Police in England and Wales will now be trained to recognise domestic abuse before it is reported.
A newly published ‘Authorised Professional Practice’ (APP) by professional organisation the College of Policing details how to spot patterns of abuse and gather appropriate evidence without relying on the victim. According to the College, a domestic abuse victim is assaulted an average of 35 times before they call the police.
David Tucker is the College’s lead for crime and criminal justice. He called domestic abuse a “pervasive problem across the UK involving both men and women” and said that a “culture change” was required to successfully combat the issue.
Police sometimes “cannot understand why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship”, but there are “dozens of reasons why victims feel unable to leave or support prosecution” he added. The goal of the APP is to allow police to “investigate domestic abuse proactively”.
The new guidance includes a focus on coercive control, which is expected to become a criminal offence later this year. This focuses on non-violent behaviour which is nonetheless abusive. Examples include putting restrictions on a partner’s personal or financial freedom.
Various charities have welcomed the introduction of the APP. Women’s Aid chief executive Polly Neate said it was “vital that police officers understand coercive control”. She said this would help identify victims and not blame them for staying in abusive relationships.
Diana Barran, the chief executive of SafeLives, also voiced her support for the new guidance. She called it “a huge step forward” which “places the responsibility for stopping the abuse squarely with the perpetrator”.