Written evidence submitted by Centre for Women’s Justice (POP0075)


Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is a lawyer-led charity focused on challenging failings and discrimination against women in the criminal justice system. We carry out strategic litigation and work closely with frontline women’s sector organisations on using legal tools to challenge police and prosecution failings around violence against women and girls (VAWG). We provide legal advice in approximately 500 legal enquiries per year and deliver training to domestic abuse and sexual violence services across England and Wales. Our work enables us to see the broader picture around the difficulties faced by victims and survivors as they go through the criminal justice process.

Overall, a key problem in the policing and prosecution of VAWG is the enormous gulf between political rhetoric and the realities on the ground when women report VAWG offences. Over the past decade a raft of legal measures have been introduced to address VAWG, particularly domestic abuse and stalking. However, there is a huge implementation gap so that legal measures are not translated into improvements in the lived experiences of victims and survivors. Looking at the police response to domestic abuse, harassment and stalking, and sexual offences, there are many common features amongst the reasons why the system fails women.[1] Linked to this is a lack of public confidence, resulting from inadequate policing responses, but also including the way that forces deal with allegations of abuse by officers within their own ranks.

When considering policing priorities across the board, in our view the Committee’s inquiry should ask itself whether and how policing delivers the response to VAWG that the public has rightly come to expect. In March 2022 the Home Secretary announced that tackling VAWG would become a national policing priority, akin to terrorism and child sexual abuse. We ask how that reflects in practical changes to address the failings we see. Simply declaring an issue a priority means little without the resourcing to deliver it, as noted in the ground-breaking 2014 report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary into the policing of domestic abuse. The increased focus on VAWG since the murder of Sarah Everard has resulted in many good declarations of intent[2], but these may amount to no more than lip service if the fundamental problems in the system are not addressed. We expand on these below.




This submission will address the following:

  1. Evidence of the implementation gap

We set out a range of examples of how in many areas policing does not come close to providing an adequate response to VAWG in practice.

  1. Chronic underfunding of policing resources dealing with VAWG

We discuss the link between the inadequacies seen in the response to VAWG and priorities in resourcing.

  1. Lack of specialism and training on VAWG offending and legal measures

We argue for specialist police units for domestic abuse and for sexual offences, without which many of the laws, policies and procedures introduced to tackle VAWG are simply not used in day-to-day policing.

  1. Link between attrition rates and inadequacies in the criminal justice system

We show how extremely high attrition rates in VAWG cases are not merely the result of choices by victims and survivors, but a direct response to the failings in the criminal justice system.

  1. Failure to deal with abusers within the police

We stress the importance of dealing robustly with police officer abusers, in order to secure public confidence and cultural change within forces. Attitudes that tolerate abusers remaining in their roles are linked to broader minimising and lack of understanding around VAWG offending.


  1. Evidence of the implementation gap

1. The following are only examples, there are many more features of policing of VAWG where laws are simply not being implemented and powers not used.


2. The report by the super-complaint bodies made a large number of recommendations to Chief Constables to improve their use of protective measures. The response of the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), which collated the responses of Chief Constables, was disappointing in the extreme. Centre for Women’s Justice has written a reply to the NPCC expressing our concern at the lack of meaningful response, a copy of which is attached.

3. In brief, the NPCC response simply sets out a range of initiatives by various police forces on domestic abuse and protection orders, but there is no indication whether these pre-date or post-date the super-complaint, or whether any of them were introduced as a result of the super-complaint. Given that the super-complaint outcome report identified that the current position is inadequate, merely repeating what is already being done is not a response. Similarly, the response sets out some examples of good practice amongst certain forces, but makes no mention of attempts to tackle poor practice in those forces who are clearly not delivering. Some of the replies are positively misleading, for example in relation to training on protection orders the response states that a large number of forces take part in the “DA Matters” training, however we know that this does not include training on the range of protective measures. In another example forces were told to gather data on the number of breaches of non-molestation orders (NMOs) reported to the police, but the response points to an ONS dataset which shows the number of prosecutions for breach of NMO. This entirely misses the point which is to examine the gap between the number of breaches reported and the number prosecuted. Overall, our impression is that the response of the police service to the super-complaint recommendations is an exercise in lip service and not a genuine attempt to secure improvements.

