The Panel welcomed Ms. Karen Evans, Chairman of the North East Hampshire Domestic Violence Forum, who had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on domestic violence in the Borough, in particular the cross government strategy, Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
Ms. Evans reported on the VAWG cross government strategy which had the intent that, “no woman should live in fear of violence, and every girl should grow up knowing she is safe, so that she can have the best start in life.” To date, progress had been made at national level to take measures to tackle stalking; forced marriage; revenge pornography and controlling and coercive behaviour. A new law had also been introduced called “Clare’s Law”, which allowed women to check if their partner had a violent past. New protection orders were also in place for domestic and sexual violence cases and cases involving female genital mutilation (FGM), these allowed authorities to take protective action before harm occurred. It was noted that locally the support given, in such cases, was to both female and male victims.
The national VAWG Strategy 2016-2020 had four key priorities, these were:
· Prevention – by working within the education system and through the media
· Provision of Services - access at any time for anyone
· Partnership working – sharing information with other related agencies
· Pursuing perpetrators – through the use of technology, e.g. body cameras and GPS technology, and by increasing the capabilities of the police and prosecutors to help identify online crimes.
The Panel reviewed some statistics issued by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). It was reported that the Police had recorded 1,800 – 2,000 cases of domestic abuse in 2014/15 in Rushmoor and conviction rates in Hampshire had increased from 70.5% in 2014/15 to 77.2% in 2015/16. Sexual abuse statistics were also reviewed for the six-month period between 1st April – 30th September 2016. 51 offences had been reported in Rushmoor, which represented an increase of 27.5% on the previous year. Under 18 offences accounted for 15% of all sexual offences reported, and 85% of the victims were female. The peak age range was between 14-17 years.
It was reported that, often, the domestic abuse incidents and crimes that were reported were repeats and increasingly involved parents/grandparents being abused by their over 16 child/grandchild.
Ms. Evans advised of the tiered response to reported domestic abuse. Police and associated agencies carried out risk assessments to identify those at a high risk of serious harm or murder. Victims were then categorised into high, medium or standard risk and referred to the appropriate support services. High risk cases were referred to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). Hart and Rushmoor held monthly joint MARAC meetings, which had discussed 221 cases at risk of murder between July 2015 and June 2016. This equated to 30 cases per 10,000 population. The cases involved 311 children, 14.5% of BME cases and 9.5% male victim cases. Victims with long-term disabilities also featured, and measures were being taken to better work in such cases, especially deaf victims where specialist equipment had been used. It was also noted that a Nepali speaking domestic abuse worker was in place, managed by CAB Rushmoor and the DA forum, to help bridge the language and cultural barriers when working with Nepali victims.
It was advised that Rushmoor had a refuge facility within its boundaries which provided emergency safe accommodation for victims, as well as options for “move on” support for victims through the Hampshire Make Safe Scheme (HMSS). The HMSS included the Sanctuary Scheme, which assisted with safety plans within the home; the intention was to make it as difficult as possible for the perpetrator to access the victim’s property. Measures could include a safe room where the door opened outwards making it harder to force open, window and door alarms and door chains.
The Panel was informed that a number of local measures were in place including healthy relationship sessions in schools and colleges, armed forces domestic abuse work and awareness raising presentations and publicity. A RADAR (Domestic Violence Intervention) programme had also been established recently aimed at young perpetrators aged between 16-23 years and was being run by the Hampton Trust in conjunction with Step by Step. There were currently two groups in Aldershot involving 7-9 males and three females.
The Panel discussed the presentation and reflected on the issues in the Borough and the need for the same level of support as the larger areas, like Southampton to be in place. The Panel also recognised the strong partnership working to make a difference to the reporting levels of domestic abuse.
The Panel NOTED and ENDORSED the update.