraging that ACPO appears to be treating the report with appropriate concern.

Our experience in David Gray’s Domestic Abuse Team is that the police response to domestic abuse is patchy and that, whilst specialist officers and some rank and file approach domestic abuse appropriately, responsively and sensitively, others simply “don’t get it”- or worse. There is clearly much room for improvement.

Here at David Gray Solicitors LLP we have several Resolution Accredited Specialists in domestic abuse. Our dedicated team of lawyers are able to see clients who are experiencing domestic abuse on an emergency same-day basis, to give appropriate advice and obtain emergency injunctions where necessary. We also advise on related issues including arrangements for children and divorce. We are sympathetic to our clients’ needs and will take the time to listen to their priorities and concerns. We have excellent links with local support services, such as Women’s Aid, so that our clients receive a holistic service.

Domestic abuse is very common and happens in close relationships regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, class or culture. Domestic abuse kills. By raising awareness and providing appropriate advice and support, we can tackle this issue which is so damaging to children, families and wider communities.