Police to get more training to detect non-physical domestic abuse

Move comes after College of Policing found that coercive abuse and controlling behaviour was going undetected

Police officers are to be given more training to protect victims of domestic abuse from controlling and coercive behaviour after the College of Policing found that damaging abuse was going undetected due to a lack of police understanding.

Under a new pilot scheme run by the college, officers from three forces will be trained to look out for patterns of coercive abuse and controlling behaviour that can lead to long-term psychological injury.

It comes after research by the College of Policing warned that unless frontline understanding of the problem improved, high-risk cases would “slip under the radar”. It found that officers focused too much on physical violence and failed to spot signs and patterns of coercive behaviour.

It also follows a freedom of information request, which revealed that a new law protecting victims was used just 62 times in the first six months since it was introduced.

The legislation is aimed at tackling a range of behaviours, including controlling victims through social media, spying on them online or stopping them from socialising.

David Tucker, head of crime and criminal justice at the College of Policing, said the pilot was aimed at fostering a more “nuanced and understanding approach” to the history of abuse encountered by frontline police.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “What we want to do is equip officers to look beyond the initial incident, to understand what’s gone on before ... that might be an indicator of risk in the future.”

Dr Amanda Robinson, a reader in criminology at Cardiff University who conducted the research for College of Policing, said: “Our research showed very clearly that we need to embed an understanding of coercive control more centrally and explicitly with a risk-led approach to domestic abuse.”

The research said: “A tendency for the police to focus on physical violence and what has occurred at the current incident can result in them missing abuse which is characterised not by physical violence and injury but by continuous coercion and control in other forms.”

It identified problems with a 27-item checklist that officers use when dealing with victims. It found that the checklist known as Dash (domestic abuse, stalking and harassment and honour-based violence) “may not be appropriate or proportionate” for some incidents of domestic abuse. It found that officers were often failing to use the form largely because of a “lack of understanding of coercive control and not considering the history and context of a case”.

Robinson said changes to the checklist, to be tested in the pilot, would “get officers to ask the right questions framed more explicitly at seeking to identify whether coercive control is taking place”.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, welcomed the initiative. She said: “It is vital that officers have a thorough understanding of coercive control and consistent training available to them, so they are able to understand how domestic abuse perpetrators behave and read abusive situations accordingly.”

Contributor

Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

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