A new report from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) released today, 14th March 2023, presents the first national assessment of police performance on tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG).
The Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls – Policing Performance and Insights Publication brings together a national overview of the police response to VAWG, and for the first time, national data on the number of police-perpetrated VAWG complaints and conduct cases.
- Over half a million VAWG-related crimes were recorded between October 2021 and March 2022, representing at least 16% of all recorded crime.
- Of all recorded VAWG crimes, just 6% were closed with a suspect being charged.
- Between October 2021 and March 2022, the police recorded 1,177 police-perpetrated VAWG complaints and conduct cases.
- Where cases had been finalised, 70% of conduct allegations and 91% of complaint allegations resulted in a decision that no action was required.
- It is “almost certain” that inappropriate sexual conduct makes up most of police-perpetrated VAWG, as well as the highest risk cases.
- For conduct cases, the number of domestic abuse and inappropriate sexual behaviour cases are probably higher than the data suggests.
- The poor and inconsistent collection, quality and management of data means that the true scale of risks, harm and opportunities for policing across all VAWG threats are not fully understood. In particular, a lack of data on different demographics of victims impacts outcomes for minoritised victims.
- It is likely that consistent and meaningful application of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales, supported by suspect-focused investigations across all VAWG crime types, will have the greatest impact on pursuing perpetrators.
Transparency is a cornerstone of accountability. However, while we welcome this benchmark for scrutiny of the police response to VAWG, which will be crucial for future performance analysis, a large number of the KPIs had insufficient data to measure.
Exposing the extent of issues with data collection, the report flags major gaps in demographic data, reflecting a longstanding concern of women’s organisations about a lack of understanding of the experiences and justice outcomes for minoritised groups. This is unacceptable. The police inspectorate HMICFRS has already stated that “lack of robust police data on victims’ ethnicity is a fundamental failing”.
The NPCC’s recognition of sexism and misogyny in policing is an essential step in the right direction. However, we are keen to ensure the focus on shifting this culture not only hones in on ‘rooting out individuals’ but also recognises the conducive context and environments in which they operate – in this case, the institution of policing.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“These figures are the latest in a tidal wave of evidence showing the shocking number of police officers getting away with perpetrating violence against women and girls. It’s clear from these latest national figures that very often, there are no meaningful consequences for police officers and staff who abuse women. In fact, these figures show that a lack of accountability is the norm, not the exception.
We’re clear that this data is just the tip of the iceberg, given that many women choose not to report VAWG to the police,and this will be heightened when the perpetrator themselves is a police officer or staff member. This is particularly significant for Black and minoritised women, who routinely experience racist and sexist discrimination by the police and justice agencies.
With the widely condemned Public Order Bill in the House of Lords, we’re hugely concerned that the government is pressing ahead with plans that will hand even more powers to a police institution that is not only failing to tackle VAWG but is harbouring perpetrators, and even enabling them to abuse their power with impunity. This report also highlights how important it is that we have mechanisms to hold the police to account where they fail us. Threats to the Human Rights Act and ECHR fundamentally undermine this.”