Today (15th December 2021) the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Violence Against Women and Girls, Maggie Blyth, has launched a new framework in England and Wales, setting out the actions required from every police force in a bid to make women and girls safer.
The Policing violence against women and girls: National framework for delivery sets out a framework that seeks to embed the following measures in police forces under three pillars:
- Build trust and confidence
- Relentless perpetrator pursuit
- Safer spaces
The framework sets out a number of measures, including:
Creating a ‘call out’ culture
This “call-out” culture aims to challenge sexism and misogyny in policing and to build women and girls’ trust and confidence in the police approach to violence against women and girls (VAWG).
It expects a robust response to allegations of police-perpetrated abuse, learning from mistakes and best practice, alongside an urgent review of all current allegations of sexual misconduct, domestic abuse and other VAWG-related offences against officers and staff.
We welcome measures to root out police-perpetrated abuse of power against women and girls, which is now the single biggest form of police corruption dealt with by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
However, we will be closely monitoring implementation of the framework to make sure it leads to actual accountability and meaningful action to root out sexist and racist cultures in policing.
Listening to women and girls
It also asks police to enhance their processes for listening to women and girls, with a focus on those who have little or no trust in policing. Women’s voices are then expected to shape police action plans and police forces involve them in scrutinising their performance on VAWG.
The framework also sets out plans to involve specialist women’s organisations, particularly those supporting Black and minoritised women, as well as survivor advocates in finding solutions that will work for women and girls.
We expect to see this translate into meaningful internal work to address the barriers preventing Black and minoritised women from reporting crimes against them, and from discriminatory treatment and poor justice outcomes when they do report.
Proactively targeting perpetrators
There will also be a focus on proactively identifying individuals who pose the highest risk of harm to women and girls, and actively managing those individuals to prevent or reduce offending.
The framework could lead to increased use of protective and preventative tools and orders, such as domestic violence protection orders and stalking protection orders, and swifter action on breaches, which have all been underused.
Specialist women’s organisations have long called for investigations focusing on the actions and behaviour of perpetrators, and an end to policing practices that leave victims feeling like the ones under investigation.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“Focusing on what women say they want and need from a policing response is really important. Violence against women has never before been made a national policing priority, which has led to poor and inconsistent responses to sexual violence, domestic abuse, harassment and other forms of VAWG across the country. However, the words in this document must be matched with real accountability for forces that fail to implement or keep up with the higher standards proposed.
Trust in our criminal justice agencies is at an all-time low, but for some women and girls there was never any trust to begin with. For women who have experienced discriminatory responses from the police on the grounds of race, class or disability, trust and confidence is impacted not just by those direct experiences, but also by what is known about the treatment of others in your community. This is why there needs to be a systemic approach to tackling racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination within our justice agencies.
If we are serious about removing barriers to reporting abuse for migrant women, we need to ensure those women can come forward without fear that the police will share their information with immigration enforcement. This makes women more unsafe and allows perpetrators to continue their abuse.
The framework is a really important initial step, but it is just the very start of the work. In and of itself it will not rebuild women’s deeply damaged trust in policing. We need to see these promises of transformation realised – in a change to rape investigation models, on action taken to address police perpetrators, in the decent treatment of all women who come forward to report abuse, and a relentless focus on procedural justice that ensures the system is fair and equal at each and every stage. This must materialise before we can be confident that this is a watershed moment for women.”
Timeline of implementation
The NPCC’s framework states that police forces will take immediate action and develop local action plans by March 2022, setting out their activity against the framework. The national coordinator will provide regular updates on national themes, barriers and progress.
By 31st March 2022, the NPCC and College of Policing will publish an outcomes and performance framework developed in consultation with the VAWG sector. This will set out expected outcomes and performance measures for the framework.
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, [email protected], 07960 744 502