Chief Superintendent Paul Money column: Zero tolerance to domestic abuse
The scale and complexity of domestic abuse continues to present a significant challenge to the police and our partner agencies in Leeds every day.
In any 24-hour period, my officers typically respond to between 50 and 60 such incidents.
Around 35 per cent of those are classed as repeats, where there has been at least one similar incident involving the same victim in the previous 12 months.
The abuse, whether through physical violence or the psychological torment of coercive and controlling behaviour, causes significant and lasting harm to victims and other family members who may witness it, particularly children.
We have sadly seen on far too many occasions in Leeds how, at its worst, abuse within relationships can escalate to the most serious of crimes with very tragic consequences for the families involved.
Our message to those who commit domestic abuse has been very clear for a number of years now; we won’t tolerate it and there will be consequences.
The recent announcement by the Sentencing Council that means perpetrators of domestic abuse are more likely to be sent to prison is to be greatly welcomed.
The fact that the courts are to consider abuse that takes place within the context of personal relationships as being more serious is a major step forward in our efforts to safeguard those subjected to it.
In addition, those suspected of being domestic offenders also face the prospect of potentially being banned from contacting victims, being subject to conditions around alcohol and drugs and could be electronically tagged to monitor their movements under new civil protection orders being consulted on through the Home Office.The volume and frequency of the offending and the harm it causes means domestic abuse remains a high priority for the police and its partner agencies in Leeds, and we continue to devote considerable resources to tackling the issue.
The wider partnership response in the city is constantly developing and is now more effective than it has ever been.
It sees specialist safeguarding police officers, council services, third sector organisations and others working much more closely to proactively identify those at greatest risk and put comprehensive plans in place to help protect them from harm.
One of the challenges for the police, our partner agencies and the wider criminal justice system has been to build trust in those subjected to this type of abuse so that they have the confidence to report it and feel confident that they will experience a caring, victim-led response and service.
Increased sentences will only ever be a component part of the necessary raft of measures needed to adequately address domestic abuse.
More punitive outcomes at court however will give added protection to victims and witnesses and help reinforce the message to perpetrators and wider society that these offences are unacceptable.
This is important because, while more is being done than ever before to protect both adults and children in abusive domestic circumstances and more incidents are now being reported to us, we know that there remains significant underreporting of domestic abuse.
This is particularly so in some of our harder-to-reach communities where there can be real barriers to people coming forward and seeking help. Direct reporting by victims is not the only way we identify instances of domestic abuse and the wider public have an important role to play in helping us to tackle the issue.
We often describe the abuse that is reported to us as being just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
We hope that people will increasingly recognise the difference they can make to victims’ lives by helping to bring those cases we aren’t aware of to the surface.
If that means us having to respond to more than 50 to 60 domestic abuse incidents every 24 hours then that’s what will do.
Chief Superintendent Paul Money is the senior officer in command of policing the Leeds district, which includes neighbourhood policing, serious crime, safeguarding and response policing. Born and bred in Leeds, he oversees the work of more than 2,000 officers and staff dealing with more than 200 crimes and 600 calls for service every day.