4. It is also important to note that without fundamental change the new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders introduced in the Domestic Abuse Act will meet the same fate as DVPOs and have little impact. This is a clear example of how political rhetoric around the Domestic Abuse Act has trumpeted the high priority given by the Government to domestic abuse, when in reality passing new legislation means little if the provisions are very rarely used on the ground.

5. In rape investigations we see widespread failures to apply the correct law and guidance on the part of police officers in the very many cases of Victims Right to Review that we assist with, and requests for advice we receive on excessive data requests from victims during police investigations:



  1. Chronic underfunding of policing resources dealing with VAWG

6. Levels of reporting of VAWG have increased over the past decade, partly due to greater public awareness, at a time when policing has faced a squeeze in public spending. This has clearly contributed to a system under strain without the resources to respond. Many of the reports we receive are about severe delays and simple failures to respond to requests for updates, with officers telling support workers that they have to prioritise some cases over others due to workloads, and being very difficult to get hold of.

7. For example, the reasons given for the low use of DVPOs include that they are time-consuming and require legal resources to make applications at the Magistrates Court. The level of resourcing is not there, and one of the super-complaint recommendations was for Chief Constables to consider what legal support they need and secure this (Recommendation 14). Very disappointingly, the response from the NPCC states that all forces were satisfied that they had sufficient legal support. To give a flavour of the degree of under-use of these orders, our super-complaint included a report from a domestic abuse service in Leeds, who estimated that in their daily work in approximately 100 cases per month heard at MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference), a recommendation is made for a Domestic Violence Protection Notice. However, when they received the annual force statistics for the number of DVPOs applied for (which should be done in most cases) there were only 3 applications per month on average. The local police force did have a dedicated unit to deal with DVPOs, but clearly failed to make good use of these powers. The fact that forces have to pay court fees to make DVPO applications has also been cited as a hurdle, which illustrates that resourcing is an important consideration. Forces taking part in the pilot for Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which are due to replace DVPOs, have asked that court fees be waived for these.

8. In many rape investigations that we see it can take around two years for an investigation to reach a charging decision, even where the case is never referred to CPS. Given that the vast majority of charging decision are negative for victims and survivors, this is a huge amount of time for such cases to be hanging over them. In some cases we are involved with, a Victim’s Right to Review has been successful and the police have agreed to refer the case to CPS, but over a year later this has still not taken place. The pace of investigations is painfully slow. In the more extreme cases we have seen periods of three or four years to reach a charging decision, especially when lists of further actions are sent by CPS to police investigators, including lengthy requests for third party materials such as medical and social services records which are sometimes wholly speculative and unlawful.

9. In the most extreme example we have recently dealt with, it has taken seven years for a case of childhood sexual abuse reported in Jan 2015 to reach trial in Sept 2022, and when the trial was adjourned due to the barristers’ strike, the survivor could no longer cope with this extreme stress in her life and decided to withdraw her support. Whilst this case is extreme in terms of the total timespan, many of the timeframes for steps during that period are not unfamiliar to us from the many other rape investigations that we see. Here is a summary:













As a department we have regularly been running on very low staffing for many years which has stretched all of the investigators here and increased our workloads so we often have to make the difficult decision of which cases to prioritise and while your case is of course very important to us, where other cases present a higher risk especially where there is a child still in a situation they are often prioritised. Your case isn’t the only case that has suffered in this way.



10. Delays of this kind are staggering and paint a picture of a gridlocked system.

11. The Joint Inspection by the police and CPS inspectorates into the police and CPS response to rape (phase 1 published July 2021) highlighted delays and chronic lack of resources throughout the report, stating:

12. Unacceptable delay is a constant theme throughout this inspection. Previous reports have also highlighted the need to reduce excessive delays, so it is frustrating that so little progress has been made and delay remains one of the main problems.


  1. Lack of specialism and training on VAWG offending and legal measures

13. Domestic abuse support workers tell us that not only have things not improved but they have seen a deterioration in the criminal justice response over the past ten years. In particular, we hear that in many police forces specialist or dedicated domestic abuse units have been disbanded or are so small that they only deal with the most serious cases. Most routine cases are dealt with by generalist officers with little understanding of VAWG and little knowledge of the specialist tools available.

