Domestic abuse reports soar in Hampshire as police called to 7,950 incidents since coronavirus lockdown began

POLICE have committed to tackling a shock rise in domestic violence and have insisted there will be no place for abusers to hide.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 22nd June 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 5:33 pm

Figures obtained exclusively by The News have today revealed the county’s force has responded to a massive surge in domestic incidents during the coronavirus lockdown.

Hampshire police have attended 7,950 reports since stay-at-home measures were announced in March, an increase of almost 500 compared to the same period last year.

The worrying spike comes amid calls from abuse charities for the government to accelerate plans to create a new national strategy to combat the violence during the pandemic

Scott Chilton, assistant chief constable for Hampshire Constabulary. Picture: Malcolm Wells (180320-8708)

Officials from Hampshire Constabulary said the force was ‘committed’ to supporting victims – and bringing abusers to justice.

At the start of lockdown assistant chief constable Scott Chilton previously said he expected abuse to increase after it had in China in the pandemic.

A police spokesman told The News: ‘Unfortunately, we have seen a small increase in domestic abuse reports since the government’s restriction measures were put in place, compared to the same period last year.

‘However, policing has not gone away during this pandemic. We want to reassure the public that we are still very much here to help them, and that there is a lot of support available if they require it on a local level.’

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, Michael Lane. Picture: Sarah Standing (050319-2248)

And in a message to those committing the violence, the spokesman added: ‘To abusers, do not think this is a time you can get away with it. We will still arrest, we will still bring people into custody, and we will still prosecute.’

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Between March and June last year, police recorded 7,471 domestic incidents – about six per cent less than this year.

Hampshire’s police and crime commission Michael Lane said officers and partner agencies were working hard to deliver ‘vital lifeline support’ to victims.

Calls to domestic incidents in Hampshire have increased by almost 500 since lockdown measures were announced. Photo: posed by models.

He added: ‘Keeping people safe is everyone’s top priority, but we recognise that for some staying home is not as safe as it is for others. Sadly, there are examples in our communities, which we should all be alert to notice.

‘It is important that anyone who is being abused at home knows they can still call the police and that there is help out there from local and national support services who continue to provide advice and assistance to those in need.

‘It is a sad but known fact that tensions will rise when people are confined together, especially during such a stressful time as Covid-19 presents.

‘But abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, whatever the circumstances.’

The spike in violence comes amid a huge increase in calls to domestic abuse charities nationally.

Speaking to The News earlier this month, Claire Lambon, chief executive of Havant-based charity Stop Domestic Abuse, said the number of victims seeking help had skyrocketed.

Between the end of March and end of May, the charity recorded an 11 per cent surge in overall referrals, with the number of victims self-referring soaring by 37.5 per cent compared to pre-lockdown figures.

Meanwhile Refuge, the charity that runs Britain’s national domestic abuse helpline, said demand has continued to rise during lockdown, with calls jumping 60 per cent since March.

Sandra Horley, Refuge’s chief executive, said: ‘Women up and down the country are isolated with abusive partners — and children will be witnessing and in some cases experiencing domestic abuse. This is a terrifying ordeal and Refuge wants women to know they are not alone.’

For help, call Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service on 03300 165 112 or the Victim Care Service on 0808 178 1641.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline can be contacted on 0808 2000 247. There is also a 24/7 Covid-19 response domestic abuse helpline offered by Aurora New Dawn on (023) 9421 6816 to anyone in Hampshire.

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