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Examination of Witness

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Zoe Billingham:

Considerable changes. We started this journey back in 2014 with our first report. We called it “Everyone’s business”—slightly ironically, because what we found in 2014 when we looked at the police response to domestic abuse was that, in forces, it most certainly was not everyone’s business. A second-rate service was being provided to victims of domestic abuse when you compared it with that provided to victims of other crime. There was a poor understanding of domestic abuse among frontline officers and insufficient leadership to make lots of promises an operational reality. It was a pretty dire situation that we found in 2014.

We made a series of recommendations. We were hugely grateful for the support of the national oversight group, chaired by the then Home Secretary and Ministers, in holding the police’s feet to the fire. We are also very complimentary of the work police forces have done in the intervening five years to make this a real priority—to focus on domestic abuse in the way it ought to be focused on and to ensure that officers are trained and equipped to deal with domestic abuse, that victims are listened to, understood and taken seriously, and that investment has been made in areas of specialisms and protected, despite reductions in police budgets across the board.

We highly regard and highly commend forces for the changes that we have seen in terms of both the attitudes of frontline officers and the leadership displayed across forces. However, there is always a “but” with inspection findings: the “but” is that there are still a number of areas that forces need to improve on.