Crime commissioner “distressed” as details of harrowing Shafton assault emerge at meeting

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has promised to investigate after hearing harrowing details of an attack on a family in their own home which attracted no immediate response from the force and was followed by a catalogue of alleged failings.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 1:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 2:47 pm

Details of the case emerged at a meeting of Shafton Parish Council in Barnsley, attended by PCC Dr Alan Billings where residents complained of mounting crime problems in the area.

The meeting was told the incident began in a bar where a woman was working, with threats made against her and her husband, continuing when two couples entered their home to stamp on the man’s head while his wife was assaulted, witnessed by a disabled child.

Although a 999 was made no police attended and they were later invited to make a statement at the town’s Wombwell police station but were later told by police it was too late to pursue the case, with an officer explaining it ‘would go nowhere’ and invited them to drop the complaint.

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“He said one of the people who attacked us had no criminal and was a victim of crime himself because he’d had a car stolen,” said the man involved.

The woman victim had withdrawn her complaint, but the meeting heard that made by her husband was still current.

CCTV evidence had been presented to police, but it was unclear what progress had been made.

Dr Billings said: “I am very distressed to hear what you have said. If someone is a vulnerable person, they should be dealt with immediately and properly. What you have described is not what we would expect. I would like to take that up. It is shocking.

“It is made clear if you have a vulnerable person that is top priority. We need to follow it up.

“Our police force absolutely depends on having the trust and confidence of the communities it serves. Without that, it will not be able to do its job,” he said.

The meeting heard of growing concern in the village about crime problems, though the community was told a spike in burglaries had been tackled by the arrest of two suspects from outside the locality, who remained in custody.

However, some of those attending the meeting said recorded crime rates would be artificially low because some people had lost confidence in police and were unable to contact the force through the 101 system, which is the number for non-emergency calls.

A neighbourhood watch co-ordinator said some people preferred to speak to him rather than trying to telephone police, because he presented a ‘face’ they could deal with.

Dr Billings assured the meeting South Yorkshire Police was now expanding, with neighbourhood policing teams now re-instated after being scrapped under a previous regime.

They were still being rebuilt, but numbers of officers in the neighbourhood team covering the area had gone from one and a half officers to four and was likely to increase to five early next year, though it was also likely the four PCSOs working the same patch would be reduced from six to four.

In the longer term officer numbers could increase further because if the last Government’s commitment to employ 20,000 additional officers was carried through after the General Election, it could put South Yorkshire’s workforce back to pre-austerity levels.