Police are failing to impose restraining orders or bail conditions on men accused of rape, domestic abuse, harassment and stalking, a watchdog has found, placing women and girls at increased risk of harm.
A police super-complaint, submitted by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), raised concerns that police were failing to use protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls.
A joint investigation between HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the College of Policing found there was a lack of understanding within police forces about how and when to use such protective measures, which could lead to women and girls being harmed or victims being less likely to report crime in the future.
However, the CWJ expressed disappointment that the recommendations did not go far enough.
Nogah Ofer, a solicitor at the CWJ, said: “The super-complaint recommendations are welcome. However, they do not get to grips with the severity of the problem or go far enough to ensure that police forces make real changes in practice.
“Some recommendations require improved data-gathering, and tell chief constables in general terms to prioritise and monitor use of orders, but there is a lack of specifics and no discussion of under-resourcing, which is the elephant in the room. We fear that in five years’ time the situation will not be much different to today.”
The report made several recommendations, including that chief constables should ensure their officers understand all the protective measures available and the Home Office and Ministry of Justice should intensify and accelerate their consideration of creating a bespoke offence of breaching pre-charge bail.
The director general of the IOPC, Michael Lockwood, said: “Police have a key role in protecting vulnerable people and this super-complaint has highlighted clear gaps where improvements must be made in protecting vulnerable women and girls.
“The right training, support, guidance and leadership is critical to police using protective measures to help keep women and girls safe from harm.
“However, this is a community-wide issue and one that needs not just a policing response, but a response from the whole criminal justice sector, non-government organisations and others.
“More than ever, we need a consistent approach to stopping appalling crimes of violence against women and girls from occurring in the first place.”