The police response to victims of domestic abuse continues to improve

HMICFRS’s fourth report on the police response to domestic abuse found continued improvement in how the police identify, respond to and support victims of domestic abuse.

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The police response to domestic abuse: An update report

The report recognises the good work being carried out by the majority of police forces including:

  • continued investment in training for their workforce on domestic abuse;
  • developing multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) to work in partnership with other organisations to better protect victims of domestic abuse;
  • the increased use of body worn video to capture evidence at the scene of an incident and;
  • the increased roll-out of Operation Encompass or similar schemes, which involve the police and schools working together to support children present at domestic abuse incidents

These improvements are all the more impressive, given the increases seen in recorded levels of domestic abuse. It is important to acknowledge the pressure that the significant increases in demand is placing on forces.

Data collected during the 2017 PEEL inspection shows that recorded levels of domestic abuse rose by almost 90 percent since HMICFRS’s first inspection in 2014.

This is likely to represent improved recording of crimes and increased confidence in the police with more victims coming forward. But some police forces are unable to explain the reasons for the rise.

HMI Zoë Billingham said:

“I’d like to congratulate forces for their continued focus on improving services for victims and making sure that domestic abuse remains everyone’s business.

“There’s no question that police forces have come a very long way in responding to victims of domestic abuse – victims are now better supported and better protected.

“And, as a result of strong commitment and leadership from chief constables, forces continue to make their response to domestic abuse a priority. In most forces, police officers and staff understand how to recognise victims of domestic abuse and respond to their needs.

“But there is still some room for improvement in the speed in which officers attend domestic abuse incidents. In some cases, we found that delays were impeding effective investigations and potentially putting victims of domestic abuse at serious risk of harm.

“And I’m troubled that we found the number of arrests for domestic abuse-related crimes fell in 23 forces, despite the overall number of these offences increasing, often substantially. Forces need to be able to explain why this is happening, and ensure they are taking positive action to protect victims.

“I’m also concerned that changes to the use of pre-charge bail could be making it easier for perpetrators to return to the abusive relationship, with more being released under investigation and not having bail conditions set, exposing victims to further potential harm. This is something we’re looking closely at in the inspections we’re carrying out now and will report on later this year”

The report outlines a number concerns around the use of bail. The number of people being released on all types of bail for domestic abuse crimes has fallen by 65 percent. Additionally, 16 forces were unable to supply comparable year-on-year data on their use of bail for domestic abuse cases. This suggests that they may not be monitoring the use of bail.

HMICFRS is undertaking further work to understand how bail is being used in domestic abuse crimes.

Get the report

The police response to domestic abuse: An update report


  1. HMICFRS continues to inspect the police response to victims of domestic abuse annually and will report on the findings from our latest inspection later this year.
  2. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
  3. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  4. For further information, HMICFRS’ press office can be contacted from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  5. HMICFRS’ out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.