Better training for police officers to identify and respond to domestic abuse

The Mayor of London is to invest £700,000 to provide better training for Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers to identify and respond to domestic abuse.

Nov 26, 2020
By Paul Jacques

It is part of £3.7 million package of measures unveiled by Sadiq Khan yesterday (November 25) to support domestic abuse victims and survivors and to tackle violence against women and girls.

As well as training for officers, the investment will also be targeted at providing safe spaces for domestic abuse victims during lockdown and funding for schemes focused on addressing the behaviour of perpetrators of domestic abuse.

“From prevention to bringing perpetrators to justice, I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure dangerous offenders are dealt with, and that victims and survivors get access to the support they need quickly to help turn their lives around,” said Mr Khan.

“That is why I am investing in police training to improve awareness of the early signs of domestic abuse and to ensure survivors of domestic abuse get the very best response.

“We also have to tackle the behaviour of those who are being abusive and violent, sending a clear message that it ends now.”

The mayor’s intervention comes as figures show a big increase in abusive behaviour and violence this year, with calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline increasing by 49 per cent in the three weeks after the first lockdown on March 23, and the MPS recording a 37 per cent increase in domestic abuse cases between March 2020 to July 2020, compared with the same period last year.

Commander Melanie Dales, the lead for domestic abuse at the MPS, said: “I very much welcome the support given to victims of domestic abuse across London and in addition the investment in to officer training and development of perpetrator programmes. Investment in these areas will support the MPS in ensuring we are able to improve the service we give to victims of domestic abuse and reduce offending.

“We very much look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the London Independent Victims Commissioner on these matters.”

A report in 2019 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found that some police forces found it hard to establish quickly how long someone had been experiencing abuse, and what the nature of that abuse is and has been, and said that forces needed to improve the provision of training around coercive and controlling behaviour.

Mr Khan said ‘Domestic Abuse Matters’ training will be provided to frontline police officers to help them spot the early signs of domestic abuse and understand better the tactics used by perpetrators. This training aims to change the attitudes, culture and behaviour of the police response to domestic abuse. It will increase officers’ knowledge of coercive control, and knowledge of male and LGBTQ+ victims, and challenge victim-blaming and stereotypes, as well as helping officers to recognise the high levels of manipulation used by those perpetrating abuse.

To prevent abuse and protect victims, City Hall has been awarded funding from the Home Office to invest £844,000 in programmes that work to address the behaviour of perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Mr Khan said this funding will go towards programmes across London that help social services and the police to challenge and support perpetrators to change their behaviour, making clear that they cannot get away with abuse and can access the help they need to stop.

Rachel Nicholas, head of service at London Victims and Witness Service, said: “Since mid-April the number of people affected by domestic abuse referred to victim support services has increased exponentially.  The support needs of many of our service users have changed as a result of lockdown and it’s reassuring that the mayor is investing in improving the response given to survivors of domestic abuse.”

Fiona Dwyer, chief executive officer Solace Women’s Aid, added: “We continue to see the devastating impacts of the pandemic, and lockdowns in particular, on the women and children we support here at Solace. We know that women are far too often forced to stay in abusive households for fear of becoming homeless and that’s why the mayor’s continued investment in safe accommodation for women fleeing violence and abuse is absolutely life-saving.”

Since 2016, London’s mayor has invested £62.7 million in tackling all violence against women and girls, which he says is already working to save lives, reduce waiting lists and keep doors open for vital specialist support services for victims.

Mr Khan said: “Sadly, we already know that during lockdown home is not always a safe place for everyone, and I am deeply worried about those who feel threatened or unsafe in their own homes, particularly during the pandemic.

“That is why City Hall has been funding safe spaces and specialist support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children since the first lockdown, and the additional funding means that safe and secure beds can continue to be available for victims and their children to access the support and care they need.”

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