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Epidemic of violence against women under way in England and Wales – report

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Show caption Police are being called on to make the pursuit of adult perpetrators of violence against women and girls a national priority. Photograph: iweta0077/Getty Images/iStockphoto Crime Epidemic of violence against women under way in England and Wales – report Radical shift needed in how police tackle crimes disproportionately affecting female victims, says watchdog Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent @JamieGrierson Wed 7 Jul 2021 13.08 BST Share on Facebook

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Women and girls are being subjected to an epidemic of violence that requires a “radical and bold” shift in how authorities in England and Wales tackle crimes that disproportionately affect female victims, a police watchdog has warned.

In an interim report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) calls for councils, schools, health and social care bodies and all areas of the criminal justice system to work together to address the problem, as police “cannot solve this alone”.

In March, the inspectorate was asked to inspect the effectiveness of police engagement with women and girls.

A number of recent cases involving violence against women and girls have raised the profile of such offending, including the death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard; that of Julia James, a police community support officer in Kent, allegedly killed while out walking her dog; and the murders of the sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in a park in north-west London in June 2020.

Among the inspectorate’s recommendations was a call for an “immediate and unequivocal commitment” that the response to violence against women and girls is an “absolute priority” for government, policing, the criminal justice system and public sector partnerships – backed up by funding.

Within this, HMICFRS recommends that the Home Office and other government departments should consider proposing a statutory duty on partner agencies to collectively take action to prevent harm caused by violence against women and girls.

The police should make the pursuit of adult perpetrators of violence against women and girls, and the disruption of such offences, a national priority, say inspectors, and structures and funding should be put in place to make sure victims receive tailored and consistent support.

Her Majesty’s inspector of constabulary, Zoë Billingham, said: “We are living during a national epidemic of violence against women and girls. The prevalence and range of offending and harm is stark and shocking. We are clear that the police have made great progress over the last decade against a backdrop of greater demand, and we want forces to maintain this momentum and build on these improvements. But there is still evidence of inconsistent support for victims and low prosecution rates.

“Offending against women and girls is deep-rooted and pervasive in our society. Urgent action is needed to uproot and address this and police cannot solve this alone. There must be a seamless approach to preventing and tackling violence against women and girls across the whole system, including education, local authorities, health, social care and those from across the criminal justice system – with all agencies working together.”

Among shocking statistics highlighted in the report are the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimate of 1.6 million women experiencing domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2020, as well as the 153,136 rape and other sexual offences recorded by police, in which the victim was female in 84% of cases.

The inspectorate’s final report is expected to be published in September, with further details of the government’s strategy on violence against women and girls anticipated later this year.

Sarah Jones, the shadow minister for policing and the fire service, said: “HMICFRS’s report is clear. There is a crime ‘epidemic’ against women and girls, and ‘fundamental system-wide change is needed’ to address it. This is damming and sadly predictable, after devastating Conservative cuts to policing.

“Tackling violence against women and girls must be a top priority in both legislation and in national and local government strategies.”