Refuge responds to the Home Secretary’s speech at the Police Federation Conference


In a powerful speech to the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth today, Home Secretary Theresa May reaffirmed her commitment to improving the police response to domestic violence. In particular, Refuge welcomes her rejection of the use of restorative justice in cases of intimate partner violence. Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:

“Refuge applauds the commitment the Home Secretary has shown today to improving the police response to domestic violence. Theresa May has highlighted a number of key points and, vitally, she has reminded the police and society that domestic violence is a crime and should be investigated as such.

“It is shocking to hear, as the Home Secretary said in her speech, that there have been police officers struck off for entering into inappropriate relationships with victims. Many of the women Refuge supports feel let down by the police response to their abuse. There are countless incidents where police fail to investigate, do not believe the victim or are verbally abusive to her, do not risk assess, do not safeguard children, do not arrest the perpetrator and do not capture evidence to enable the Crown Prosecution Service to charge.  A ‘canteen culture’ of negative attitudes towards women still exists in forces where domestic violence is not taken seriously – ‘it’s just a domestic’ is still a refrain heard today.

“It is also true to say that the impact on children of domestic violence is something that can last a lifetime and affect all areas of development and behaviour. This is why it is enormously important to ensure they and their mothers are protected from harm and services are available to support their recovery from abuse.

“Refuge is pleased that the Home Secretary has shown strong leadership on this issue, and is continuing to scrutinise the police response to domestic violence. Forces must prioritise domestic violence, a crime which claims the lives of two women every week in this country – only then can women and children keep safe and lives be saved.

“Refuge also welcomes the Home Secretary’s rejection of restorative justice in cases of intimate partner violence. Restorative justice programmes are completely inappropriate in these cases due to the imbalance of power between the two parties – something Refuge has argued for years.

“Refuge has become increasingly concerned by plans from the Ministry of Justice to expand the availability of restorative justice to all victims of crime, and we applaud the Home Secretary’s intervention.

“Restorative justice programmes pose a very real risk to women who have been victims of intimate partner violence. Power and control lie at the heart of abusive behaviour, and this dynamic can remain long after a relationship has ended. Assurances that no woman would be forced to take part in a programme are meaningless – techniques of control can be so subtle it would be impossible for agencies to guarantee a woman was acting of her own free will.

“Refuge hopes that, given the Home Secretary’s rejection of restorative justice in intimate partner cases, this dangerous practice will stop.”

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