Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said the scale of the ‘epidemic’ of violence against women and girls should see it become one of the top three priorities for police forces
Image: METROPOLITAN POLICE/AFP via Gett)
Stopping violence against women should be considered as important as the war on terror, a police watchdog has said.
In a report commissioned after the killing of marketing executive Sarah Everard, the Inspectorate of Constabulary found “problems, unevenness and inconsistencies” in dealing with the “epidemic” of violence against female victims.
It claimed the police response to such offences had improved in the past five years but there remained concerns, including the “staggering variation” across forces in the way domestic abuse was handled.
And it said victims “should not be subject to a postcode lottery” after it emerged forces had huge discrepancies in how they used the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme to provide information about a person’s criminal history to someone deemed at risk.
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It found more than half of applications made by police resulted in disclosure to a potential victim. But that figure fell to only 39% when it came to requests from the public.
Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: “When you look at the hierarchy of priorities within police forces, often violence against women and girls doesn’t feature as the top three. Given the scale of the epidemic, it’s vital it does.”
The report found three out of four domestic abuse cases are closed early without the suspect being charged.
Ms Billingham said: “We need to make really significant change if violence against women is to be changed.”
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And she said chief constables “should get a grip” to ensure consistently high standards.
She went on: “Violence against women and girls creates immeasurable harm but too often crimes disproportionately affecting them are not afforded the same priority as other types of crime.
“They should be afforded a priority that is equivalent to those types of crime [counter-terrorism].
“If we go into a force and ask a frontline cop ‘What is it important that you do today?’ we’d like to hear ‘Actually keeping women and girls safe so they can go about their business, free from fear and free from harm and the risk of harm’.
“That would be a great outcome.”
The report was commissioned by Home Secretary Priti Patel after Sarah, 33, was killed near Clapham Common, South London, in March.
Her rape and murder by off-duty Met officer Wayne Couzens, prompted widespread grief and anger, as well as angry protests over women’s safety.
Couzens will be sentenced later this month.
Bodycams in abuse fight
Women at risk of stalking by violent ex-partners are being offered bodycams in a landmark domestic abuse pilot scheme.
Experts said the cameras will collect evidence but also act as a deterrent.
Anti-domestic abuse campaigners Women Out West, which supports victims in West Cumbria, secured £1,920 in funding for 10 bodycams from the Sellafield Charity Snowball Fund.
WOW founder Rachel Holliday said the idea came about after they noticed domestic abuse cases fell when women had CCTV fitted in their homes.
One victim said: “This bodycam idea is excellent. It’s a deterrent and will add an extra layer of reassurance for people like me who have suffered so badly as a result of this nightmare which, for me, isn’t over yet.”