14. In areas where most of the work is carried out by a specialist police domestic abuse unit we hear much better feedback from support workers. At one women’s service support workers described how, when they feel especially frustrated by the poor response of a generalist frontline officer, they contact their force’s specialist unit (which handles only a small minority of cases) and ask them to intervene. They also report that where there is a specialist unit they develop good relationships with the officers, which assists in dealing effectively with cases and communication, but where generalist officers deal with cases, most officers are strangers to the support workers, there is much less dialogue, and it is extremely difficult to get hold of individual officers due to the broad range of their work and shift patterns, so often the only updates that can be obtained are whatever is written on the crime log.

15. As far as we are aware, the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers promised following the 2019 general election does not include any ring-fencing for VAWG cases. We hear from frontline women’s services that many of the more experienced officers have gone and new officers joining lack the skills and knowledge to provide a quality response. We also note that whilst some three quarters of the police forces in England and Wales have taken part in the “DA Matters” training provided by Safelives, this is really an overview and awareness raising on domestic abuse issues over a single day, and cannot cover all the various laws and powers available to the police to tackle domestic abuse.

16. With such a vast array of new offences and powers it is not surprising that generalist officers are unaware of how to provide a high-quality response. They may have had no training on domestic abuse, or such training is just a small part of a huge range of training they receive on all the various crime types they deal with. Specialist tools for addressing VAWG, such as DVPOs and coercive control, may be off their radar, or they do not have the confidence or the skills to use them. There is also a problem with myths and stereotypes that need to be addressed through education and culture-change. Delivering a high-quality response to VAWG which utilises the complex raft of powers available requires skilled trained officers.

17. We believe that the use of generalist officers is a key reason for the implementation gap for many of the new offences and powers introduced over the last decade. We presume that disbanding specialist units is the result of cuts in funding. We believe that chronic under-resourcing is responsible for much of the implementation failure, because we hear that officers struggle to deal with huge caseloads, so it is unsurprising that they are not interested in using all available tools to tackle VAWG, will which only increase their workload. Under-resourcing at a time of rising reporting rates also creates a powerful incentive to under-charging, as staff cannot cope with increased case numbers going to court. In addition, culture change within the criminal justice system requires financial investment, so that police are taught to avoid victim-blaming attitudes and myths and stereotypes around rape and domestic abuse. Many of these issues are addressed in CPS and police guidance but we do not have any confidence that officers are familiar with these documents, or even know that they exist.

18. For rape and sexual offences there is a higher level of specialist units, however we are aware that a significant minority of forces do not have specialist units dealing with such cases. The Joint Inspectorate report into the investigation of rape published in July 2021 highlighted the problem of unskilled officers dealing with these hugely difficult cases:

19. In more than a quarter of the case files we reviewed, investigators did not have the right training. This means that strong supervisory oversight and guidance was even more essential. One supervisor told us that “new police constables are dealing with rape cases. It’s not good for victims”.

20. In our focus groups, some supervisors spoke of unmanageable workloads that make it difficult for them to do the necessary reviews. A detective sergeant told us they didn’t have the capacity to oversee all investigations because of the volume of cases. And many supervisors don’t have enough experience or the right training to add value to the investigation process.

21. As another example of lack of commitment to upskilling officers, we refer again to the response from the NPCC to the recommendation in our super-complaint that Chief Constables should ensure that their officers understand the suite of protective measures available (Recommendation 13). Again, we refer to our letter to the NPCC which explains why the response to this recommendation is very disappointing. There seems to be little drive to ensure a basic level of knowledge, that frontline officers should be aware of how to protect victims and survivors and how to use the tools that Parliament has given them. We believe that the same lack of consistent training is replicated across VAWG policing.


