Five forces to test new domestic abuse risk assessment tool

A new risk assessment tool is to be piloted in more forces to ensure coercive and controlling behaviour is easier for officers to identify. 

Nov 5, 2018
By Neil Root

Research conducted by the College of Policing and Cardiff University in 2016 concluded that the existing risk assessment processes did not always help officers and police staff flag up certain types of domestic abuse. 

Following an initial pilot carried out with the Sussex, West Midlands and Humberside forces in 2017, more testing will be undertaken by the College in collaboration with the five forces. 

The College found in the initial pilot that the tool supported “more accurate risk assessment during initial contact between officers and victims and also led to more coercive and controlling behaviour being disclosed”. 

The new tests across the five forces will check if the same results are achieved when the tool is utilised “in different contexts and force areas”.  

If the new testing is a success, the College will recommend the tool to all forces across England and Wales. 

Evaluation of the initial pilot also published on Monday (November 5) reveals positive findings. The new risk assessment has: more focused and direct questions related to the frequency of and specific type of abusive behaviour; it encourages victims to disclose, giving officers and first responders “a clearer picture in some cases of the nature and intensity of the abuse”; and the free text section was helpful in encouraging officers “to offer a clear rationale for their assessment of the level of risk to the victim”. 

Results were measured by rates of agreement between researchers and first response officers regarding the level of risk to the victim, and higher levels of agreement were identified. 

Before the new tool pilot, the Sussex force had a 57 per cent rate of agreement, but this rose to 71 per cent in the pilot period. In the West Midlands the figure was 53 per cent agreement before and 73 per cent during the pilot. 

David Tucker, crime lead for the College, said: “Domestic abuse can take many forms and often has a devastating impact on people’s lives – with the most serious cases resulting in serious injuries and loss of life. 

“Domestic abuse offences account for 11 per cent of all crime. It’s therefore vital that we support frontline officers and staff by providing them with the best tools to recognise and understand patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour as early as possible. 

“During the pilot stage officers reported being more comfortable with the new risk assessment so we are carrying out further testing with more forces to ensure that is repeated on a wider scale. 

“We are confident the new tool will support police responders to identify offences and behaviours more often, so they can carry out earlier interventions to make victims and potential victims safer.” 

The five forces taking part in the testing of the tool are West Midlands Police, Great Manchester Police, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Kent Police and Bedfordshire Police. 

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