Refuge alarmed by ACPO response to HMIC investigation into police failures on domestic violence announced today

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge

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


“I am deeply alarmed by ACPO’s response to today’s report by HMIC into police failures on domestic violence.  ACPO does not seem to have grasped the full gravity of HMIC’s findings.

HMIC came to a damning conclusion following its six-month inspection of police forces, finding that that the police response is “not good enough” and that weaknesses in police practice are putting women and children at “unnecessary risk”. The Home Secretary herself has described the report as “depressing reading” – a sentiment I very much share.

And yet ACPO seem to be skirting around the issue, deflecting criticism by putting the onus back onto the victim.  In her response to HMIC, ACPO lead on domestic violence Louisa Rolfe claims that police forces are grappling with “a genuine reluctance from victims to come forward in the face of a very traditional justice system”.  It is astonishing that ACPO hasn’t seemed to realise that one of the reasons why victims of domestic violence are so reluctant to come forwards is because they have very little faith in the police response.  HMIC’s report makes this abundantly clear, pointing to the raft of negative attitudes that still blight police culture.  Lack of empathy, disbelief, refusal to take allegations of domestic violence seriously, failure to properly investigate crimes and arrest violent men  – these are some of the serious problems identified by HMIC.  Is it any wonder that victims are reluctant to come forward?

The truth is that hundreds of thousands of women do come forward. The police receive a domestic violence related call every 30 seconds. Domestic violence is a huge issue with a massive death toll – two women are killed every week at the hands of current or former partners.  That’s precisely why the police need to get it right.

But how will the police response ever improve if ACPO does not acknowledge the problems that prevent so many women and children from getting the support they need? It is vital that we have an open and honest conversation about this issue.  The police cannot afford to be defensive when women and children’s lives are at stake.

Refuge believes that there should be a mandatory arrest policy for domestic violence, as there is in Canada. We cannot leave this vital action to officer discretion.  Domestic violence is a serious crime.  Perpetrators of this horrific form of abuse must be arrested.

Refuge also supports HMIC’s recommendation for a further inspection of wider state agencies, and we are calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to domestic violence. Please add your voice to our campaign and sign our petition.”