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Radical action needed to tackle crime epidemic against women and girls

7 Jul 2021

An interim report released today (7 July 2021) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has found that radical cross-sector reform to protect women and girls from violent offences is needed immediately.

The HMICFRS report said the police have made vast improvements over the last decade in how they respond to these crimes, but while this progress should continue, fundamental system-wide change is needed, and the police cannot achieve this alone.

HMICFRS said there is an epidemic of offending against women and girls and a whole-system approach is needed to tackle it, involving not only the police but also other partners such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), health, social care and education.

The Inspectorate’s interim report is being released now to help inform the Government’s violence against women and girls strategy, with its final report to be published in September.

HMICFRS reviewed evidence from previous inspections, consulted with experts from policing, government and victim support organisations, and analysed the progress made by the police.

After reviewing the evidence, the Inspectorate has recommended that transformation of the whole system is needed, including:

  • the Government, police, criminal justice system and public sector should immediately and unequivocally commit to prioritising the response to violence against women and girls, supported by sufficient funding and mandated responsibilities;
  • the police should make the relentless pursuit and disruption of perpetrators a national priority, and their capability and capacity to do this should be enhanced; and
  • funding and structures should be put in place to ensure victims receive tailored and consistent support.

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales, said:

"We couldn't agree more with the HMICFRS recommendation for radical, immediate and cross-sector action to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

"We have been calling for radical, systemic change and a holistic approach to these endemic issues for many years, and recently laid out a set of detailed recommendations in our Decriminalisation of Rape report, which complement the Inspectorate's findings.

"The kind of cultural shift the Government itself admitted last month is needed cannot be achieved without significant investment, including in the specialist support services that help victims and survivors of VAWG crimes to cope, recover and access justice.

"It also cannot be achieved by isolated measures or by one organisation or agency alone.

"We remain committed to working with Government and criminal justice agencies, as well as health, social care and others, on behalf of sexual violence and abuse victims and survivors to ensure their voices are heard and their needs and rights are recognised and upheld."

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.

“A radical and immediate change in approach is needed, supported by sustained funding and mandated responsibilities, potentially through a new statutory framework. We need to end violence against women and girls by preventing it, supporting victims, and bringing perpetrators to justice with the full force of police powers and the law.

“I am grateful to the Home Secretary for commissioning this inspection, and we will publish our final report in September.” 

Read the HMICFRS report in full