North Yorkshire Police have welcomed a report into how it deals with domestic abuse which highlights good practice across the force as well as suggesting how to improve the service provided to victims.
The report follows an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in November 2013.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy said: "Protecting victims and their families and diverting the perpetrators away from domestic abuse is an absolute priority for North Yorkshire Police. It is good to see that the dedicated work and the improvements we have made in our response to these distressing crimes has been recognised.
"We acknowledge that there are areas for improvement and prior to the inspection, we had identified a number of areas where the service could be improved and have already taken steps to implement these changes."
The report recognises the investments North Yorkshire Police has made in the resourcing of the Protecting Vulnerable Persons Units (PVPUs) and training for staff, despite severe financial cutbacks across the police service. This work has been overseen by Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason, the Head of Crime.
Mr Kennedy added: "With the backing of Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the efforts of Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason, we have invested heavily in the PVPUs and 2013 saw the opening of a Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub and Central Referral Unit to improve the management and oversight of domestic abuse. These departments bring together all the responsible agencies under one roof to provide a co-ordinated and appropriate response to safeguarding victims.
"We have also recruited and trained a number of specialist staff over the past year which is a clear demonstration of North Yorkshire Police's commitment to improving services for victims, managing risks and keeping people as safe as possible."
The report also highlighted the award-winning Making Safe Scheme which is a multi-agency initiative to support the victims and children of domestic abuse, enabling them to remain in their home while re-housing perpetrators and offering them support to manage their behaviour.
The police work together with Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS), Domestic Abuse Services (Scarborough and Ryedale), the probation service, integrated offender management teams, social care and housing providers. There are currently 48 perpetrators on the scheme.
The report also acknowledges the excellent partnership working of which the Making Safe Scheme is just one example. It also emphasises the high priority which North Yorkshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner place on domestic abuse.
Detective Superintendent Heather Pearson who heads the PVPUs, added: "Having the confidence to come forward is key for victims who are often very reluctant and find it extremely difficult to give evidence against someone who they have been, or may still be in a relationship with.
"We know domestic abuse is under-reported and I hope by demonstrating how seriously we take it, more victims will have the confidence to come forward. There is still much to be done but the police service cannot do it alone which is why we have built up excellent working relationships with our partner agencies and domestic abuse charities to ensure we provide the best service we can to support victims and their families."
Det Supt Pearson added: "It is also good to see that the specialist training we give to a number of Police Community Support Officers to support medium and standard risk victims has been singled out in the national report as a positive move."
Sarah Hill, Director of IDAS, said: "IDAS work closely with North Yorkshire Police dealing with over 2,500 referrals a year. We value the fact that over years the police have done much to improve the response to victims and the work of the PVPU in the area has been really valuable in this. One woman recently told us how positive the police were in her situation:
They came to visit me at the refuge and I had a good long chat about my situation. The police woman was lovely to me. She listened and was very helpful to me, she even left me her direct land line and said that she would send officers to drive past the house when I moved back to Leeds. I felt very happy with her support to me and my daughter. She said I could call her at any time at the office.
Sarah added: "Unfortunately, as the HMIC report shows, only one in five cases reported to the police end with a charge and there is still inconsistency in how individuals are dealt with. We look forward to continuing to work positively with our local police to improve this picture and reduce risk for victims living in York and North Yorkshire."
This following case study, replicated from a thank you letter sent to North Yorkshire Police from a victim of domestic abuse, highlights more than anything, the positive outcome for the victim who eventually summoned up the courage to contact the police. We have been given permission to use it to help encourage more victims to come forward knowing that they will get the help they need.
Lucy's story (her name has been changed)
Last year I had to call 999 the first time ever. It was really scary - you don't realise how scary until you have to do it! About ten minutes later around four or five police offices turned up at my house. They were all really nice and it made me feel much better. My husband was drunk and abusive and he had weapons in the house.
My little boy was scared and had asked me to call the police. We'd already been to the police station a few weeks before to see the domestic violence officer. She was very nice and had told us the police would always be there for us if we needed them.
One of the police officers sat with us in the front room while the others got my ex out of the house. He was brilliant, he made me realise that the way we were living wasn't 'normal'. It's not ok to feel scared in your own house. When my ex was really drunk, my little boy and I used to sleep in the same room with the door barricaded shut, just in case my ex went nuts in the night and tried to get us.
It went to court a couple of months later and my ex had to move out.
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone at the police station. It might seem like just your job, but you help so many people in lots of different ways. I am grateful every single day. Every night when I lock the door and the house is silent...you have no idea how good it is to feel safe.
The report also highlights North Yorkshire Police's clear and comprehensive guidance to staff relating to all aspects of domestic abuse at each stage in the process which provides staff with a clear understanding of their role and what is expected of them.
For clarity and to prevent misinterpretation of statistics, the figure of 11,619 is the number of individuals who North Yorkshire Police have risk assessed as being connected to a case of potential domestic abuse. For example, it can include children and other family members who are linked to the case, it is not the number of domestic violence cases.
North Yorkshire Police flag all domestic incidents, not just violence. This can include burglary, theft, criminal damage, anti-social behaviour by family members. For example a situation where a son has stolen a vehicle belonging to his father, would be recorded as a crime of vehicle theft, but North Yorkshire Police would also count this as a domestic crime.
Between 1 April 2013 and 27 October 2013, North Yorkshire Police had recorded 5,869 domestic related incidents, of which 1,596 were deemed to be crimes. Of these 1,596 crimes 1,109 were violence, the remainder of the crimes were offences such as burglary, criminal damage and theft. The remaining 4,273 incidents are cases which could be anti-social behaviour or a concern for safety but where no crime has been committed.
North Yorkshire Police record any incident involving family members as a domestic incident. In some instances a crime may not have been committed but the people involved could still be in need of help or support. This is still recorded as a domestic related incident.
Incidents are recorded in this way to provide a more accurate picture of potential risks, to ensure an appropriate response to people identified as at risk of harm, to more easily identify repeat victims, offenders and locations, and to provide a better opportunity for earlier intervention in a potentially harmful situation.
It follows an internal review in 2012 of how domestic incidents were recorded to ensure it was as thorough as possible. This led to an increase in the identification of incidents within this category.
To report an incident:
In an emergency
Independent Domestic Abuse Services
(IDAS) provide support and advice to men and women across York and North Yorkshire.
Scarborough and Ryedale Domestic Abuse Services 01723 365609
If you are a victim of sexual abuse and you prefer not to contact the police, you can call North Yorkshire's Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Bridge House, on:
You can also contact the following national agencies for help