I often hear that ‘things ain’t what they used to be’. Many people feel that the police provided a better service in days gone by.
That’s not necessarily true. For example, when I joined the police we weren’t very good at supporting victims of domestic abuse.
Let me explain. There are different levels of assault, the most serious being murder.
After that comes wounding, then Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), then Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). At the lower end of the scale is what is known as ‘common assault’ or ‘battery’. This can be a push or a shove or a slap: anything that doesn’t cause lasting injury.
The thing is, when I joined, there was no power of arrest attached to common assault. If we were called to ‘a domestic’ and there were no visible injuries, we simply told the victim that it wasn’t a police matter and they should seek out a private prosecution.
This was probably at a time in the victim’s life when they had limited access to funds and often little or no family support. Domestic abuse was something that went on behind closed doors and wasn’t talked about.
Attitudes have changed. It is now acknowledged that nationally, one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives as will one in six men. Two women are murdered every week in England and Wales at the hands of their partners or ex-partners.
To put a local perspective on this: since April 1 we have had 403 incidents of domestic abuse in South Holland. In 27 of these incidents the victim was considered to be at high risk of further harm. Remember: we have had domestic violence murders in South Holland.
In recent months there have been some important new initiatives to tackle domestic abuse.
In March the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), also known as ‘Clare’s Law,’ was introduced. The aim of this scheme is to give victims a formal mechanism to make inquiries about a partner if they are worried that they may have been abusive in the past.
If police checks show that the partner has a record of violent behaviour, or there is other information to indicate that a person may be at risk from their partner, the police will consider sharing this information with the victim.
Under the DVDS, any concerned third party, such as a parent, neighbour or friend can also make an application if they are concerned about a victim.
However this isn’t a Nosey Parker’s Charter: a third party person making an application would not necessarily receive information themselves. It may be more appropriate for someone else to receive the information, such as the victim themselves, or a person that is in a position to protect them from the abuse.
The information will only be given to someone who is in a position to use the information to protect the victim from the abuse.
In June, Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) were introduced.
This is a significant piece of legislation designed to help victims of domestic abuse when they may be at their most vulnerable. Before this scheme, only those arrested and charged with an offence could be barred from their home, either through bail conditions or by the victim seeking an order in the civil courts.
Here’s the important change: the notices are used to intervene in cases where police believe a victim may be at risk from violence but do not have enough evidence to bring a criminal charge. A DVPN allows the duty superintendent to act instantly to safeguard families they consider to be under threat from perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Within 48 hours of a DVPN being issued, there is a further hearing in the magistrates’ court where the length of the Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) is determined.
So, this gives police the power to ban violent abusers from their homes for a length of time decided through the magistrates’ court (between 14 and 28 days), allowing the victims to stay in their own homes rather than flee to a friend’s home, or a refuge, to escape their abuser.
These powers give victims of domestic abuse muchneeded time, space and support to plan a safer future, by keeping the perpetrator away.
As part of the scheme, victims will also be offered help and advice by support services on the options open to them – including securing a longer-term injunction.
Locally there is a great deal of support for victims of domestic abuse. The ‘Sanctuary’ scheme has been developed for people who are affected by domestic abuse in the South Holland area.
The scheme provides victims with additional security measures for their property, thereby making it difficult for unwanted visitors to gain access.
We work with South Holland District Council, Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue, Women’s Aid and Victim Support to provide additional security measures and support.
Our sanctuary scheme is available to you if you are suffering from domestic abuse and wish to remain in your home.
The scheme is available to all council, housing association and private tenants and owner-occupiers.
Further information is available from South Holland District Council or from Spalding Police.