Police pledge long-term focus on domestic violence as more offenders face arrest

Criminals responsible for domestic abuse in South Yorkshire are increasingly likely to face arrest following the introduction of new police tactics, with better levels of support also helping to safeguard victims from future repeated problems.

Tuesday, 11th June 2019, 1:31 pm
Arresting performance: Police take more domestic violence suspects into custody

Police have become sharper at identifying crimes when domestic incidents are reported to the force, with suspects now being arrested in around six out of ten cases, compared to four out of ten two years ago.

Senior officers are confident that figure will continue to grow, with the prospects of increased prosecution levels – even in cases where the victim does not want to support further police action.

That is often through a fear of the offender and as such, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings has been told by the force: “We will look to gather evidence from other sources.”

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Police know that quick intervention by their staff is more likely to result in victims supporting the action they want to take.

District commanders across South Yorkshire oversee action against offenders who are still wanted on a daily basis.

A report to Dr Billings said: “By arresting offenders, we seek to maximise investigative opportunities quickly, whilst the suspect is in custody, with a view to charges being brought or where that is not possible using bail conditions or domestic violence protection notices to help protect victims.”

The use of those notices has been increasing and over the 12 months to March this year the courts supported 90 per cent of police applications to have such orders imposed.

Breaches of DVPNs are relatively high, though those offences investigated by police locally. Over the course of a year, 131 notices were issued in Sheffield, with police chasing up 24 breaches; in Doncaster 113 were issued but breaches reached 46, with 54 issued in Barnsley and 49 in Rotherham. Breach rates were 13 and 12 respectively.

Police now ask for feedback from some domestic violence victims, using the information to help make improvements to the service provided.

The report states: “From April 2018 to March 2019, the overall victim satisfaction level was 82 per cent and increased to 88 per cent for victims assessed as being at a high risk of domestic abuse.”

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber told the PCC: “A year ago we were very concerned about the conversion of domestic abuse reports into crimes and the level of arrests.

“I am pleased to report over the course of the last year we have steadily increased reports into crimes from 40 per cent to 60 per cent.

“That is because staff are increasingly recognising crimes and dealing with them as such. There has been a real drive to ensure officers deal with this as the urgent issue that it is.”

Improved police action has also meant an increase in confidence among crime victims to report incidents. Separating suspects and victims by taking the potential offender into custody also provides an opportunity to organise “interventions” to either protect the victim or legally deprive an offender access to that person in future, through court orders.

Domestic violence will continue to get intense police attention in future, said Mr Forber: “This is an area where unless you continue to focus on it, it is an area which easily slips away. It is, and remains, a very high priority for us.”

Body-worn video cameras, now being introduced by the South Yorkshire force, are also expected to help officers deal with domestic incidents where victims do not want to co-operate.

That can happen for different reasons, but evidence recorded by cameras when officers attend incidents can be used as a substitute, with courts willing to accept the footage as evidence.