Essex: Changes to how police deal with domestic violence reports
PUBLISHED: 12:51 05 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:51 05 March 2014
An MP has welcomed a change in how Essex Police deals with calls reporting domestic violence.
Officers have met with victims, both male and female, to learn more about the service they received and how it could be improved.
And one of the outcomes of the work so far has been to launch a special freephone domestic abuse telephone number for victims.
Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, said the free phone line is an “extremely good idea”.
“It can come as a shock but there is domestic violence all around us and it’s hidden. It is not just something that happens in broken homes or in bad areas,” he added. “Domestic violence affects every strata of society, rich or poor alike.
“Very often it’s women and children that need to be encouraged to ask for help.
“There’s a terrible stigma that victims of domestic violence feel it’s their fault and they are responsible for provoking the violence and this isn’t true.
“Anybody subjected to domestic violence doesn’t need to put up with it.”
Figures from last year revealed more than 3,600 offences were recorded between April and September.
Claire Heath, head of customer service for Essex Police, said: “What we wanted to find out was what worked well, how police involvement made victims feel and how we, and our partners in Essex, could improve.
“It has been very much about giving victims a voice in the way we approach domestic abuse incidents so we can tailor our response accordingly.
“We wanted to learn and understand how we can improve their confidence in us as a service and how we can shape future services to give them the support that they need from the first point of contact right through to the end of the court process, if necessary.”
Mrs Heath said many victims had asked for a freephone number so they could call and get updates on the progress of their case without incurring a charge.
The force has also changed the way it handles calls to make sure that victims are not asked unnecessary questions when they make contact.
She added: “Policing often requires a lot of paperwork to make sure we gather all the necessary information about an incident but we have recognised that when a victim first calls us that is not always the best time to get all of this detail.
“We have also taken on board the need for victims to have a dedicated point of contact to help build trust and continuity. We have committed to providing one dedicated named point of contact, who will provide victims with updates, guidance and advice.
“We then aim to follow this through from the first point of contact, during an investigation and any subsequent court hearing.
“One of the other major innovations we are also carrying out is to work together with other agencies to keep victims and their families safe. This can cover everything from providing emergency accommodation, to finding a new home and looking at education options for children.”
The freephone number is 0800 358 0351.