Refuge responds to ACPO’s ‘focus on domestic violence week’

Today marks the start of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) national focus on domestic violence week from 4-8 March.


Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, says:


“I am baffled by ACPO’s ‘national focus on domestic abuse week’. ACPO says it intends to get the basics right to improve the police response to domestic abuse, and yet very few of the week’s activities appear to address this. Instead, police forces will be engaged in a live ‘tweetathon’. It seems like ACPO is simply paying lip service to domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a deadly crime. It kills two women every single week in England and Wales.  In too many cases, the police – and other state agencies – fail to provide appropriate support and protection to terrified women and children.

The list of ways in which women are failed by the police is alarmingly long. Negative attitudes are rife: all too often, abused women are met with apathy, disbelief and outright hostility from officers. The recent case of two West Midlands officers caught on tape allegedly calling a victim of domestic violence a “f***ing bitch” and “slag” offered a shocking insight into this ‘canteen culture’.

Failure to properly investigate reports, collect evidence or arrest the perpetrator is also common. Risk assessment is patchy, and, all too often, police officers fail to take proactive action to keep women and children safe from violent men – even after they have been assessed as being at high risk.  Last year, for example, an inquest into the death of Rachael Slack and her two-year-old son, Auden, revealed that Derbyshire Police failed even to inform Rachael that they had assessed her as being at high risk of homicide.  Just last week an inquest into the death of Cassandra Hasanovic found that Kent Police and Sussex Police both failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard her life.

ACPO is right – the police do need to get back to the basics.  This means that they should be investigating reports, collecting evidence, arresting violent men and making sure that safety measures are put in place for women and children.  I am alarmed that very little of ACPO’s focus week seems to be addressing these vital issues.

Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to domestic violence. We need to understand why so many women and children are still not getting the support they need.  How many more women and children must die before we see real change?

Please sign our petition calling for a public inquiry here.”