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Police vow to reach all domestic abuse calls within one hour

PUBLISHED: 16:11 28 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 28 May 2018

Assistant chief constable Paul Sanford. Picture: Archant

Assistant chief constable Paul Sanford. Picture: Archant

Archant

Police have vowed to attend all reports of domestic abuse within one hour as new figures reveal more than half of victims currently do not support a prosecution.

Mandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway, the charity providing support to those experiencing domestic abuse.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway, the charity providing support to those experiencing domestic abuse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk Constabulary figures for the past 12 months reveal 50.2pc of domestic abuse victims do not support a prosecution, for reasons police say are “multi-faceted”.

It is a rise of 13.2pc from a three-year average of 37pc, and police are looking to reverse the trend by upgrading their response.

A pilot project trialled in the west of the county has been rolled out county-wide, and will see officers treat all domestic incidents as at least a Grade B (priority attendance), even if it occurred days ago or did not involve injuries.

It is hoped that by responding within a one hour window they can collect better evidence and provide support for victims earlier in order to secure a conviction.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Sanford said the number of reports of domestic abuse is growing each year, with a rise of 26pc in the last 12 months.

“What we have also started to see is a growing number of victims who are not supporting a prosecution,” he said.

“We are attending addresses for lower severity cases, often verbal arguments. A lot isn’t partner on partner, it includes all violence within the home. When a mum has been assaulted by a son she often doesn’t want to support a prosecution.”

ACC Sanford said in cases that used to remain behind closed doors police have to make a “judgement call”, and often won’t prosecute if a child is the aggressor.

He said: “We are increasingly dealing with matters that used to be dealt with by the family themselves. Many of the calls are from concerned neighbours or other agencies. Previously when a family had an argument it was not the police business to deal with.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t support a prosecution when it is right.”

As the number of cases where victims refuse to support a prosecution rises, those which are eventually solved by police has dropped to just one in five - 21.4pc.

Since April, response officers have been treating all domestic reports as a priority, which ACC Sanford said is “the right thing to do”.

“If you get to an incident quicker, particularly when it has been called in by the victim, there will be less of an opportunity for them to change their mind before we get the support around them,” he said.

“We took the decision to pilot a scheme where any domestic abuse incident is dealt with by category A or B calls. Our aim to get to victims within one hour to see if they are more likely to support a prosecution.”

The force said it will still treat all ongoing incidents as a Grade A (immediate response). But other incidents may see a slower response as a result of upgrading less serious domestic abuse reports.

“We are not reclassifying any other jobs as a consequence of this,” added ACC Sanford. “The potential consequence of that is we might see overall performance in category B slip by a few minutes. That is within our tolerance.

“Overall our priority is doing what is right for the victim.”

Mandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway, a charity providing support to adults, young people and children who are experiencing domestic abuse in Norfolk and Waveney, welcomed the move.

“Gathering evidence in this ‘golden hour’ is important and means that there is a greater chance of securing prosecutions,” she said.

“If the police are able to produce evidence to support the case, it will also put a lot less pressure on the victim to provide evidence.

“By adopting a tougher stance on domestic abuse, it gives people reassurance that their case will be listened to and taken seriously, which may encourage more people to come forward to access support.”

She added victims may not wish to support a prosecution for “several reasons”, including having to go through the court process.

“The court process can be quite a daunting experience and this may put off quite a lot of people, especially if they do not fully understand it,” she said.


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