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Police urged to act after three-quarters of domestic abuse cases fail to end in charges

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Police forces must review why a large number of domestic cases are being dropped, after victims faced greater risk during the pandemic, according to the police watchdog.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said that on average, three in every four domestic abuse cases in England and Wales are being closed without charges being laid.

In the year up to March 2020, 54.8% cases were dropped after the victim did not support the prosecution of a suspect, even though charges can still be brought without the victim’s consent if there is other evidence.

Around 20% of cases did not proceed due to evidential difficulties, including a lack of evidence.

Zoe Billingham, Inspector of Constabulary, told Sky News: “Often police officers aren’t being supervised and checked as to whether it’s reasonable for these cases to be closed.

“Sometimes officers aren’t checking with victims that that’s actually what they want, and too often the police are really pushing back onto victims decisions that really ought to be taken by the police.

She added: “Police are there to keep the public safe, they have very special powers that no other citizens have and we want to see the police better using those powers to protect victims of domestic abuse.”

More on Domestic Abuse

Rachel was left with severe injuries after her estranged husband shot her
Image: Rachel was left with severe injuries after her estranged husband shot her

Rachel Williams was shot by her estranged husband after leaving an abusive marriage which last 18 years.

Ms Williams told Sky News there had been “red flags” throughout their relationship including a “controlling aspect”.

For Rachel, her courage to leave stemmed from fear.

She said: “For me as it got toward the end of it and knowing I couldn’t take care anymore and this was, you know, after he cut his wrist in front of our son, I was just mentally and physically drained.

“For me the fear of staying with my perpetrator became greater than the fear of leaving him and that’s how I knew it was time to go.”

Lauren Taylor left her abusive partner in January
Image: Lauren Taylor left her abusive partner in January

Lauren Taylor also experienced a relationship where the abuse “just got worse and worse”.

She told Sky News: “In hindsight it was abuse from day one, I didn’t know coercion was a thing, gaslighting was a thing.

“I was being manipulated on multiple levels.”

Lauren left her partner during the pandemic following a “very bleak” moment in January after which she became “determined to leave.”

Lucy Hadley, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Women’s Aid, told Sky News: “Ultimately we know that only around one in five domestic abuse victims will ever report to the police.

“Figures like this really diminish the confidence and reassurance that we need to drive those levels up and improve reporting and improve people’s perceptions of the police to keep them safe as victims of domestic abuse.”