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‘Systemic failings’ allowing police accused of domestic abuse to walk free

INSPECTORS have found “systemic failings” in the way some forces in England and Wales investigate reports of domestic abuse against police officers. 

The investigation by the College of Policing and two other watchdogs found that just 9 per cent of reports of police-perpetrated domestic abuse offences examined resulted in a charge. 

Out of 122 cases where officers were investigated by their own force, less than half resulted in a misconduct investigation being launched, while only six out of 104 women who reported abuse said they would feel confident to report again. 

The inspection, carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, found evidence of police abusers using their knowledge, status and powers to intimidate victims and deter them from making reports. 

The report, published on Thursday, also recognised particular problems faced by police victims who accuse fellow officers of domestic abuse, finding that they are not always afforded the same standard of care as civilian victims. 

Women’s rights groups have expressed alarm at the findings, saying they demonstrate why police should not be handed more powers in legislation. 

End Violence Against Women Coalition director Andrea Simon said: “The police hold an incredible amount of power over the public and this must come with the highest standards of transparency, scrutiny and accountability.”

The investigation was launched in response to a super-complaint submitted by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which had raised concerns about police failures to investigate reports of abuse, claiming this conduct amounted to corruption.

While inspectors did not find evidence that reports of domestic abuse against police officers were investigated less well than those against civilian perpetrators, it warned that improvements were needed across the board. 

It concluded: “Overall, our investigation, combined with evidence submitted by CWJ, leads us to conclude forces are not fully recognising and responding to the risks and responsibilities associated with these cases. 

“There are systemic deficiencies in the police response to cases of police-perpetrated domestic abuse in England and Wales and this is causing significant harm to the public interest.”

CWJ said it welcomed the thorough investigation, but stressed that it fell short of the changes needed.

The group has previously called for reports of domestic abuse by officers to be investigated by an external police force. 

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