Police Commissioner welcomes independent report into police response to domestic abuse


Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has today welcomed an independent report into the police service’s proactive response to prevent domestic abuse and protect victims during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emily Spurrell responded after the release of the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which said the pandemic had put domestic abuse victims at greater risk, but praised the police for making good use of technology and working with partners to find new ways to support victims.

Examples included police forces:

  • sending links for virtual appointments to victims which left no trace on the victim’s phone or computer, which their abuser may check;
  • working with businesses, including hairdressers and banks, to improve understanding of the signs of abuse or provide a safe space for victims;
  • running media campaigns to promote the “silent solution” system for emergency contact, where someone calling 999 can press 55 if they are not able to speak; and
  • using online platforms to disclose information to potential victims about a partner’s history of abuse, where previously this had to take place at a police station.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “I welcome this positive report which highlights the proactive way police forces reacted to protect domestic abuse victims during the Covid-19 pandemic, with frontline officers putting their own safety at risk to safeguard the most vulnerable.

“It is particularly pleasing to see the way some police services made good use of technology and worked even closer with partners to respond as effectively as possible – alert to the fact that more victims were susceptible to abuse during the epidemic, even though reports to the police did not increase.

“Many support services, however, did see a significant increase in calls and I know specialist services locally provided a vital lifeline to those seeking to escape abusive situations. The pandemic brought into even sharper focus how critical these services are and how essential it is the Government commits to a strong funding package for specialist support and ensure all victims get the care and help they need.

“Of particular concern is the on-going court backlog which has led to a significant increase in the time cases take to go from charge to trial since 2020. While this is not within the police’s remit to fix, I welcome HMICFRS’s recommendations for police forces to do everything possible to protect victims while they are waiting for justice.

“This report is further evidence that we need to examine why many victims still choose not to report to the police and even more do not go ahead with the legal process after initially reporting an incident. Far too many victims still do not feel supported by the criminal justice system and, as a result, do not get the justice they deserve.

“It is important we work hard to understand what can be done better to support victims to continue with the criminal justice process, ensuring perpetrators are put behind bars and are prevented from causing further harm.

“This report, and its recommendations, will help to inform the ongoing discussions I am having with partners about what we can do to continue to break down those barriers to ensure victims are put at the heart of the process.”

Read the full report.