Met Police in domestic abuse crackdown after 'positive outcomes' fall by almost two-thirds
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It is the Monday before Christmas and Vicki Thomas and her team have been working all morning to arrange Christmas presents for the children living in Havering’s two domestic abuse shelters.
As the CEO of Havering Women’s Aid, Vicki has seen demand for the charity’s help escalate during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now she and her team are preparing for a post-Christmas surge.
“In the days before Christmas, when all of the presents are around the tree, it’s really hard to leave,” she says. “After Christmas – that's when we really see the increase in how many phone calls we receive from people who have held on as much as they can.”
Both of the charity’s refuges are already “full to capacity”, but there is support available in the community. The charity will be taking calls over Christmas, but urgent requests for refuge spaces are better directed to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247).
Even before the pandemic, says Vicki, the charity had seen demand for its services increase in recent years.
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But new figures have revealed that whilst reports of domestic abuse were rising, “positive outcomes” have fallen every year for five years.
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“There’s never been more tools in the toolkit when it comes to helping victim-survivors of domestic abuse reach what, for them, would be a positive outcome,” says Det Ch Insp Geoff Tachauer, who leads the investigation teams for domestic abuse in Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.
But despite this, new figures published by the Met show that by the force’s own standards, it is failing.
The Met keeps an annual count of “positive outcomes” - the police term for when a suspect is charged, summonsed, fined or cautioned.
Over the last five years, the positive outcome rate for domestic abuse has fallen by almost two-thirds.
In 2015/16, the force recorded positive outcomes in 36 per cent of domestic abuse cases.
Over the following years it fell to 31pc, 23pc and then 19pc.
In 2019/20 – the last full year of data – the positive outcome rate had fallen to 14pc.
Compared to bygone years, says Mr Tachauer, “There's a lot more agency for victim-survivors of domestic abuse about what they want to happen, as opposed to what the police think should happen.”
But, he admits, the two “are not mutually exclusive”.
“In an ideal world, absolutely, I would want criminal justice outcomes,” he says. “It’s not always possible and it’s not always in the best interests of the victim-survivor.”
Asked why he thinks positive outcomes have fallen so far in five years, he says: “I would attribute it, I think, to – we are seeing much larger volumes of domestic abuse reported, which is a positive thing because it shows an increased confidence in coming forward to the police.”
Between 2015/16 and 2019/20, reports of serious offences rose across the three boroughs by almost 20pc. Domestic abuse reports rose by more than 20pc.
But the number of officers assigned to the boroughs did not increase in line with demand. Instead, they fell. In 2014/15, they had 1,462 officers. By 2019/20, they had 1,370.
But now the Met has invested in a new squad which is “proactively” tackling domestic abusers.
Predatory Offender Unit
The Predatory Offender Unit for the three boroughs consists of nine officers.
Assigned to their new roles in November, they have already traced and arrested 30 “high harm” suspects, wanted on suspicion of domestic abuse offences.
Additionally, the new team is using Clare’s Law to trace the new partners of known domestic abusers and warn them off of the relationships.
“There’s a right to ask and a right to know,” says Mr Tachauer. “We will assess the risk and we won’t wait for somebody to do a right to ask request.
“Where we identify the individual as being high-harm, and where we become aware of a relationship, we would seek to use the right to know legislation to make a disclosure to that individual, to make them aware of their partner’s history.”
Mr Tachauer is hopeful that new laws will make it easier to rehabilitate domestic abusers.
While abusers in the three boroughs are eligible for rehabilitation courses, they are currently voluntary.
Whilst courts can force drug addicts and sex offenders to attend rehabilitation courses, the law does not currently allow a judge to make the same order for a domestic abuser.
But a new Domestic Abuse Bill, to be considered by the House of Lords next month, could change that.
"My hope is, in the new bill, that we will have the ability to mandate through the criminal justice system those sort of programmes,” he says.
*Havering Women’s Aid can be reached on 01708 728759.
A search can be requested under Clare’s Law at https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/daa/domestic-abuse/.