Merseyside Police Commissioner sets out plan to tackle ‘epidemic of violence’ against women

A hard-hitting report commissioned by the Government says urgent, radical cross-sector reform is needed to protect women and girls from violence in the UK.

<p>Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell. </p>

Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell.

Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Emily Spurrell has pledged to create a taskforce and region-wide strategy to tackle the “epidemic of violence” against women and girls.

The PCC has responded to a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which assesses how effectively police respond to violence against women and girls (VAWG).

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Why was the report commissioned?

Home secretary Priti Patel commissioned the report in March following the killing of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard near Clapham Common, south London.

She was murdered by off-duty police officer Wayne Couzens, who is due to be sentenced later this month.

Well-wishers reflect alongside floral tributes in honour of Sarah Everard. Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

The report, which expands on recommendations made in July this year, is based on thousands of responses to surveys including information from the police and victims.

It warned of a high percentage of domestic abuse cases being closed early without the suspect being charged.

The report highlighted that in the year up to March 2020, there were an estimated 1.6 million female victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales, 618,000 victims of sexual assault and 892,000 victims of stalking.

Inspectors also found the domestic violence disclosure scheme (DVDS), also known as Clare’s Law, which allows police officers to tell women that a partner has a history of abuse, was being inconsistently used across England and Wales.

Merseyside PCC response

Spurrell, who has previously called on Merseyside Police to treat misogyny as a hate crime, warned that violence against women and girls (VAWG) doesn’t get treated as seriously as other crimes.

She said the HMICFRS report set out in “unequivocal terms” that radical action is urgently needed to protect women from violence.

Calls to UK domestic abuse charity helplines have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spurrell said: “Lots of organisations, including Merseyside Police, have already made progress in responding to these crimes, but we know there is still much that can be done to ensure every woman gets the right response, every time.

“I am committed to working with partners here in Merseyside to make a difference. I am already looking to recruit a VAWG lead who will help with the creation of a region-wide strategy and spearhead a taskforce. I am also reviewing the way support services are funded locally.”

Report recommendations

The HMICFRS report sets out five overarching recommendations.

The recommendations warn the response to VAWG offences should be an “absolute priority” for the government, policing, the criminal justice system and public sector partnerships with a ‘relentless focus’ on the crimes.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to permanently uproot violence against women and girls, which is now epidemic in this country. The police have vastly improved how they respond to these crimes, and I welcome the appointment of a national policing lead for VAWG to coordinate this work.

“We’ve set out practical changes for the police to make now, but they cannot solve this alone. That is why we’re taking the unusual step of recommending a radical change of approach across the whole system, involving the police, criminal justice system, local authorities, health and education.

“We have suggested a new framework – with mandated responsibilities and sufficient funding – that requires all these partners to work together to support victims and prevent VAWG from happening in the first place.”

Merseyside Police was contacted for a comment.