Refuge responds to CPS Violence against Women and Girls crime report

Today, the Crown Prosecution Service has released figures that show the number of people charged and prosecuted for crimes relating to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).

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

Sandra Horley CORRECT HEADSHOT 2014“Refuge is encouraged that the CPS continues to put the spotlight on crimes of violence against women and girls. Under the leadership of Alison Saunders, the CPS is making much-needed progress in this area.

“We welcome the new CPS figures which show that 68,601 domestic violence convictions were made in 2014/15 – representing 73.9% of the total domestic violence prosecutions that year (92,779). But there is no room for complacency. The conviction rate has actually dropped since 2012/13, when it was 74.3%. And when we look at the wider picture of domestic violence in the UK, it’s clear that these figures represent just the tip of the iceberg.

“68,601 convictions sounds impressive, but when we consider that over a million women experience domestic violence each year, it’s clear that these figures barely scratch the surface. A huge number of domestic violence cases never even reach the police and therefore the courts. Many women are simply too frightened to come forward.

“Those women who are brave enough to report their experiences to the police are often disbelieved, ignored and denied protection. Last year, HMIC’s investigation into police forces across England and Wales made this abundantly clear: it found damning evidence that the police response is “not good enough” and that serious failings in policing were putting women and children at “unnecessary risk”. All too often, officers fail to take the allegations of abused women and children seriously. They fail to arrest and charge violent men. Evidence is not collected, photographs of injuries are not taken, and a ‘canteen culture’ still exists in forces where domestic violence is not taken seriously.

“The fact that the volume of domestic violence referrals from the police has risen over the last year is a positive sign. Progress is being made. But there is room for improvement within the CPS as well. We also know, through our work with victims, that every day women are let down by the CPS. The court process is long, stressful and can be re-traumatising. Some of those we have supported have had special protection measures fall through at last minute; for example, a screen intended to shield the victim from her abuser is not available, so she must face him whilst given evidence. It is not difficult to imagine how terrifying this scenario would be.

“It is for these reasons that Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and all state agencies – including the CPS – to victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a crime that kills two women a week – it is paramount that it is taken seriously, and that women and children receive the support and justice they deserve. Please sign our petition today to demand change.”