Cambridgeshire Police Federation has welcomed a new report highlighting the progress the police service has made in its response to crimes against women and girls.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published an interim report into how effectively the police engage with women and girls.
It said there was an epidemic of offending against women and girls with an estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experiencing domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2020.
But HMICFRS said it was not just down to the police to tackle the problem and called for fundamental system-wide reform with agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service, health, social care and education getting involved.
Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom said: “This report stresses the need for a partnership approach. It is simply wrong for everyone to expect the police to be solely responsible. There are other agencies which have to work with us to ensure that we effectively respond to these types of crime and properly support victims.”
After reviewing the evidence, the inspectorate has recommended that transformation of the whole system is needed, including:
- The Government, police, criminal justice system and public sector should immediately and unequivocally commit to prioritising the response to violence against women and girls, supported by sufficient funding and mandated responsibilities;
- The police should make the relentless pursuit and disruption of perpetrators a national priority, and their capability and capacity to do this should be enhanced; and
- Funding and structures should be put in place to ensure victims receive tailored and consistent support.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “We are living during a national epidemic of violence against women and girls. The prevalence and range of offending and harm is stark and shocking.
“We are clear that the police have made great progress over the last decade against a backdrop of greater demand, and we want forces to maintain this momentum and build on these improvements.
“But there is still evidence of inconsistent support for victims and low prosecution rates.
“Offending against women and girls is deep-rooted and pervasive in our society. Urgent action is needed to uproot and address this and police cannot solve this alone. There must be a seamless approach to preventing and tackling violence against women and girls across the whole system, including education, local authorities, health, social care and those from across the criminal justice system – with all agencies working together.
“A radical and immediate change in approach is needed, supported by sustained funding and mandated responsibilities, potentially through a new statutory framework. We need to end violence against women and girls by preventing it, supporting victims, and bringing perpetrators to justice with the full force of police powers and the law.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, said police officers should not face anger from victims for the failings of other agencies and called on other sectors to step up and play their part.
He explained: “This isn’t something that can be solved overnight, or by just recruiting more officers. It’s a complex issue that demands time, attention, and money.”
The inspectorate’s findings are from its interim report, released now to help inform the Government’s violence against women and girls strategy, with its final report to be published in September.