Gwent Police chief wants 'new era' on domestic violence

Woman with head in hands (posed by model) In 2010 there were 8,075 domestic abuse incidents reported in the Gwent force area

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Gwent Police's new chief constable says domestic violence can no longer be viewed as solely the police's responsibility.

Carmel Napier, also lead on domestic abuse for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said other services also had a vital role to play.

In 2010 there were 8,075 domestic abuse incidents reported in the Gwent force area - an average of 22 per day.

Mrs Napier will chair a domestic violence conference in June.

She said she hoped the conference will spell a new era for tackling violence in homes across Wales.

The event follows high-profile cases in Wales where victims of domestic abuse have died at the hands of their attackers.

Last June, North Wales Police was criticised in a report over the murder of Karen McGraw, 50, by her former partner at her Flintshire home.

Start Quote

Domestic abuse is one of those hidden behind the curtain things - research shows it happens at least 40 times before police are notified”

End Quote Carmel Napier Gwent Police chief constable

An investigation said police could not have prevented her death but should have done more to protect her.

In August 2009, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said South Wales Police and Gwent Police had failed Joanna Michael, who was killed by her boyfriend despite dialling 999 twice during the attack.

Mrs Napier has invited Home Secretary Theresa May to the conference, along with assembly government representatives, members of the IPCC and representatives from all the different agencies and services involved when a woman, man or child becomes a victim of domestic violence.

She told BBC Wales: "The one place we should all feel safe is within our homes.

"Domestic abuse is one of those hidden behind the curtain things. Research shows it happens at least 40 times before police are notified, and generally when we get notified it's to an incident.

Lessons learnt

"We have been training and focusing the energies of our staff on taking positive action at the scene and making our specialist domestic violence officers available 24-7 so they can provide the on the spot assistance and guidance to officers, victims and families to make sure safety plans are in place for the future."

But she said it was regrettable so few agencies are set up to respond in the 24-7 way "the blue light services" do.

"The police service has got to protect and reassure communities and take positive action but they do not have a core role in telling people how and where and what to do with their lives.

"The conference is at a very senior level and aims to share the lessons learnt and to agree a clear plan where every agency will have its accountability and responsibilities outlined and will reach agreement on how to take this forward."

She referred to a pilot in the Newport area where the council and police worked together with all agencies on one day to look back at domestic abuse incidents from the previous 24 hours.

"The idea was to agree what support and services the victims, offenders, children and neighbours will need to make sure such incidents don't happen again and how victims and families move forward with things like housing, finance, schooling for children, education and welfare.

Mrs Napier said she hoped the conference on 14 June would "draw out" what was needed in terms of getting the basics right and "making clear the responsibilities of neighbours, families and friends in supporting people".

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