Statement on HMICFRS report on policing Domestic Abuse during the pandemic
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Merseyside Police is reiterating its commitment to protecting victims of domestic abuse following the publication of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) review of Policing Domestic Abuse During the Pandemic.
This past year has been challenging for everyone, but for victims of domestic abuse there was potential that they could face greater risk during lockdown and it would be more difficult for them to escape their abusers.
Knowing the increased risk we made every effort to ensure that victims were supported and aware of the help and resources available to them.
Operationally, the force continued to use domestic violence prevention notices (DVPNs) and the relevant disclosures as part of the ‘right to know’ and ‘right to ask’ in a bid to prevent domestic violence and domestic abuse.
We have met on a weekly basis with our strategic partners to ensure our front-line response remained unaffected. And together with our partners we have continued to review demand for services to ensure that victims were supported and able to access vital services.
We have also worked together with the courts and the CPS, offering virtual court hearings whenever possible, to manage the impact of lockdown on victims, witnesses and our ability to promptly bring offenders to justice.
As a force we are committed to using positive action in every instance and actively pursue evidence-led prosecutions. We know how hard it can be for victim’s to come forward and wherever possible officers will gather evidence including body worn video, hearsay statements and other supporting material to drive the investigation rather than depending on the victim, who is often in a precarious situation, to give statements. During November and December in 2019 and 2020 the force ran an intensification period to ensure all officers understood the importance of seeking evidence led prosecutions.
We also introduced ‘DVEC’ cars, staffed by a response officer and an investigator. They attend high priority domestic abuse callouts in addition to first responders. The primary function of the cars is to look after the victim, taking them to a safe place where they can get the help they need if they want to break away from the cycle of abuse.
From a communications perspective we have promoted the silent solution and the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme across our social media channels. This messaging was supplemented by the distribution of more than 25,000 leaflets to homes across Merseyside and supported by radio adverts and the regional media.
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, who chairs the Strategic Domestic Abuse Group for the region, said: “Protecting our most vulnerable communities is one of the force’s priorities and we realise that being able to support and advise victims of domestic abuse has never been more important that it is now.
“I want people to feel reassured that our work remains firmly focussed on investigating crimes, protecting and supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice. I am extremely grateful for the continued work of all our frontline professionals and support agencies who have worked tirelessly to support victims during the Covid pandemic.
“At Merseyside Police, and across the whole partnership, we are blessed to have passionate and dedicated colleagues working hard every day to help protect victims.
“I want anyone who has suffered from domestic abuse to be confident of the measures we have in place to support victims and their families with our whole partnership response. We need everyone in our communities to help us rid society of this scourge of domestic abuse that effects so many victims and their families.
“Domestic abuse remains an under-reported crime and I want to appeal to family, friends and neighbours who strongly suspect that someone is being subjected to domestic abuse to tell us, or to urge their loved ones to make the right decision for their own safety and peace of mind.”