Outrage at ‘epidemic’ of violence against women

Priti Patel discusses tackling violence against women

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A total of 1.6 million women between 16 and 59 fell victim to domestic abusers in the year ending in March 2020. Some 618,000 were sexually assaulted and 892,000 were stalked in the same period. The shocking data is contained in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which calls for a “radical refocus and shift” in the way forces in England and Wales respond to crimes against women.

Zoe Billingham, Inspector of Constabulary, said: “When you look at the hierarchy of priorities within police forces, very often ­violence against women and girls doesn’t actually feature in the top three.

“Given the scale of the epidemic, it is vital that it does.”

Ms Billingham urged chief constables to “get a grip” to ensure consistently high standards in how they deal with such crimes. She said: “Violence against women and girls crimes create immeasurable harm, but too often this combination of all crimes disproportionately affecting women and girls are not afforded the same priority as other types of crime.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel commissioned the report as part of the response to the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in south London.

Ms Billingham called for a system shake-up involving police, the criminal justice system, local authorities and health and education services.

The report states: “Violence against women and girls offences need to be a higher priority, within forces and on a national scale.

“Ways of working should be informed by other areas of policing, including how the service responds to serious and organised crime, county lines offending, child abuse and terrorism.”

The report said the 43 police forces in England and Wales should adopt a three-pronged policy:

• To prevent violence against women and girls.

• To support victims.

• To relentlessly pursue and disrupt offenders “with the full force of the law”.

The report said there is a ­“staggering variation” in how forces deal with crimes against women and girls.

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