Call for greater police powers on domestic abuse

DOMESTIC violence schemes piloted by Wiltshire Police were rolled out across the country on Saturday as detectives say more work needs to be done to combat abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs), will now be active in every police force across England and Wales.

Since the start of the pilot in July 2011 a total of 265 DVPOs, which prevent perpetrators from contact with the victim for 28 days, have been applied for to court, with 225 of those granted.

Detectives have been surprised by the response but say there are still significant gaps in the scheme.

Detective Superintendent Caroline Evely, of Wiltshire Police, said: “For the police this is one of the most complex issues we have to deal with. It is a hidden crime, but if people see positive results there will be more and more coming forward.

“Before we would have arrested someone, but because it happens behind closed doors we had no option but to release the perpetrator with no prosecution.

“It is difficult for people who are in a long term relationship and been degraded and their whole self esteem has been destroyed. It is important they do not feel they are to blame for the situation. A lot of people do not even realise they are in a domestic violence situation, so there is a lot of education that needs to be done.

“We look at if there is a pressing need. If the person is at risk of violence then we have to act. It is a constant balance between the perpetrators right to privacy and the victim’s right to life. It is not proven in court and we know we do not have sufficient evidence, but we balance the probabilities of each case.

“I do think we have got a gap. If somebody is convicted in court they can be ordered onto a programme, but perpetrators of domestic violence are offered voluntary programmes. We need to look at other ways to stop them reoffending.

Detective Constable Rob Sweeney, of Wiltshire Police, said: “On occasions during investigations it is apparent there is not going to be enough evidence to get a conviction. If the perpetrator is released there are no effective measures we can take.

“The criminal burden of proof is very high. We need the protection orders to give the victims breathing space, but it is not something we take lightly.

“It enables them to make a rational decision and we will encourage them to seek help.

“There have been teething problems as with all schemes. It would be useful if a breach of the scheme was treated more seriously by the courts. We have had occasions where it has been ignored and the consequence for each breach is one day in custody, which is toothless. It needs to be more of a criminal offence.”

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable, Pat Geenty, said: “It is important to point out that these schemes are not the final solution to tackling domestic abuse. They are just two further tools that we are using to help both victims and future victims of this crime and, as a force, we remain committed to targeting the perpetrators of domestic abuse.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, said: “Domestic abuse should have no place in our society, and yet it is still going on behind closed doors in our towns and villages.

“Whether the abuse is physical, psychological or financial it is totally unacceptable in this day and age. The national roll-out of the two schemes after successful Wiltshire pilots is to be applauded.”

For more information on either scheme, contact Wiltshire Police Domestic Abuse Investigation Teams on 101. There is also the facility to leave information anonymously.

 

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