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December 11th 2017

Civil Liberties

Failure of police forces to attend thousands of domestic violence calls is worrying and could have serious consequences

Leanne Stephenson

Leanne Stephenson

Solicitor, Civil Liberties

Failure of police forces to attend thousands of domestic violence calls is worrying and could have serious consequences

Police forces are potentially putting thousands of victims of domestic violence in danger by failing to attend incidents and by conducting risk assessments over the telephone, it has been claimed.

Police forces are potentially putting thousands of victims of domestic violence in danger by failing to attend incidents and by conducting risk assessments over the telephone, it has been claimed.

Figures obtained by the Independent newspaper, from Freedom of Information requests to forces, revealed the proportion of incidents where officers have failed to show up more than doubled between 2012 and 2016.

It means that last year at least 39,686 calls went unattended, while it took police more than 24 hours to get to the scenes of a further 32,007 reported crimes.

Police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has quite rightly raised its concerns.

It says there can be ‘serious consequences for the victim if the response is delayed’, and that accurate assessments of danger are ‘impossible’ without seeing the victim and others in the household in person.

Police forces have unsurprisingly been quick to defend themselves in light of these revelations, and the Home Office has described domestic abuse as ‘a life-shattering and abhorrent crime’, saying the Government has made it a priority to tackle.

Individual forces have also stressed that some calls are retrospective and the victim may therefore not be in immediate danger, and that decisions can be taken not to attend immediately if people have called in confidence, as that could put them in greater danger.

That is of course accepted and understood, but with the number of reported domestic abuse incidents rising 60 per cent in the three years to June 2016, the percentage of times police forces are attending is falling too rapidly also.

That cannot be allowed to continue, as if it does, the potential to allow life-threatening situations of domestic abuse to develop will be all the more likely.

Police response and investigation into to calls of domestic violence scrutinised

In our civil liberties department at Hudgell Solicitors we are currently handling a number of cases directly linked to the responses and investigations of police forces to reports of domestic violence.

In each case we are asking serious questions as to whether more could and should have been done to prevent the eventual outcomes, which have ended in serious attacks and even the loss of life.

We certainly feel uncomfortable with some forces not attending at the scene following as many as a quarter of calls, as has been the case at Devon and Cornwall, where officers failed to attend 7,855 of 30,298 calls.

And it is a major worry that these latest figures follow a recent report by HMICFRS which last month found some forces were ‘downgrading’ the severity of emergency calls to justify slower response times.

It all paints a combined picture of less questions being asked, less thorough investigations taking place, and less physical policing and protection on the streets and in our homes.

Whatever the reasons behind this, it is a road to danger and a trend which is only likely to put more people at risk.

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