Katy Bourne is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex.
Two women die every week in England and Wales at the hands of domestic abusers. 100,000 people a year are at high risk of being murdered or seriously harmed. While this is not a woman-only issue, it does disproportionately affect them. So it is time we stopped asking “why doesn’t she leave?” and start asking “why doesn’t he stop?”
When I took office as Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012, I made it a priority to tackle this crime. Its prominence should shame us all.
The establishment of PCCs allowed for the devolution of what had previously been Government-allocated funds to purchase support services for victims. It presented an important opportunity to review the quality and accountability of service providers to ensure Sussex offered the best support to victims of domestic abuse.
As a result, I have enabled longer-term contracts to be awarded, ensuring vital continuity of services to victims. We have also introduced a new framework for victim assessment, referral, and non-specialist support services. This has subsequently been used to help secure victim support services in other areas of the country.
Additionally, over the past three years nearly £550,000 has been made available from my Safer In Sussex Community Fund to support 115 community-based projects with one strand focused specifically on victims’ services. Through this I have been able to support programmes to help female victims of abuse within both the Travelling and BME communities and we have co-funded a project that helps victims of stalking.
However, while it is right that these vital services are available to help those individuals who need them, they will not prevent further people falling victim to domestic violence. They do not address the cause of the problem – the perpetrator’s behaviour.
Having a survivor of domestic abuse ask me why it is the victim that has to move and uproot their life while the perpetrator carries on as normal, made me think of alternative ways of tackling this crime. When SafeLives approached me about their Drive pilot – a new project aimed at the most dangerous offenders at risk of causing serious harm or death – the potential benefits were clear. It is the first national attempt to reduce the number of victims of domestic abuse by disrupting the behaviour and abuse patterns of perpetrators. Every perpetrator of domestic abuse has, on average, six different victims, so this is an important way to tackle the problem at its root cause.
Through the project, case workers work with offenders to change their pattern of behaviour. They also work closely with Independent Domestic Violence Advisers to ensure the safety of victims who, as part of the project, receive extended support. It’s a ground-breaking and important initiative and I am proud to be a part of it.
Since I became a PCC, HMIC inspection results for Sussex Police show they have made great strides in how they tackle domestic abuse and deal with victims. All the innovations, interventions and improvements we’ve made are designed to provide a better service for victims and to build their confidence in the police.
Everything I do as PCC reflects the needs and priorities of the residents I serve. This is the power the job carries, the power to make a difference in communities and to the lives of individuals. I urge everyone to use their vote in May’s election to make a difference in the area where they live; make your policing priorities heard and make sure your police force is facing proper scrutiny.