Northamptonshire Police has the lowest arrest rate for domestic abuse-related crimes in the country, an independent inspection report has revealed.
In a report published today by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), it states the county’s police force has some “pockets of good practice”, but there were some important areas where improvement was needed to reduce the risk to domestic violence abuse victims.
The inspection found that for every 100 domestic abuse crimes recorded, there were 43 arrests in Northamptonshire. For most forces the number was between 45 and 90.
In Northamptonshire, domestic abuse accounts for six per cent of calls to the police for assistance; of these calls 20 per cent were from repeat victims.
Domestic abuse accounts for eight per cent of all recorded crime. The force also recorded 3,657 assaults with injury; of these 1,261 were domestic abuse related. This was 34 per cent of all assaults with injury recorded for the 12 months to end of August 2013.
HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, Zoe Billingham, said: “Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable in Northamptonshire. Officers and staff understand the importance of their role in safeguarding victims of abuse and are particularly aware of the need to ensure that any children are safeguarded.
“Although Northamptonshire Police’s response to tackling domestic abuse is effective in some respects – and there are pockets of good practice – there are some important areas where improvement is needed in order to reduce the risk to victims. The force has one of the lowest arrest rates for domestic abuse-related crimes in the country, which is a concern.”
Assistant Chief Constable, Russ Foster, said the force had implemented a number of improved policies and practices, including better training for officers and frontline staff to improve the way the it dealt with cases of abuse and quality service provided to victims.
Mr Foster said: “We have implemented a number of improved policies and practices, including better training for all our officers and frontline staff, with regular updates on policy and procedure change, and we work closely with other agencies to ensure victims are properly supported according to their individual needs.
“We have a specialist domestic abuse unit which consists of highly trained officers and staff who focus entirely on cases of domestic abuse, and we have also worked with colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service and Court Service to introduce a specialist domestic abuse court that sits weekly at Northampton Magistrates’ Court, with the aim of fast-tracking domestic abuse cases through the court system.
“We recognise the importance of identifying vulnerable people. The force control room is at the heart of this and its staff are part of cohort of 1,500 frontline officers and staff who are receiving two days of specialist training about vulnerable people, which includes specific training on domestic abuse.
“In order to improve the safety of all victims, we have introduced multi-agency forums to share information and protect victims whose cases are not part of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC), which assesses and reviews the cases of victims considered to be at most risk of serious harm.
“These victims are supported by specialist domestic advisors and local policing teams, where their cases are reviewed and safety plans developed.
“We recognise there are areas for improvement and we are working hard to ensure we provide the best possible service to victims of domestic abuse.
“The force has responded immediately to feedback from HMIC to ensure high risk cases are not kept from the MARAC process and we are now working with partners to roll out more MARAC meetings across the county.
“The HMIC report has highlighted that the force has one of the lowest arrest rates for domestic abuse related crimes in the country. We work hard to bring offenders to justice and will arrest offenders where this is the most appropriate course of action.
“Arrest is not always the best outcome and our primary aim is to protect victims and make them safe, taking into account their individual needs.
“We urge victims to report abuse so we can put in place early interventions to prevent further incidents and escalation of abuse. We have a real focus on
dealing with repeat victims of domestic abuse and will crack down on repeat offenders.
“In partnership with the county’s specialist domestic abuse support agencies, we are committed to giving all members of the community the confidence to report domestic abuse. Recorded levels of domestic related crime demonstrates this confidence and ensures the best possible support is provided to keep victims safe.”
Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds, said: “HMIC has published a report which tells me that Northamptonshire Police
works hard to protect and defend individuals and families caught in domestic abuse.
“My own consultation with victims of crime – Victims’ Voice – clearly set out the good, the bad and the ugly.
“I know much more needs to be done but I am disappointed that, yet again, HMIC has failed to properly highlight successes and direction of travel.
“The Chief Constable and I are more than keen to improve services to victims and our ambition is to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.”