UK

Police given advice on spotting domestic abuse patterns

Woman with facial injuries - posed by model Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The new guidance focuses on abusive relationship dynamics and coercive control

Police officers in England and Wales are to get specialist advice on how to spot patterns of domestic abuse.

The new College of Policing guidance is designed to help officers prosecute without relying on victims' evidence.

It also advises senior officers about the need for specialist staff to deal with cases of abuse and ensure victims receive the best possible support.

David Tucker, from the college, said a change was needed within policing in attitudes towards domestic abuse.

The College of Policing guidance focuses on abusive relationship dynamics.

A new domestic abuse offence of "coercive and controlling behaviour" within relationships is expected to come into force later this year, after it was unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May last year.

This type of behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life.

The college is releasing a "toolkit" for officers who are first at the scene of an incident, as well as checklists for call handlers and counter staff in police stations for when they are contacted about domestic abuse.

'Huge step forward'

Mr Tucker, head of the college's crime and criminal justice faculty, said: "Our research indicated the need for a culture change within policing attitudes towards domestic abuse.

"Sometimes police cannot understand why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship.

"There are dozens of reasons why victims feel unable to leave or support prosecution.

"It is the responsibility of the perpetrator to stop the abuse and the responsibility of the police to bring the perpetrator to justice - the victim is not responsible for either."

He said police needed to investigate domestic abuse "pro-actively" and should be "properly trained".

Polly Neale, chief executive of the charity Women's Aid, said it was "vital" that police officers understood coercive control to help them identify victims.

Diana Barran, from the charity SafeLives, said the new guidance was "a huge step forward in helping police to understand the complex nature of domestic abuse and - in particular - coercive control".

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