There were over 35,000 cases of domestic violence that never made it to court in what has been branded a “national travesty” in Wales last year.
Police figures show that there were 41,532 domestic abuse-related offences recorded across the country in 2018/19 but CPS figures Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reveal only 6,156 went to court and only 4,832 people were convicted of the crime.
It means that an abuser is brought to justice in just 12% cases of domestic abuse reported to police in Wales.
A further 39,392 incidents reported to police that were not recorded as a crime. Thousands more cases will have gone unreported altogether.
How do the Welsh police forces perform?
Some forces performed considerably worse than others when it came to arrests with South Wales Police making considerably more arrests than Wales’ other forces.
For every 100 domestic abuse-related crimes reported last year, there were just 27 arrests in both North Wales and Gwent and 28 in Dyfed-Powys, but 55 in South Wales.
The vast majority of domestic abuse cases never make it as far as court.
Of the 41,532 crimes recorded in Wales, the CPS figures show that only 6,156 went as far as court, and 4,832 people were convicted.
It means that 78% of prosecutions for domestic abuse offences were successful.
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of the national domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: “These statistics should serve as a serious wake-up call to the Government that domestic abuse is a major crime in this country and must be top of the political agenda.
“It is clear that the likelihood of women and girls experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives is increasing.
“This is devastating news given this time last year we knew one in four women would experience domestic abuse – this figure is edging towards one in three.
“Alarmingly, incidents of domestic sexual assault are also increasing. This rise is set against a backdrop of lower conviction rates. These statistics are a national travesty.
“The only way to address violence against women and girls is to prioritise legislation which gives domestic abuse national attention, works to reduce the numbers whilst increasing funding and the number of specialist services to which women can turn to for support.
“Refuge calls on the future Government to bring the Domestic Abuse Bill back to parliament, and to work towards its swift passage into law. Women’s lives depend on it.”
Why are convictions so low?
WalesOnline spoke to several domestic violence charities to ask why many of these cases are not ending up with abusers in court.
They identified two reasons – problems during investigations and women withdrawing support for prosecution.
The issues around the investigations stage is in some part down to many cases not being properly investigated. This can include not speaking to people like friends, family, neighbours and schools to build a picture of what is happening.
They also may not be taking photos which means valuable evidence may be lost.
Domestic violence charities acknowledge that for many police forces it comes down to them simply not having resources to tackle the sheer volume of cases. Domestic violence cases often take more time to deal with than other crimes.
The issue of survivors withdrawing their support is also a common challenge.
People have different reasons for withdrawing support. Common reasons for the withdrawal of support include:
- Victim is intimidated by perpetrator or perpetrator’s family
- Victim is very frightened
- Victim wants to protect children from further distress.
This is to say nothing of the fact it can be a very long process.
Some people report waits of over a year before they even find out if their abuser will even be charged. For many, this is far too long to have this hanging over their head and, quite understandably, simply want to move on with their lives.
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Deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse, said: “Police have worked hard to improve our response to domestic abuse over recent years and this is reflected in statistics that show increased reporting and better recording.
“In the past many verbal arguments were recorded as an incident and not a crime, yet technically these can be a common assault, harassment or threat of violence.
“These may have little prospect of a prosecution but recording them allows dedicated domestic abuse officers to safeguard victims, build evidence and recognise patterns.
“Part of the increase is also down to better identification and reporting of domestic abuse, particularly coercive and controlling behaviour.
“We are continuing to improve our response to this to bring more offenders to justice.”
Gwent, North Wales and Dyfed Powys Police have been approached for comment.
Detective Superintendent Alun Davies of Gwent Police said: “Gwent Police is committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse.
“The force has the highest conviction rate after charge for domestic abuse in Wales at 83%, which is higher than the national average of 76%. Our arrest rate for domestic abuse is 32%, which is also above the national average.
“However we realise there is still more to do and recognise that a low charge rate can cause concern among our communities.
“Our aim to tackle domestic abuse has included holding a survivor engagement evening, where survivors gave first-hand accounts of their experiences.
“This feedback has informed our internal policies and external multi-agency approach to better support survivors. We have employed a survivor engagement co-ordinator to further enhance this victim-led approach.
“The number of our Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) referrals has increased to more than 1,000 per year, safeguarding more and more victims at who are most at risk.
“We have recently employed our first MARAC co-ordinator, increasing the ability of Gwent Police and its partners to safeguard survivors.
“Our Assertive Outreach Team has directly contacted many survivors, offering enhanced safeguarding and advice.
“We would encourage anyone affected by domestic abuse to please report it, so we and our partners can offer you the support you need.”
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