Essex Police holds domestic abuse summit
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh has hosted a summit on domestic abuse at Essex Police headquarters, with the close involvement of Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex.
The event was held on Monday, July 22 and brought together a host of experts and partner organisations involved in the field.
Mr Kavanagh said: “It was very important to bring together people with real specialist knowledge of domestic abuse to take part in an honest exchange of ideas that will help Essex Police improve the service it delivers.
“My judgement is that we need to continue to break down any remaining barriers between organisations to achieve meaningful partnership working which will help keep victims of domestic abuse safe.
“We must ensure there is a much better flow of information between Essex Police, the NHS, schools, support groups and the criminal justice world to enable us to identify opportunities for earlier intervention in high risk cases. We may also consider co-locating specialist domestic abuse officers and staff alongside key partners in certain areas.
“I believe that our investigations of domestic abuse should have a clearer focus on the perpetrator. As a police service, we must continue to do everything we can to support and protect victims, with the help of key partner organisations such as Safer Places and Refuge, but we must also proactively police domestic abuse and bring offenders to justice.
“There was a great commitment from everyone attending the summit to get this right, to tackle the crime of domestic abuse in Essex with rigour and professionalism informed by the very best practice from around the world.”
The summit included detailed presentations and interactive workshop sessions designed to highlight the key challenges and opportunities going forward.
Joanna Killian, Chief Executive of Essex County Council, outlined the importance of purposeful partnership working, which incorporated specific local needs.
Isobel Shirlaw and Rebecca Taylor of Refuge explained how their organisation works to protect and support victims of domestic abuse, and presented evidence of the role of Independent Domestic Violence Advocates in successfully identifying and managing high risk domestic abuse cases.
Det Chief Supt Simon Coxall discussed the need for prompt and early engagement, and the important role of Essex Police Domestic Abuse Intelligence Teams in identifying essential information and providing it to officers in the early stages of an incident.
Criminal Behaviour Analyst Laura Richards outlined the evidence for and importance of the risk assessment process followed by officers, and emphasised that the perpetrator, not the victim, should be at the centre of the police investigation.
Commander Simon Letchford outlined the development of the Metropolitan Police Service’s approach to domestic abuse in recent years, and presented evidence-based work they had undertaken to ensure that offenders were arrested and prosecuted wherever appropriate.
Professor Betsy Stanko stated that, when she started working in this field in the mid-1970s, there was no data about domestic abuse. This had changed. There is now plenty of information and it is essential to analyse and understand the data to anticipate the risks and work tirelessly to prevent harm.
The summit concluded with an open question and answer session, chaired by Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex.
Afterwards he said: “From my first day as Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex I have been determined to ensure that the very best processes are in place to protect victims of domestic abuse. My concern is reflected by domestic abuse being the only crime type that is a specific area of focus in my Police and Crime Plan for Essex.
“My job as Police and Crime Commissioner, on behalf of the people of Essex, is to ensure that the force has the most rigorous, professional and effective systems possible for investigating domestic abuse and protecting victims from harm. I will continue to work with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, with national and international experts in this field and with partner organisations to achieve this.
“It is essential to ensure that agencies which should be speaking with each other and sharing information are doing so. It is clear that the NHS, parts of the education system, our councils and the criminal justice system often have relevant information about possible domestic abuse. We must find ways of sharing that information ethically so that appropriate and early interventions can take place, whether led by the police or another agency. In addition to ensuring that the police play a full and professional part, I will be determined and persistent in ensuring that, through the Essex Health and Wellbeing and Essex Partnership boards, close cooperation and joined up working is being progressed.
“The summit was a challenging, thought-provoking and valuable event. I’m grateful to everyone who gave their time, expertise and commitment.”
Photo L to R:
Joanna Killian (Chief Executive, Essex County Council), Det Chief Supt Simon Coxall (Public Protection, Essex Police), Professor Betsy Stanko, Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, Nick Alston (Police and Crime Commissioner), Isobel Shirlaw (Refuge), Rebecca Taylor (Refuge), Laura Richards (Criminal Behavioural Analyst), and Simon Letchford (Commander, Metropolitan Police Service).