Essex Police and Crime Commissioner pledges to tackle domestic violence

Women’s safety campaigners have welcomed a pledge by Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to tackle domestic violence after he revealed 20 such crimes are reported each day in the county.

Essex PCC Nick Alston says he has identified domestic abuse as a top priority within the Essex Police and Crime Plan after figures showed more than 3,600 offences were recorded between April and September this year, including three women being killed in their own homes.

Mr Alston said: “Too often the front line is the front room. We surely can’t accept this level of harm. I want to work across communities to create an environment where domestic abuse is not tolerated and where our children and young people grow up to recognise the value of healthy relationships.

“I chair a newly-constituted Essex Domestic Abuse Strategic Board, which has representation from across all of the key agencies that have a role to play in tackling domestic abuse – including the police, councils, probation, the prosecution authorities and health.

“This new Board oversees an ambitious programme of work, in supporting victims, tackling perpetrators, and most importantly, working to prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place.”

His comments have been welcomed by Julie Clifford, women’s services manager at Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge - an organisation that provides emergency accommodation and help for women suffering domestic violence that has seen a four-fold increase in referrals over the past five years.

She said: “I support this, as anything that raises awareness of this problem is positive. It is very important that agencies work closer together because often they will have different pieces of information about a situation and it is only by building a better picture that decisions can be made about the risk a woman is under and whether there is a case for intervention.

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“Whereas five years ago we were having around 200 referrals a year, now that number is 800 - it is difficult to say why that is - a heightened awareness that help is out there might be one reason. The publicity around the recent deaths may also be a cause.”

Ms Clifford added: “Despite all this there is still a huge lack of awareness about domestic violence and where people can go for help. It’s critical that there is belief that the person that call can help. That first call is critical and training needs to be given so people recognise the signs. Domestic abuse can come in different guises and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.”