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Force’s dedicated DVPO team submit highest rate of court orders

South Yorkshire praised in PEEL report for outstanding results in tackling domestic violence and ASB

South Yorkshire Police is achieving “remarkable results” in dealing with domestic violence, protecting and identifying victims early and bringing a high number of cases to court, a PEEL assessment of the force has said.  

HMICFRS describes South Yorkshire as “an ambitious force” that is now achieving some outstanding grades through the hard work of its officers and staff.

South Yorkshire records high levels of domestic abuse compared to other forces. In the year ending 31 March 2022, it recorded over 40,000 domestic abuse-related incidents.

The inspection found that officers take positive action to safeguard victims at the scene of an incident. In the year ending 31 March 2022, it had the highest arrest rate of all forces in England and Wales for domestic abuse offenders, at 59.5 per cent notably higher than the rate across all forces of 27.3 per cent.

HMICFRS says it also makes good use of a lifestyle programme, run by an external provider, that it refers domestic abuse offenders to.

The force also knows who its vulnerable repeat victims are.

In November 2020, the force introduced a Repeat Victim Index that helps officers and staff identify victims and locations of multiple incidents. It includes an assessment of the number of incidents, how recent the incidents are, the harm caused, the severity of incidents and the risk that remains. It also helps to identify any cumulative risk to victims. A weighting of the specific criteria provides a score, which is used to prioritise people and locations.

The index brings all repeat victim names together so that they can be seen in one place so that officers can see whether different teams are safeguarding or investigating the same person. It is used to inform the force’s meetings where individuals are discussed and a decision is made on which people need a plan to support them.

HMICFRS also found that the force uses police staff to take DA cases to court. A dedicated Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) team has been legally trained by the force’s solicitor responsible for DVPO support. A package of mock assessments and training in the courtroom takes place over a five-day period. Team members are also given a DVPO Manual on Law and Practice to support their understanding.

These staff represent the cases in court, instead of officers having to attend. In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force had the highest rate of applications for DVPOs across all forces in England and Wales, at 47.7 per 1,000 recorded domestic abuse-related crimes. This means a lot of representations in court are required.

The inspectorate said: “The DVPO team understand the expectations of judges when presenting in court. They are providing a more consistent approach to DVPO applications and freeing up the time of officers and force solicitors.”

The force was also rated outstanding in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and operating efficiently.

HMI Roy Wisher said: “The force’s success in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour through neighbourhood teams, working with partner organisations, is excellent. It makes early interventions to stop many incidents escalating into more serious crimes.”

The force has successfully used tactics such as disruption, catch and convict, hotspot patrols and dedicated police houses within communities to help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. Its approach is informed by broken windows theory – the concept that crime can be prevented by restoring and maintaining order and public norms of behaviour. It means dealing with lower-level crime to prevent more serious crime and disorder from occurring.

An example of problem-solving is the force’s approach to reducing nuisance and environmental anti-social behaviour on an estate in Sheffield where the community didn't want to engage with the force yet it was receiving a high volume of calls from the wider community relating to anti-social behaviour.

The force and partner organisations have now created a community house within the estate, where they hold open surgeries and drop-ins, and provide crime advice and support for those in need. It is used mainly by police officers, who are joined by local authority staff, environmental and health advisors, youth outreach workers, a language interpreter and a local authority partnership manager. Police and other services advertise the times that they are in the house. The community now sees this as ‘their’ house.

This approach has built trust with the community, who became familiar with seeing police officers every day. It resulted in an initial increase in the reporting of incidents which led to disruption and other positive action. This included 58 arrests for assault, offensive weapons being retrieved, drug cultivation being identified and dealt with, and 194 vehicles being seized that were without insurance, unroadworthy, stolen or abandoned.Overall, the approach has reduced anti-social behaviour in the area and reduced the volume of calls and demand placed on all agencies.

The initiative has now been expanded to other areas.

Overall, South Yorkshire reduced the number of recorded anti-social behaviour incidents from 57,544 in the year ending 31 March 2018 to 27,322 in the year ending 31 March 2022.

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