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Tories accused of failing abused women as domestic violence crimes rise and prosecutions fall

LABOUR accused the Tories today of failing abused women as new figures revealed domestic violence crimes rose by 6 per cent this year while prosecutions continue to fall. 

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that police recorded 845,734 domestic abuse-related crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021 — a rise of 6 per cent on the previous year.

Of all crimes reported to the police, almost a fifth were domestic abuse related. 

The figures were published ahead of the United Nations International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women on Thursday.

In a new report collating data on domestic abuse from different organisations, the ONS also reported a 22 per cent increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in England.

Looking at the crime survey, which measures people’s experience of crime, not crimes recorded by police, the ONS reported that an estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 75 experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020. 

Three per cent of women in that age range also experienced sexual assault and 5 per cent suffered stalking. 

Despite an increase in domestic abuse crimes being reported, prosecutions have also continued to fall. 

Referrals of suspects to the Crown Prosecution Service fell 3 per cent, to 77,812, and the number of CPS prosecutions fell for the fifth consecutive year.

Shadow domestic abuse minister Jess Phillips said today that the figures were a “damning indictment of government inaction.

“Staggeringly, this government has overseen yet another rise in the number of victims experiencing domestic abuse,” she said. 

“Police recorded cases have doubled in the last five years and yet prosecutions for this crime continue to plummet. We are seeing women and girls being failed at every step of their journey by this government.”

Refuge CEO Ruth Davison said the figures should serve as a “stark reminder of how pervasive domestic abuse is in our society, and the impact the pandemic has on survivors of abuse.”

She said: “Refuge saw a sharp rise in demand for its specialist services during the pandemic and that rise shows no signs of slowing down.”

Ms Davidson also called for reform of the justice system, warning that the continued decrease in prosecutions and charging rates for domestic abuse-related crimes sends a “very concerning message” to women and girls. 

Alongside the figures, the ONS also published a report warning of the possible significant and long-lasting effects of abuse, such as mental health problems, homelessness and suicide attempts. 

The ONS said 63 per cent of women who were victims of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts) reported mental or emotional problems and 10 per cent reported that they had tried to kill themselves as a result. 

Women’s Aid chief executive Farah Nazeer said women often don’t seek mental health support due to stigma or fear around disclosing mental health problems. 
 
“It is vital that we work to change perceptions and attitudes towards survivors’ mental health which compound women’s trauma and inequality,” she said. 

Rape Crisis chief executive Jayne Butler also said drastic changes were needed, including funding for specialist support services including rape crisis centres.

“The ways in which the trauma of sexual crimes can manifest are varied, and they can severely affect a person’s ability to live their day to day life,” she said. 

“It is so important that those affected by sexual violence have access to specialist support services which can help them to deal with what they have experienced.”

The Communist Party called for immediate government action to challenge violence against women and girls at work, in society and in schools and colleges. 

CP women’s organiser Carol Stavris said: “The outbreak of Covid-19 has intensified all forms of sex-based violence in what the UN Women organisation describes as a ‘shadow pandemic’; in particular, there has been a global rise in domestic violence. None of this is inevitable. It can be ended.”

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