Women's Aid police plea after hard-hitting report

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @Michael_Benke

SWINDON Women’s Aid has called for wide ranging reform into how the authorities deal with domestic abuse following an HMIC report released this week which criticised Wiltshire Police.

While commending the attitude of the force, the report said victims are not getting enough support.

Olwen Kelly, director of Swindon Women’s Aid, says it is vital the police take on board the recommendations but also calls for a more joined up approach with the relevant agencies.

She believes that, at the moment, the whole justice system is failing victims and says it is vital all the local agencies involved in dealing with domestic abuse get together to come up with a solution.

“Whilst the HMIC report highlights major causes for concern within the police service, I believe there is a wider review needed in Swindon and Wiltshire, to look at all criminal justice agencies and the way they currently fail victims,” said Olwen.

“Currently the criminal justice system lets domestic victims down and whilst the HMIC goes as far as highlighting the weaknesses in police approaches, we fail to call into account the other criminal justice agencies responses, and indeed the timescales involved when supporting victims.

“The current approach within the criminal justice system for victims isn’t working. The Swindon Domestic Violence Specialist Court has been closed and victims have to travel to Chippenham courts to have their cases heard.

“Swindon Women’s Aid want local statutory agencies to come together to form a strategic group to improve the outcomes of victims and their children via the criminal justice system.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Mcpherson said dealing with domestic abuse was one of his priorities.

He said: “Putting victims and witnesses first is at the heart of my Police and Crime Plan and central to the role of a Police and Crime Commissioner.

“In fact, commissioning services to protect and support witnesses is my fundamental responsibility. I have been consulting with victims of domestic abuse in Wiltshire and Swindon as well as exploring with practitioners how I can commission services which will make a difference.

“As far as the call for agencies to work together is concerned, it is important to point out that there is a domestic violence steering group in Swindon and a domestic abuse reduction group in Wiltshire which bring partner agencies together.”

A spokesperson for Wessex CPS, which covers Swindon, said: “We know that domestic abuse is a pernicious crime and our aim is to encourage victims to report this crime to the police in order to bring offenders before the court.“

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