Calls are being made for an action plan to tackle domestic violence, amid concerns that police across the country are failing victims and their families. DAN BEAN reports.

A NEW plan must be drawn up to improve how domestic violence is tackled in North Yorkshire.

The announcement, from Police and Crime Commissioner, comes after a review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), showed almost a third of assaults with injury reported to North Yorkshire Police in the year to August 2013 were domestic abuse (1,024 of 3,387).

The HMIC report said North Yorkshire Police had "effective working practices", but there were "still opportunities for further development". It also said there was an "inconsistent approach to risk assessment which means that all victims may not receive the future support and access to services they need".

Julia Mulligan said the report showed "a clear need to refocus efforts on the victims of these terrible crimes".

She said: "In light of the HMIC report’s findings, it is now important the Chief Constable prepares an action plan to improve performance. Prevention is key, and it is clear the police service needs to do more to ensure serial perpetrators of domestic abuse are appropriately dealt with.

“More generally we need to look to the College of Policing to find a way for victims of domestic abuse to feel able to come forward quicker."

The report showed that for every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded in North Yorkshire, there were 72 arrests (national average between 45 and 90), and the force recorded 2,648 domestic abuse crimes in the same period. Of these, 34 per cent resulted in a charge, eight per cent in a caution and five per cent led to an out of court disposal.

The report praised some areas of the force's work, including it's associations with other agencies (see below), and investment in Protecting Vulnerable Persons Units (PVPUs).

Detective Superintendent Heather Pearson who heads the police's PVPUs, said: “Having the confidence to come forward is key for victims who are often very reluctant and find it extremely difficult to give evidence against someone who they have been, or may still be in a relationship with.

“We know domestic abuse is under-reported and I hope by demonstrating how seriously we take it, more victims will have the confidence to come forward. There is still much to be done but the police service cannot do it alone which is why we have built up excellent working relationships with our partner agencies and domestic abuse charities..”

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy said: “Protecting victims and their families and diverting the perpetrators away from domestic abuse is an absolute priority for North Yorkshire Police. It is good to see that the dedicated work and the improvements we have made in our response to these distressing crimes has been recognised.

“We acknowledge that there are areas for improvement and prior to the inspection, we had identified a number of areas where the service could be improved and have already taken steps to implement these changes.”


Case study - Lucy (not her real name)

Lucy had to phone 999 after her husband became drunk and abusive, knowing he had weapons in the house and her son was also present.

She said: "It was really scary, you don’t realise how scary until you have to do it. About ten minutes later around four or five police offices turned up at my house. They were all really nice and it made me feel much better.

"My little boy was scared and had asked me to call the police. We’d already been to the police station a few weeks before to see the domestic violence officer. She was very nice and had told us the police would always be there for us if we needed them."

One of the officers sat with Lucy and her son while the others got her then-husband out of the house.

She said: "He was brilliant, he made me realise that the way we were living wasn’t ‘normal’. It’s not ok to feel scared in your own house. When my ex was really drunk, my little boy and I used to sleep in the same room with the door barricaded shut, just in case he went nuts in the night and tried to get us."

The case went to court, and Lucy's now-ex husband had to move out. She said the response and support from police was a big relief.

She said: "I am grateful every single day. Every night when I lock the door and the house is silent. You have no idea how good it is to feel safe."