Refuge responds to the latest HMIC report on police response to domestic violence


Responding to the latest report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) on the state of policing, Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Refuge commends HMIC’s work over the years to scrutinise police forces’ response to domestic violence. Today’s report is a further step towards good policing that recognises the need to protect women from violent partners.

“However, the report also shows that there is much more work to do if women who experience domestic violence are to have confidence in the police. Still, the police response is a postcode lottery. The rate of arrest for domestic abuse crimes ranges from 25% in some areas to 83% in others – as HMIC says, this unacceptable and, even more worryingly, unexplained. Three forces were not even able to provide arrest data.

“Moreover, Refuge supports many women who – after finding the courage to report to the police – are still not believed and instead made to feel embarrassed for wasting police time rather than being treated with the same seriousness as other victims of violent crime.

“It is also extremely worrying to see that all but one force had at least one reported allegation of abuse of authority for sexual gain, and that more than a third of these allegations involved victims of domestic abuse. This shows that vulnerable women are still being let down by the police when they should expect to be supported and protected.

“Refuge is very concerned that the police are still under-performing in this area despite years of pressure from HMIC and charities like Refuge. Culture change in the police requires strong leadership and a commitment to reform. Over the past few years, we have welcomed the determination from the top to change police attitudes to domestic violence and abuse. Yet, the real test is whether this leads to increased protection and prosecution. If we still fail to see significant progress on prosecution, new approaches may be needed – for example trialling mandatory arrest and charge where there are reasonable grounds for conviction, as happens in other countries such as Canada.

“Women deserve more from police forces. They deserve to be listened to and believed. They deserve the right to be treated compassionately and respectfully by police officers, and ultimately to see violent men prosecuted for their crimes. The goal for all police forces should be to offer women who report violence the protection they need.”

Refuge can provide case studies of women who have experienced a poor police response to domestic violence. Please contact the Refuge press office on or 0207 395 7731. For out of hours and weekend press enquiries, please call 07970 894240.