Police watchdog calls for urgent action to tackle ‘epidemic’ of violence against women and girls

A police watchdog has called for radical and urgent action to tackle the crime “epidemic” against women and girls.

Councils, schools, health and social care bodies and all areas of the criminal justice system must work together to address the problem as police “cannot solve this alone”, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The watchdog’s initial findings, in an interim report of an inspection commissioned by the Home Secretary, were published on Wednesday in a bid to inform work being carried out on the Government’s strategy on tackling violence against women and girls.

Inspector of constabulary Zoe 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.”

Urgent action is needed to tackle the “deep-rooted and pervasive” offending against women and girls in society, she said, adding: “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.”

An estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the year to March 2020, according to the findings.

Inspectors looked at evidence from previous reviews, consulted policing experts, Government and victim support organisations, as well as analysing progress made by police.

The findings recommend:

  • Government, police, the criminal justice system and other public bodies should “immediately and unequivocally commit to prioritising the response to violence against women and girls”, with sufficient funding and mandatory 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”.
  • Funding and “structures” are provided to make sure victims receive “tailored and consistent support”.

The inspectorate’s final report is expected to be published in September, with further details of the Government’s strategy anticipated later this year.

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