POLICE in Hampshire have been criticised for dealing with some domestic violence and abuse victims over the phone rather than being visited by officers.
The force has been told it must improve in a report written by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The HMIC carries out annual inspections of all constabularies, looking at police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.
It assesses how well forces keep people safe and reduce crime.
Its latest report, published today, said: ‘Hampshire Constabulary would have been assessed as good in this inspection were it not for a significant weakness in the practice it has recently adopted of routinely assessing the risk to some victims of domestic abuse over the telephone through its new resolution centre.
‘HMIC has carefully reviewed this practice and notified the constabulary of our concern that the risk to vulnerable people may not be fully assessed through this method.’
It went on to say that formal domestic abuse risk assessments are, on occasions, being completed over the telephone without an officer seeing the victim in person.
However, chief constable Andy Marsh said that Hampshire Constabulary could ‘take many positives from this report’.
He said: ‘It shows the hard work that is going in to protecting the most vulnerable in society, including praise for our approach on child sexual exploitation and missing people.
‘As the report acknowledges, were it not for one specific issue the graded would have been “good”.
‘We are disappointed that the overall grading has been determined by just one issue but we would like to reassure the public that we are not aware of anyone being a victim as a result, and that we have already started the review that has been recommended.’
He added: ‘I want to reassure anyone experiencing domestic abuse that our first priority is their safety.
‘We have a strong track record in this area and I would encourage anyone to come forward and report it to us.’
Hampshire Constabulary runs project CARA, which is victim-based and looks to find more effective ways to stop abusers – together with the Hampton Trust.
It recently won an award at the Domestic Abuse Champions National Awards and it is supported by Simon Hayes, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, who has made reducing domestic violence one of his priorities.
Mr Hayes said: ‘I am pleased to hear that the HMIC have commended Hampshire Constabulary for increasing resources and innovating to keep the most vulnerable people in our communities safe.
‘In these times of austerity, innovation in how we support victims of crime is essential to ensure that we deliver the most effective services with our available resources.
‘Project CARA has recently won awards for its ground-breaking approach to domestic abuse victims and HMIC are interested to see the project’s long-term results in reducing re-offending.
‘I acknowledge the concerns of HMIC through the use of the resolution centre and assessments conducted over the telephone; however, I strongly feel that the highly-trained staff and the supervisory oversight mitigates any risks perceived in this HMIC report.’
A review will take place, with the national police, working with victim and survivor groups.