MPs have defended police following criticisms levelled at the West Yorkshire Force’s handling of domestic abuse, but said lessons must be learned.
Yesterday Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary released a report following a probe of all 43 police forces across the country.
HMIC was commissioned by the Home Secretary to inspect the police response to domestic violence and abuse. It found that while most forces and police and crime commissioners said it was a priority for their areas, this was not being translated into an operational reality.
In West Yorkshire there were HMIC concerns about weaknesses in the force’s handling of domestic abuse. It said although the force made the issue a clear priority, it was “concerned that there are a number of inconsistencies in the processes and across the force area”.
In West Yorkshire, domestic abuse accounts for seven per cent of calls to the police for assistance. In the year ending August 2013, 4,089 of 11,010 assaults with injury were domestic abuse related.
During the same 12 months, there were 10,690 domestic abuse related crimes in total – which includes assaults with injury, assaults with intent, harassment and sexual offences – 35 per cent of those led to somebody being charged and 14 per cent resulted in a caution.
Bradford South Respect MP George Galloway said: “What these figures clearly show is that while domestic violence is a major problem, and deeply depressing and worrying, the West Yorkshire police are treating reports very seriously, given the high level of arrests made, and the number of charges laid.
“I would like to know how many of these charges resulted in conviction and what is the normal sentence tariff, and I will be asking the Home Office to provide those. It must be that those convicted are given condign sentences.”
He said that there should be a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence.
“There are no easy solutions but it is clear that the police are very robustly doing their part in tackling it,” he said.
David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, said: “While it’s encouraging that the HMIC recognised that some good work is done locally to prioritise incidence of domestic violence, it is clear that there are worrying gaps. the police may need to put in further resources to ensure that current services are fit for purpose to guarantee that vulnerable people are safeguarded against violence and persecution in their own homes.”
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said the police must learn from the report.
“Domestic violence is an extremely serious offence, and in all the time I have spent with West Yorkshire Police, I have seen at first-hand how seriously they take it.
“Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement and I am sure they will be grateful to HMIC for highlighting areas where their performance can be improved and I have every confidence they will take on board these recommendations,” he said.
Keighley Tory MP Kris Hopkins said: “Domestic violence is incredibly serious and, as these figures demonstrate, a worryingly common occurrence in our society. The report’s findings must be studied very closely to ensure lessons are learned and improvements are made.”