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More than 20 cases of domestic abuse reported to police every day in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 07:30 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:16 27 November 2019

Domestic abuse crimes have doubled in three years  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Domestic abuse crimes have doubled in three years Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Domestic abuse related crimes have soared across Suffolk and Essex in the last three years - equating to about 15% of all crime and about a third of all violent crime.

Almost one in 10 cases discussed by Suffolk's victim focused Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences involved men  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOAlmost one in 10 cases discussed by Suffolk's victim focused Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences involved men Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Suffolk police recorded 7,901 crimes in the year until March 2019 - up from 6,700 in 2017/18 and 3,976 in 2015/16.

Essex Police logged 26,030 - up from 12,780 in 2015/16. Nationally, crimes rose 77% in three years.

Office for National Statistics data showed the number involving violence went from 3,075 to 6,238 in a year in Suffolk - 32% of all violent crime.

There were 2,800 arrests made in Suffolk, with 11% of crimes leading to a charge, according to the ONS data.

Suffolk police are focussing on rural areas as part of the annual White Ribbon campaign  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYSuffolk police are focussing on rural areas as part of the annual White Ribbon campaign Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

In Essex, 7,349 arrests were made - with the same rate of crimes leading to a charge.

More recent figures published online by Suffolk police showed improvement in the rate of solved crimes - with 15.4% of 7,973 crimes solved in the 12 months to August 31 - 47.8% of victims not supporting legal action and investigation not being possible in a further a 1% of cases.

Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said: "Victims are our top priority in any domestic abuse investigation and we will always work to gather and secure evidence in order to gain a successful conviction.

"It is important to recognise that domestic abuse continues to be an under-reported crime, and many cases go completely undetected. The Suffolk related figures in the report align with domestic abuse statistics nationally, and a number of factors should be considered when looking at the increase in crime figures.

"Changes and improvements in recording practices by police and increased victim confidence around reporting are a positive step forward, and may have contributed to an increase in recorded crime in this area.

"Campaigns such as White Ribbon aim to increase reporting confidence by raising awareness of the processes involved in reporting cases, and the vital support available from police and local partners to victims, survivors and their families.

"Many factors have an effect on the number of people charged with offences, including the strength of the evidence presented and, in some cases, the willingness of the victim to proceed, as victims are not always in support of prosecution.

"These crimes can often be complex, having taken place within a family setting, meaning victims can be unwilling to take matters to court. Intervention allows us to disrupt negative patterns of behaviour, to keep people safe and maintain positive action.

Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger of Suffolk police  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYDetective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger of Suffolk police Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

"While we understand that victims may not want to tell police immediately what has happened to them, we want to encourage anyone to continue to speak to us and feel confident in accessing the specialist support they need."

Launching the '16 Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse', Colchester sergeant Dan Smith said investigators occasionally dealt with complex incidents involving people known to each other, adding: "We often investigate matters where the victim has not felt able to support the police but we believe it is in the best interest of the victim, and if the evidence is overwhelming, we will look to prosecute."

Suffolk performed better than average for reports subsequently being recorded as crimes (65%) - and for arrests (35 per 100 crimes).

Prosecutions fell from 883 to 813 and convictions dropped from 736 to 656. Despite the fall, 81% of prosecutions ended in conviction and 46 protection notices were granted where charges have yet to be brought, to prevent suspects contacting victims, while 238 applications were granted under Clare's Law - or the right to ask police about a partner's past.

Suffolk's victim focused Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences discussed among the country's highest rate of female male cases, as police referred the second highest percentage of cases to the meetings of any force.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Domestic abuse is happening in every community in our county but because it often happens behind closed doors those communities are literally walking past it every day.

"Reports of domestic abuse have increased and this is in line with the national picture with one third of all our violent crime being domestic abuse. However, we can't be complacent and one report of domestic abuse is one too many.

"A major factor in the increase is the national change in the way stalking and harassment offences are being recorded.

"This change means that incidents are crimed in the most serious offence category and are taken more seriously.

"There is also every likelihood that the increase has happened because more people are becoming more confident in reporting offences to us and there is more awareness around the terms stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour.

"That means more people are reporting behaviour to us when they have been a victim or suspect someone else may be a victim.

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"We received 6,180 more stalking and harassment reports in October 2019 than we did in October 2018 and this is a direct result of the change in policy and increased confidence in police to listen and investigate.

"Here in Essex there is some fantastic work ongoing in relation to domestic abuse.

"We have set up our own DA Governance Board (DAGB) comprising domestic abuse specialists around the force. A new strategy was commissioned and has since been agreed and will regularly be reviewed and amended when required.

"We regularly attend Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB) meetings and on Friday at Chelmsford City Racecourse we are letting 200 agencies know about the work we are doing around coercive and controlling behaviour.

SETDAB launched a campaign in September to give victims of stalking support to end their ordeal and bring perpetrators to justice."

In February 2019, the force launched a new telephone survey with victims of domestic abuse crimes to understand more about their experiences with service, and to learn more about what we need to do to continue to improve and deliver the best possible police response.

The new survey has been designed to capture victim feedback from initial contact through to the conclusion of their investigation or contact with Essex Police.

A new helpline, called COMPASS, has been launched to help people in Southend, Essex and Thurrock who are victims of or who have experienced domestic abuse.

COMPASS went live on April 1 and is the new point of access for victims of domestic abuse across Southend, Essex and Thurrock; providing information, advice and guidance and, where appropriate assessment and access to specialist services.

Its function is to increase accessibility to ensure victims of domestic abuse get the right support at the right time.

A spokesman added : "We have recently carried out multi-agency seminars with our partners in Essex, including in probation, domestic abuse support agencies, social care and local authorities to help ensure those working in other fields in our communities can spot the signs of abuse.

"We are also looking to meet with the Crown Prosecution Service on a monthly basis to ensure we are doing all we can to provide the best service and support to victims.

"Essex Police has specialist Domestic Abuse Investigation teams working to support victims across the county. We have put an additional 21 officers in these teams this year as part of the precept increase.

"We continually work on their training and development to ensure they are doing all they can to support some of our most vulnerable victims.

"Essex Police cannot respond to DA alone, in order to effectively support and safeguard victims and manage offenders, the force continues to work and share information with partner agencies."

-Figures also showed coercive control almost doubled across the country last year - from 9,053 to 17,616 offences.

Legislation came into force in December 2015, making an offence of subjecting someone to ongoing psychological abuse.

Suffolk Constabulary recorded 364 offences last year, while Essex Police recorded 456 offences.

Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women's Aid, said it was encouraging legislation was being used more, but said domestic abuse remained at "epidemic levels", with an estimated 1.6m women experiencing abuse last year.

She added: "What these statistics show is that, while domestic abuse can happen to anyone, women experience the most severe and repeated forms of abuse - 84% of homicide victims killed by a current or former partner are female, which shows why specialist refuge services for women, including expert services for BME women, have to exist."

-Suffolk police are focussing on rural areas as part of the annual White Ribbon campaign to end domestic abuse.

The force teamed up with Suffolk County Council, Leeway Domestic Violence and Abuse Services, the East of England Co-op and Ipswich Town Football Club to support the campaign.

Detective Superintendent David Giles said: "Living in rural areas can have a higher impact on people's willingness to report domestic abuse or to seek help and support. I am determined that the message gets through to everyone that you are not alone - help is a phone call away."

Essex Police will mark '16 Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse' by sharing examples of ongoing work to protect victims and bring abusers to justice.

For help and advice, call police on 101 or the domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247. Perpetrators who want to change can call the Respect phone line on 0808 8024040.

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