Police force’s response to domestic abuse ‘of particular concern’

A watchdog published inspection reports looking at the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of Kent Police.

27 April 2022

A watchdog has said some victims of domestic abuse have received an “unacceptable level of service and have continued to remain at risk” after lodging reports with Kent Police.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published inspection reports looking at the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force.

The force was rated “outstanding” for its recording of crime and “good” for preventing crime, how it treats the public, developing a positive workplace and use of resources.

But it was urged to improve how it investigates crime, responds to the public and manages offenders.

Outlining the changes needed when investigating crime, the watchdog pointed to domestic abuse cases, saying vulnerability investigation teams “lack capacity and capability”.

“This is leading to ineffective and delayed investigations and at times a failure to properly manage the risk to victims,” the report said.

“The force has begun to address this by putting more trained detectives into the team and through the timely accreditation to detective level of some existing team members.

“It has also appointed a dedicated chief superintendent for domestic abuse to oversee and deliver improvements.”

Other issues that require improvement include how the force prioritises its response to incidents, as well as how quickly it responds.

The report added that arrangements to deliver swift justice “aren’t working well enough” and there are often “significant delays” in the progress of cases, especially for suspects who have been released under investigation.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said he was “satisfied” with the force’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime, but some areas needed improvement.

“I recognise that Kent Police has faced some unique difficulties in relation to Brexit and Channel crossings, because of the county’s geographical location,” he said.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Kent Police have faced problems with Channel crossings (Steve Parsons/PA)

“Opportunities to achieve positive results for victims are being missed because some investigations are poor, or because officers haven’t maximised evidential opportunities. This lets victims down.

“Kent Police’s response to domestic abuse is of particular concern. The force is rightly proud of some of its work protecting vulnerable people. However, domestic abuse investigation teams have not been properly resourced with suitably qualified staff.

“As a result, some victims have received an unacceptable level of service and have continued to remain at risk.

“I am pleased to acknowledge that the force recognises these concerns and is already taking steps to improve its response. I acknowledge the good work Kent Police has already undertaken, and I will monitor the force’s progress towards addressing the areas where it can improve.”

Kent Police Deputy Chief Constable Tim Smith said the force was “high performing with a strong track record in dealing with major incidents” but recognised that improvements could be made.

“In common with police forces nationally, we recognise that we have an ongoing challenge to maintain our detective capacity and have developed a clear plan to increase detective numbers moving forward,” he said.

“Repeat domestic abuse offenders are targeted by proactive teams who work closely with partners across a number of agencies to reduce offending and break the cycle of abuse.

“These teams use a range of measures to proactively manage offenders and safeguard victims including regular prison release visits, welfare visits and Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

“We are committed to continuing to improve our service to victims of domestic abuse who are among the most vulnerable in our communities.

“Where this report identifies areas for improvement, we are confident that we will achieve this and continue to put victims and witnesses at the heart of everything we do.”

Reports have also been published into Cumbria, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Thames Valley police forces, with Nottinghamshire being urged to improve how it records crime and Thames Valley requiring changes into how it responds to the public and its use of resources.

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