What discussions has the Deputy Minister had with North Wales Police to establish what actions the Welsh Government can take in response to the increase in the number of domestic-abuse related crimes from 4,798 in 2015-16 to 11,327 in 2018/19?
The numbers reported in the media relate to a rise in recorded domestic-abuse related crimes, rather than a rise in domestic-abuse related crimes per se. The rise in recording is likely to have resulted from a range of activity.
Coercive Control became a criminal offence for the first time in 2015. This increased the number of offences that could be recorded as domestic-abuse related. Greater awareness of the offence leads to greater reporting. The Welsh Government’s “This is not love, this is control” communications campaign was launched in January of this year and was followed by a rise in reporting of coercive control across the Police Forces. There has also been a significant increase in calls to our Live Fear Free helpline following the launch of each of our communications campaigns in the last two years, indicating a far greater awareness of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The police forces themselves have been very proactive in raising awareness of domestic abuse and sharing information about what support is available. North Wales Police hosts information on its website and has published hard copy information about domestic abuse.
Increased recording can also represent better recording. In 2014 HMIC found weaknesses in North Wales Police’s recording of domestic-abuse related crimes. The increase in record crimes, therefore, should be cautiously welcomed as a positive response to HMIC’s findings.
Improved recording requires officers to recognise domestic abuse and to record it as such. Victims should also feel confident that they will be believed and that the police will take action. Specialist organisations such as Welsh Women’s Aid and Safe Lives have been providing training to police forces to support this.
We cannot, however, be certain that all of the rise in recorded incidents is a result of greater awareness by both the police and the public, or that recording has improved, or that there are more offences that can be recorded as domestic abuse. Families under stress are more likely to experience violence and abuse. The extended period of austerity, current uncertain political climate and concerns about impact on jobs and income place families under strain. It is important, therefore, that we are not complacent, and I will ensure that I discuss reasons behind the rise and what actions can and have be taken with all police forces in my regular meetings with them.