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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:

In our inspections, our basic, fundamental question is how well the police are keeping victims of domestic abuse safe: how well they are using the powers they have been given to make sure that victims are safeguarded and perpetrators are brought to justice. The proposals in the Bill regarding the new order are really positive.

The use of DVPNs and DVPOs has been very patchy, and some of the lessons that forces should have drawn from their use need to be applied to the new orders if they are to be successful. We will test this through our inspections when these new orders come on board, because we test how well forces are using DVPOs and DVPNs now and we find that it is very patchy; it varies from force to force.

A number of things will need to happen if the new order is to be successful. First, officers need to be properly trained. They need to understand the value of these orders, because a degree of effort will be involved in obtaining them. There needs to be clarity within forces as to who is responsible. The forces that are best at the orders now are those that have specialist teams dedicated to undertaking that work; Essex police are a really good example.

Forces will also need to have the time and necessary resources to make sure they not only apply for the orders but enforce against breach of orders, otherwise there will be a danger of undermining victims’ confidence. If there is something there to protect victims, but the forces are not geared up to use that tool appropriately, that is a potential risk. Of course, the pilots of the new orders are to be commended and we would like to see forces stepping forward and volunteering if they have not already, so that the implementation of these orders gets off on the right footing.