The home secretary, Theresa May, has said she will be speaking to Parliament very soon about how police in England and Wale can improve the way they handle domestic violence.
Theresa May has been in talks with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) about improvements on how the police handle domestic violence. In a interview with BBC Radio 4's The World at One she said she had been speaking to HMIC “about them looking into this whole question of police response”. She also said that she intends to make “a formal announcement on this to Parliament fairly soon”. Before she does this she says “I think there are a number of agencies that we need to bring in in relation to this and certainly we would be looking as well to the College of Policing in terms of the sort of training and the sort of standards that are developed.”
Mrs May says that too many young men – and even some young women – thought violence in a relationship was normal. About two women a week die from domestic violence, a rate that has remained steady for more than a decade, in England and Wales.
Last year the police used “community resolutions” in 2,488 domestic violence cases, however this only means that the offender must apologise to the victim without them being prosecuted. The Association of Chief Police Officers says that such resolutions should only be used for low-level crime. Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called them a completely inappropriate way to deal with domestic violence.
Mrs May also said in her interview that public attitudes need to be alterted in order for these issues to be tackled.
“There are still too many cases – too many women up and down the country who suffer from domestic abuse,” she said. “Too many young men, and in some surveys it shows young women as well, think that some form of abuse or violence within a relationship is a norm – part of a relationship.”
Concerns have also been raised around the quality of the police's response to domestic violence as it varies dramatically from force to force. Due to this, Ms Cooper has called for Mrs May to set national standards.
Polly Neate, from the charity Women's Aid, says that all children should have “high-quality” education with regards to sex and relationships to help counter attitudes that aid domestic violence. As well as school training Ms Neate has also called for more police officer training however warned that 30% funding cuts to support services last year meant that police were limited to the kind of support they were able to provide.
Sandra Horley, from domestic violence charity Refuge, is calling for an independent public inquiry to look at how the Crown Prosecution Service, social services, and health services, alongside the police, handle domestic violence. She warns that refuges were being “decimated” by local authority funding cuts.
“It is a national problem requiring a national solution – and funding on a national level to protect the services that make the difference between life and death,” she said.