Norfolk police chief: We all have to act on male violence
- Credit: Steve Adams
Norfolk's chief constable said the murder of Sarah Everard has shown it is time for everyone to do more to reduce male violence against women.
Speaking out in the aftermath of the killing of the 33-year-old whose body was found in woodland near Kent last week, Simon Bailey said this was "a moment for us to reflect as a society on what we can do to reduce male violence, abuse and harassment".
Mr Bailey described Ms Everard's death as "incredibly sad and shocking" but hoped it would focus minds on looking to cut violence by men against women.
He said: "Many of the solutions lie outside of policing but I know Norfolk Police has an important role to play. A key issue for policing and the criminal justice system is the effectiveness of our response to violence against women, particularly rape and other sexual offences, domestic abuse and stalking.
"Too few victims are seeing their cases go to court. For those that do, the experience is long and difficult. This has a serious impact on their confidence in the police and in the criminal justice system and means too many perpetrators get away with their crimes."
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Government figures show that only 2pc of rapes recorded in 2019-20 in the county led to charges.
The rate has plummeted from 15pc since 2015-16.
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Mr Bailey said: "We are increasing the use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, obtaining more Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) at court and strengthening the vital multi-agency collaboration to tackle offenders' behaviour and improve the safety of victims."
"Norfolk police, along with other forces across the country, have also contributed to and are waiting for the outcomes of the cross-government rape review, which has been working to understand and address the reasons behind falling rape prosecutions.
"In the interim, a Joint National Action Plan is being implemented with the CPS. It includes action to improve support for victims, help officers build strong cases from the outset and increase the knowledge and expertise of our officers and staff. There are promising signs as the referrals of rape to the CPS are starting to rise.
"In the coming weeks, we will be speaking to our partners, victims' groups and experts about what more can be done."
The murder of Ms Everard has sent shockwaves across the nation.
Women across Norfolk, including Archant reporters, have spoken about their experiences of feeing unsafe at a time when crime in the county has gone up by 7.4pc in the past year.
Violent crime in the county is on the increase with injury offences rising by 2.5pc and non-injury offences up 15.9pc between April 2019 and March 2020 with sexual offences rising by 14.5pc in the same period.
But while Mr Bailey recognised the concerns brought about by this shocking case, he urged people not to allow the fear of crime to "disproportionately affect our lives".
He said: "I met with chief constables across the country yesterday afternoon to discuss male violence against women and the experiences and fears that women have shared since Sarah's tragic murder.
"It is understandable these events will cause people to be fearful and no woman should feel unsafe, either at home or whilst walking on the streets of Norfolk.
"However, we must be careful that we do not allow the fear of crime to disproportionately affect our lives. In Norfolk, it is rare for someone to be victim of a serious violence or sexual crime by a stranger."
He said of the most serious violent offences against women in the past 12 months, none have been identified as having been committed by a stranger.
But Mr Bailey said the figures did highlight the importance of the work around domestic abuse as it was "one of the most serious crimes we deal with as a force".
In December last year, Michael Cowey was jailed for 23 years for the murder of his former partner Gemma Cowey at the former mental health hospital in Thorpe St Andrew in June last year.
Gemma had been stabbed more than 20 times by Cowey who had told her he wanted to meet to talk to her, but instead confronted her about relationship issues before taking two knives he had hidden in his socks and stabbing her.
A domestic homicide review is to be held into Gemma's death to enable lessons to be learned from the tragedy.
The review uncovered a catalogue of failings by organisations which were there to protect Miss McAuley, including police, CPS and the probation service.
The shock in the wake of the murder of Miss Everard has turned to anger after serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was arrested and charged with the killing.
That anger has been exacerbated by the way in which a vigil to remember Ms Everard at Clapham Common over the weekend was policed by Met Police officers.
Mr Bailey said police in Norfolk were looking to improve the way it supported victims.
He said: "I have agreed with chief constables across the country that we will contribute to working with experts and partners, to consider carefully the role police could play in responding to street harassment.
"As part of this we agreed we need to further assess the calls for misogyny to be treated as a hate crime. The Law Commission is due to make final recommendations on this issue later this year and parliament will be debating the case for police forces recording where existing crimes are believed to be motivated by hatred of someone's sex or gender.
"We know victims of rape, abuse and harassment are more confident to report to us and I want to reassure people in Norfolk we are here to help. Offences of this nature will be taken seriously. They will be fully investigated and if a crime has been committed we will seek to prosecute those responsible."