Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird QC has initiated a training programme to help Northumbria Police and staff to recognise patterns of coercive control used by domestic aggressors over their victim.
To reinforce the importance of the training the first students on the course included Chief Constable Sue Sim; her Deputy Steve Ashman and the force’s other Chief Officers as well as the Commissioner herself.
The programme teaches officers how to recognise when perpetrators of domestic abuse are using this behaviour; to understand how it affects victims and to know how best to tackle it. All staff, whether frontline or not, will receive the training.
It follows last year’s Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report on domestic abuse ‘Everyone’s Business’ which generally praised Northumbria Police but identified what it referred to as a ‘lack of understanding’ amongst police nationally as to how victims of coercive control are not only assaulted but systematically bullied and intimidated.
Mrs Baird said: “Domestic abuse is not usually a one-off violent attack. It is a deliberate long-term use of coercion to control every part of the partner’s life.
“Violence and threats of violence, sexual abuse, financial control, constant criticism, isolation from family and friends, repeated threatening texts or stalking whenever the victim is out of sight are all familiar tools.
“Clearly this has a massively undermining impact on the victim and makes it very hard to tell others what is happening. They need people who can help to be alert to understanding all of this.
“If we needed any reassurance that this training is needed it came with last week’s shocking report from the charity Safer Lives that showed domestic abuse victims suffered on average three years of abuse in the year before they get help with professionals missing an average five opportunities to help them.”
Mrs Baird, who is a member of the National Oversight Group chaired by the Home Secretary Theresa May to drive the recommendations in ‘Everyone’s Business’, asked Northumbria Police to design the programme.
The force spent six months gathering expert input from Wearside Women In Need, Newcastle’s Hope Consortium and Gateshead Council’s Domestic Violence Advisory Service, as well as consulting widely with other voluntary and community groups.
The Commissioner added: “I’m delighted Northumbria Police responded so strongly to my request to design this training.
“The public can be reassured that we take this matter very serious as the first people receiving it are the police senior leaders and the training is superb. It’s also the first I am aware of anywhere in Britain and we are going to offer it locally to others who can benefit from this understanding.
“Our Crown Prosecution Service has already agreed to look at it and we are sending it to local health providers. I will promote it to the National Oversight Group with a view to going national with it. It is good that, once again, Northumbria Police is the first to tackle a key problem and I’m confident that the training can become an exemplar for other forces.”
Chief Constable Sue Sim said: “The aim of the training we have designed in response to the Commissioner’s request is to improve the service a victim of domestic abuse will receive from Northumbria Police.
“Having undertaken this training, I know it will equip officers with the knowledge they need to deal with perpetrators of the abuse and provide appropriate support to victims. Their wellbeing and our service to them remains paramount.
“We are grateful for the invaluable input from external partners.”