A root and branch examination by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) identified that “fundamental cross-system change is urgently needed to tackle an epidemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG)".
In particular, it identified "inconsistencies at every level in how the police respond to VAWG and victims”.
The report said "Structural, strategic and tactical inconsistencies must be addressed if the police and their partners are to make inroads in tackling the deep-rooted problem of VAWG offences. Too often, we find that the connections across sectors, and from national strategies to frontline practice, are frayed or absent."
The Inspectorate made a range of recommendations, including:
- A relentless focus, mandated responsibilities and sufficient funding to ensure that responding to VAWG offences is a priority across government and other agencies.
- Increased and improved capacity and capability to ensure the police prioritise pursuit and disruption of adult perpetrators of VAWG offenses.
- Funding to provide tailored and consistent support for victims.
- Chief Constables to ensure that there are consistently high standards in their forces’ response to VAWG.
- Review of VAWG cases where ‘No Further Action’ is taken.
Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England & Wales said: “We have been calling for cross-departmental system change as a strategy for tackling violence against women and girls and we are really pleased to see the depth the Inspectorate have gone into both with their review and recommendations, many of which are echoes of the changes we called for in our ‘shadow rape review’, The Decriminalisation of Rape, which we published in November 2020 alongside partners Imkaan, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and the Centre for Women’s Justice.
"In particular, we welcome the recognition that police should work with local specialist support services to ensure all rape victims have access to bespoke, high quality and consistent wraparound care. This includes the Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy that Rape Crisis Centres provide but also, crucially, the specialist emotional support and counselling they offer, to enable survivors to cope, recover and move forward positively from the trauma of sexual violence.
"The overriding theme of this report is support – if we are to move towards ending violence against women and girls, we need to ensure that support is provided – to help survivors cope and recover, to help police officers to improve their capability, to help leaders to develop and sustain the relentless focus of responding to VAWG that this report calls for.
"That support must now be funded at all levels.
"We look forward now to seeing the government response to these recommendations, and in particular we look to the new Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, to take decisive action on this.
"So far in 2021 alone we have seen report after report detailing the scale of the epidemic of violence against women and girls and recommending the same actions time and time again. The Government’s own Rape Review made many of these.
"We need a criminal justice system that understands trauma, puts victims and survivors at its’ heart and is accountable. The Government must now listen and take action to make the funding available to make sure these actions can be implemented.”