“I joined the police in the early 80’s, policing then was reminiscent of what many of you have seen on the television series Life on Mars. As a 19 year old probationer, I remember attending domestic abuse incidents with experienced colleagues only to return to the police station and make an entry in the Minor Occurrence Book ( if an incident was not classed as a crime, at that time a written entry was made in this book ) to the effect of ‘A domestic Incident, parties advised to see a solicitor’ This never seemed right for some of the incidents reported, but unfortunately this was often the norm.
Early on in my career I remember a lady reporting that she had been raped by her husband. At that time marital rape was not an offence in the UK, until a landmark case in 1991
It was not until the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 that rape within a marriage was enforced as other rapes.
As expected in my career in a Metropolitan area, I dealt with numerous domestic abuse incidents and I started to understand many of the barriers faced by women and men in reporting their abuse to the police, be it after years of abuse becoming dependant on their abuser (Stockholm syndrome), the fear of losing financial or home security, concerns around social services involvement, or indeed fear of what action the police would take?
I always strove to do my best to protect the victim. I became a police domestic abuse officer, I would always weigh up the right route for the victim – if the criminal justice system was not appropriate, I would use the civil justice system.
Thankfully over time, how the police deal with domestic abuse has progressed in the right direction. Rather than saying ‘go and see a solicitor’ when dealing with domestic abuse, positive action is now taken to arrest the offender if there is evidence to do so. Police Public Protection Teams working closely with partner and support agencies, prioritise safeguarding the victim.
One of the many incidents I remember was a young lady whose ex-partner had broken into her flat, held her hostage and raped her. The rape resulted in a pregnancy, bravely she decided to keep the baby.
The abuser received a custodial sentence for his horrendous crime. When he was due for release from prison I visited the victim to remind her of the support and options available to her. She understandably but sadly wanted to remain in her flat, a tenement where the offences had occurred.
One of my colleagues also a police domestic abuse officer, received a phone call from the lady’s mother, she was concerned that her daughter had not been in contact, they had been in daily contact since the baby was born. We visited the flat, from the rear of the property so not to advertise our approach. We saw a pair of men’s trainers outside a first-floor window which I had previously requested the social landlord to secure as this was the point of entry for previous offences.
Our requests to open the door were denied but with the smell of cooking coming from the other side we believed someone was behind the closed door. We started to make a forceable entry which resulted in the terrified victim opening the door. She verbally stated she was on her own and that she did not want us to enter the property, however her eyes kept rolling towards the lounge where we found her ex-partner hiding.
He was duly arrested as he had again broken into the flat.
The CID dealt with the incident. An experienced CID officer heading towards retirement came to me afterwards and remarked that he had dealt with many domestic incidents throughout his service and that sadly, sometimes, his attitude to domestic abuse cases had been different to that of other crime offences. Dealing with this offence and this young lady had reinforced for him the necessity to robustly police domestic abuse, I remember thinking how sad it was that it had taken him to near retirement to have this important realisation… thank heavens things have and continue to change for victims.
The lady was re housed and her ex-partner returned to jail.
Remember the police are there to help you as are other agencies.”