Rise in victims reporting domestic abuse sees 6,000 cases opened in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Soaring numbers of domestic abuse crimes are being reported in Suffolk – with more than 6,000 cases opened in a year.
A total of 6,024 reports were logged by police from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, an increase of 27% against a three-year average and the equivalent of 16 a day.
However, just 18% – one in five – of those cases were solved, which is down 10.5%. More than half of victims (54%) did not support a police investigation.
Speaking at an Accountability and Performance Panel meeting, Deputy Chief Constable Steve Jupp said there was a direct correlation between an increase in reporting and the dramatic rise (13%) in victims not wanting to support a prosecution. He said the same amount of staff were dealing with investigations, but that police were seeing fewer people wanting to engage.
There were also evidential difficulties – caused by the time it sometimes takes for people to report abuse, he added.
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Volunteers at Ipswich-based support centre Phoebe said it is often incredibly difficult for both male and female victims to decide to report abuse. Specialist support worker Sudi Duncan added: “It can take several days, sometimes even months to years, for people to have the courage to come forward.
“For lots of victims there is an ongoing process – some people find it too difficult and withdraw.”
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While Sally Winston, CEO at Lighthouse Women’s Aid in Ipswich, added: “I would like to think that the rise is mainly down to the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour becoming more fully embedded along with victims having a greater awareness of domestic abuse/violence and feeling more confident around reporting.
“Lighthouse provide a number of services in Ipswich and across Suffolk.
“We have seen an increase in referrals to both our IDVA (high risk) service and our Women’s Centre over the past year.”
She added: “Our Women’s Centre and refuge only supports women, however the IDVA service supports all adult victims of domestic abuse and violence and the figures have remained constant over the past year of approximately 10% of victims being male.”
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) chiefs said they are committed to bringing perpetrators to justice, adding that the rate of successful convictions for Suffolk was found to be above average at 82%, according to the 2016-17 Violence Against Woman and Girls Report.
Hannah Hunt, CEO at Bury St Edmunds Women’s Refuge, said the spike in reports reflects a growing confidence in victims.
She added: “It doesn’t mean there is a lot more domestic abuse going on, but shows people are getting that confidence and reporting it.
“You can see in the figures when police had their SafeLives training, which helped them to recognise signs of abuse, because reports have gone up quite significantly since.
“Now when they respond to an incident they will record it as domestic abuse when they wouldn’t have necessarily done that before.
“I also think coercive control being made a criminal offence has made a big difference, because people know the perpetrator will be held responsible.”
• Those affected by issues raised in the above article should call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
If you feel in immediate danger as a result of domestic abuse, dial 999 straight away and wait in a safe place for the police to arrive.
What can be done to improve the solved rate?
Suffolk’s crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the force has come a long way in supporting victims of domestic abuse over the last few years.
Around £2million has been invested, and there are now more than a dozen full time officers dedicated to solving this type of crime.
But there is a need to take things forward, and increase the solved rate – but with a fresh understanding as to why some victims find it difficult to co-operate with investigations, he added.
“There is a slight reluctance with some victims to take prosecutions forward and that is a concern,” he said.
“There appears to be a number of reasons why this happens, we need to find out what they are and understand them.
“We are hoping to appoint a new Victim Survey Coordinator and they will be responsible for looking into these reasons and helping to improve the solved rate. “We also need more offenders to be given tough sentences, so it acts as a deterrent.”
Special panels have been set up to try to improve police performance in dealing with domestic abuse and ensure that everything possible is being learned from best practice from all forces.
The report to the Accountability and Performance Panel said: “The Domestic Abuse Delivery Board continues to deliver on the Constabulary Domestic Abuse (DA) strategy organised under the 4 P headings (Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare).
“Comprehensive analysis of DA performance data have allowed strategic managers to focus internal efforts on areas of required improvement.
“Local internal scrutiny panels have been developed to ensure a collective ownership of improvement in policing performance. These panels allow for management focus on the use of Body Worn Video and investigative/ safeguarding standards delivered by front line staff to ensure that best practice is captured and learning shared across the Constabulary.”