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Domestic abuse arrests drop despite increase in incidents

By Messenger Reporter

The domestic abuse arrest rate has fallen in Kent, despite a surge in recorded incidents.

Police recorded 43,258 incidents in the 12 months to the end of March, 19% more than the previous year, Office of National Statistics figures show.

At the same time the arrest rate fell from 58% to 50%.

There has been a 19% rise in domestic abuse incidents reported to police
There has been a 19% rise in domestic abuse incidents reported to police

Across England and Wales, domestic abuse incidents increased by 6% while the proportion of offenders arrested fell.

Charities have described the figures as "shocking", and called for more action to ensure abusers are brought to justice.

Chief executive of Women’s Aid Katie Ghose said: "This failure by the police to consistently protect survivors is a major concern and is likely to damage the survivor’s trust in the police.

"We know from our work with survivors that it often takes a woman a lot of courage to report domestic abuse and it is rarely the first incident of domestic abuse that she has experienced."

"It is scandalous that so many women’s lives are torn apart by current or former partners. When so few victims get justice, it doesn’t encourage others to go through what can be a traumatic process..." Sandra Horley

The ONS said that improved accuracy in the recording of domestic abuse could be behind the increase in incidents.

However, the National Police Chiefs' Council explained that reports had risen "considerably" over the past eight years, while cuts to police resources had left officers struggling to provide the best response to victims.

NPCC lead on domestic abuse deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe said: "Domestic abuse is an increasing proportion of emergency call demand in every force and therefore resources are stretched.

"When we take longer to respond to a call, investigate a crime or arrest an offender, victims are less likely to have confidence in the justice process.

The number of domestic abuse cases recorded has gone up
The number of domestic abuse cases recorded has gone up

"However, I’m heartened that many forces are striving to protect more victims and arrest and prosecute more offenders."

Of the cases recorded by Kent Police, 68% were logged as crimes.

The rest remained as incidents, which means an officer investigating a report of domestic abuse determined an offence had not taken place.

Domestic abuse-related incidents accounted for 17% of all offences dealt with over the year, and 34% of violent offences.

Prosecutions and convictions achieved by Kent Police and the CPS have also reduced.

For every 100 domestic abuse crimes last year, just 10 offenders were prosecuted, down from 13 the previous year.

"Victims often contact us because they want the abuse to stop or so they can access support services..." Chief Supt Andy Pritchard

Only eight in every 100 crimes led to a conviction, compared to 10 in 2016-17.

Chief executive of Refuge Sandra Horley said: "It is scandalous that so many women’s lives are torn apart by current or former partners.

"When so few victims get justice, it doesn’t encourage others to go through what can be a traumatic process."

A Home Office spokesman said the Government would soon publish a "landmark" Domestic Abuse Bill which would look to transform how the crime is dealt with.

He said: “We would urge anyone who is the victim of this horrific crime to come forward and report their experiences, safe in the knowledge that the state and the justice system will do everything it can to both support them and their children, and pursue their abuser."

Kent Police's chief superintendent Andy Pritchard said: "Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Kent Police and every incident is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, placing victims at the heart of everything we do and with their desired outcomes in mind.

Chief Supt Andy Pritchard
Chief Supt Andy Pritchard

"The increase in reports reflects a national trend and can be attributed to a number of factors including increased confidence among victims to report offences and more accurate crime recording techniques. This means all offences reported during a single incident are now recorded as separate crimes.

"While we will always seek to prosecute offenders when it is appropriate to do so, it is important to remember that victims often contact us because they want the abuse to stop or so they can access support services and not necessarily because they want the person responsible to be prosecuted.

"A charge is only one of a number of possible outcomes for an investigation and there are other means to keep victims safe such as offering services available through partner agencies including Victim Support and Domestic Abuse Services in Kent, or by the use of domestic violence prevention orders.

"Domestic abuse is completely unacceptable and we continue to encourage victims to report incidents to us by visiting www.kent.police.uk/report or by calling 101. If a crime is in progress or life is in danger then always call 999."

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