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“It needs to be easier for police victims to report DA”, says review

A joint investigation released today by the College, HMICFRS and the IOPC has found the unique risks of being a police victim of domestic violence are not consistently taken into account.

The investigation, released today, has found ‘systemic deficiencies’ in the way some forces investigate allegations of police perpetrated domestic abuse (PPDA). 

The unique barriers that come when the victim is also a member of the police have been highlighted, with the report finding that those barriers are not always recognised. 

While no evidence of corruption or collusion was found, the investigation found that impartiality is not always demonstrated - leaving forces open to doubts. 56 DA investigations were reviewed and outcomes data for 149 allegations across 15 forces from 2018 (14 of which resulted in a charge). 

“Connections between colleagues in forces do have the potential to underine the response to PPDA. We do not believe all forces are taking this risk seriously enough,” the report said. 

“Declarations of conflicts of interest appear to be frequently missing and we have heard of examples of cases that were being investigated by officers who knew the suspect.” 

Meanwhile, the report acknowledged that police victims of PPDA are at risk of repercussions within the workplace, and noted that to date references around the extra risks in these cases within force policies remains limited. 

The joint investigation found evidence that such victims can become the subject of gossiping or bullying as well as evidence from victims who feel their career prospects have been “irreparably harmed”. 

One interviewee told the investigation that they had been involved in a number of cases of PPDA in different forces and that in each case, the victim had experienced some form of “serious employment difficulty” resulting from their PPDA being reported. According to the interviewee, they had all transferred, left policing, been investigated themselves or been removed from their role. 

Meanwhile, a police victim interviewee said: “I used to be a real go-getter. Great charge and detection rate. My reputation has changed to being a basket case”. 

The report said these consequences are hard to evidence but acknowledged that the potential for repercussions can deter reporting. 

“We are not sufficiently assured that forces routinely properly consider this aspect in their support for police victims of PPDA,” the report said. 

Police victims typically avoid reporting through the same channels as the public, yet the investigation found “ambiguity” regarding how colleagues should respond to allegations of PPDA. 

The report does not however recommend that such cases are automatically investigated by a neighbouring force which the Centre for Women’s Justice who brought the 'Super Complaint' had called for. 

Dave Tucker, Head of Crime and Criminal Justice at the College of Policing, said they felt that would be a “disproportionate response”, citing the practical difficulties that would come with that, particularly for smaller forces. 

He also acknowledged that that also would provide no guarantee individuals didn’t know each other. 

Kathie Cashell, IOPC Director for Strategy and Impact, added that it is about demonstrating a robust investigation and that the way to do that “won’t be the same for all cases”, and said it was not a one size fits all. She said the decision to involve other forces would depend on individual cases rather than be automatic. 

There was no evidence found that cases of PPDA were conducted less well that other DA cases - however it was highlighted that the general response to DA needs to improve “across the board”. 

As a response, recommendations made include that chief constables should audit live PPDA cases and those closed within the last 12 months. 

PCCs, the MoJ and chief constables will now also need to ensure provision of support services and guidance meets the specific needs of victims and forces need to have plans in place to ensure cases are investigation by someone with no prior connection to anyone involved - which may include transferring to another force. 

The IOPC has also been tasked with carrying out an oversight programme relating to the handling of PPDA and will make PPDA a focus of their wider thematic work on VAWG. 

Dave Tucker said: “During the investigation we also found examples of dedicated and committed police officers working incredibly hard to get victims justice. To support them as best as possible the College of Policing will review and improve our guidance and training, so it considers the additional risks when a suspect is part of the police workforce.” 

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