Welsh police forces criticised over domestic abuse

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Media captionGwent Police was the only force in Wales ranked "good"

Three of Wales' four police forces have been told they must do better to protect and support vulnerable people and domestic abuse victims.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the south Wales, Dyfed-Powys and north Wales forces all "required improvement".

Gwent Police was the only one ranked "good".

The watchdog examined how effective forces are at protecting the vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims.

The reviews are part of HMIC's annual inspection of England and Wales' 43 forces.

They found:

North Wales Police

  • Progress in tackling child sex abuse is hindered by it failing to accurately identify vulnerability at the first point of contact, and matching an officer's skills and experience to the victim's vulnerability
  • However, it is just one of three forces across England and Wales to see a fall in the number of domestic abuse offences for the 12 months to March 2015 against the 12 months to August 2013

Dyfed-Powys Police

  • Lacked professional expertise to investigate domestic abuse
  • Handling procedures for 999 or 101 calls also need improvement
  • But HMIC recognised the force is investing in more specialist investigators
  • The force has a domestic abuse arrest rates for the 12 months to March 2015 of more than 80% - the second highest reported in Wales and England

South Wales Police

  • Praised for its level of help for those most at risk of domestic abuse
  • The force does not fully understand the nature and scale of missing people, and has no structured supervision of victim-focused activity
  • The force must improve its response to domestic abuse by ensuring it provides victims of cases assessed at standard and medium risk with an effective and consistent safeguarding service

Gwent Police

  • The only force in Wales to receive a "good" rating by HMIC
  • Domestic abuse is a clear priority for the force and it has made good progress against its domestic abuse action plan
  • It was commended for making tackling domestic abuse a "clear priority"
  • This comes as the watchdog's figures show the force had one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2015
Image copyright Gwent Police
Image caption Carl Mills was given a life sentence for the triple murder of Kim Buckley, her daughter Kayleigh and baby Kimberley

It has previously been severely criticised over its handling of domestic abuse allegations.

They include:

  • The murders of Kim Buckley, her daughter Kayleigh and baby Kimberley, who died when Kayleigh's violent partner Carl Mills set fire to their home in Cwmbran in September 2012. Two Gwent Police officers were disciplined after independent reviews of the case concluded the family might still be alive if proper checks had been done on Mills's background
  • Charmaine Lewis was subjected to a brutal hammer attack by her partner in August 2011, shortly after she had been driven back to her flat by a South Wales Police officer. The IPCC ruled Ms Lewis, who survived the attack, was let down by the force
Image copyright South Wales Argus
Image caption Caroline Parry was shot dead by her estranged husband in August 2013

Responding to Tuesday's review, Gwent's police and crime commissioner Ian Johnston said: "This report is very good news and a fantastic turnaround when you consider the criticism the force took a few years ago, how it was graded in this area and the challenging financial climate we have had to work in."

HM Inspector Wendy Williams said the force had made good progress and domestic abuse was now a clear priority.

'Protect the vulnerable'

However, South Wales Police Ass Ch Con Nikki Holland said she was disappointed by the report.

"The report looks at procedures and practices that were in place at the time of the inspection but doesn't take into account the good work that the force and the commissioner's team had already started, which addresses a lot of the suggestions for improvement," she added.

A Dyfed-Powys spokesman said: "We are delighted that the inspectorate recognised that Dyfed-Powys Police has a strong ethic to protect the vulnerable, with good support from partners.

"The force has already commenced work in relation to the identified areas for improvement."

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick said the force, which was told it could do more to tackle child sex abuse, had set up a victim help centre and had employed experts to support people affected by child sexual exploitation.

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