  1. Link between attrition rates and inadequacies in the criminal justice system

22. A poor service impacts directly on levels of attrition and outcomes generally, as well as on women’s safety.

23. It is well known that a high proportion of domestic abuse and sexual offences are closed with police outcome code 16 “victim does not support action”. In the year ending March 2021 this was 54.7% for domestic-abuse related offences, a significant increase from 35% in the year ending March 2016 and 43% in the year ending March 2017. Attrition rates in rape are also extremely high. Home Office data for the year ending March 2021 shows 42% of cases ending with outcome code 16, and the Government ‘scorecards’ for July to Sept 2021 has this figure at 63%.[11]

24. In its last progress report on policing of domestic abuse, HMICFRS expressed concern about the enormous disparities between rates of cases closed because “victim does not support” between forces.5 Rates ranged from 15% to 58%, which must indicate vastly different service provision experienced by survivors in different force areas. There is no other reason why survivors would take such differing courses of action in different parts of the country. Attrition is not an unavoidable aspect of VAWG policing, although some level is inevitable, it is a litmus test of the quality of the experience of survivors as they go through the criminal justice process.

25. Frontline women’s services tell us that high levels of attrition often result from survivors experiencing lack of support and long delays and losing faith in the criminal justice system. The long delays in rape investigations, and in progressing cases to trial where they are charged, has a significant impact on survivors deciding to withdraw from the process. Spending several years having the stress of such a deeply personal process and the likelihood of a traumatic experience in court hanging over them is more than many people will endure. Survivors feel the need to move on from their experience in order to cope with their day to day lives. Some investigations also involve continuing intrusive requests for personal data from survivors.

26. For example, we recently supported a woman who reported a sexual assault by a man she knew at a sports club. She decided to report because she was aware of sexual assaults by him on other women at the club who did not feel able to come forward. She was asked to disclose her counselling records relating to her childhood experiences, which were completely unrelated and did not involve any sexual element. We prepared a letter for her to provide to the police and CPS explaining why the request was not a reasonable line of enquiry. She was unwilling to expose her entire childhood, but felt that the process of battling against the police was too stressful, and decided to withdraw. Many of the survivors we have worked with reported rape to the police knowing that this would be a gruelling process, but feeling an obligation to do so to prevent the perpetrator doing the same thing to other women. As time goes by and the personal cost rises, they feel that they have to prioritise their own immediate needs.

27. In domestic abuse cases attrition can result from a lack of protection during the criminal investigation, which often follows a separation, when a woman decides to finally report to police after leaving an abusive relationship. It is well known that risk rises following a separation and victims and survivors are put under immense pressure by perpetrators, including threats and emotional blackmail. 52% of domestic homicides take place within 3 months of a separation.[12] Where protective measures such as bail conditions and protection orders are not imposed, or not enforced when they are breached, survivors feel doubly at risk, placed under even greater pressure by perpetrators as a result of having reported and tried to seek protection. Domestic abuse workers tell us that sometimes in this situation survivors disengage from support services. Staff feel undermined when they advise survivors to report breaches, but these are not acted on by the police. Frontline workers report that in the most extreme cases, women can feel so exposed and fearful that they feel it is safer to return to an abusive relationship, to reduce the immediate threats and risks they face, even though this leaves them trapped without a longer term solution.


  1. Failure to deal with abusers within the police

28. A fundamental aspect of successful policing is public confidence, and to secure such confidence the police service must be able to show that it deals robustly with abusers within its ranks. This is important not only for the victims and survivors who report abuse by officers, but also for the public at large, who need to know that if they approach the police to report abuse their case will not be handled by someone who is an abuser themselves.

29. In a very high proportion of police perpetrated abuse cases no criminal or disciplinary action is taken, and accused officers continue to serve, and even promoted. We are aware of cases where such accused officers work, and have positions of responsibility, in units dealing with vulnerable individuals including survivors of domestic abuse and sexual offences. Police vetting is a serious concern, and it appears that an officer under investigation for VAWG offences is expected to self-report to the force vetting team, rather than the investigators being under a duty to do this. This is not consistent with the position for a civilian perpetrator who has had allegations of domestic or sexual abuse made against them. Even if there is no prosecution, the allegations will usually be disclosed in an enhanced DBS certificate (provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service to prospective employers) where a job involves contact with vulnerable people such as victims of abuse.

30. Centre for Women’s Justice submitted a second police super-complaint about the way that police forces deal with reports of domestic abuse made against their own officers. The super-complaint outcome upheld the complaint and expressed serious concerns about the failure to take action against accused officers. They found that in some 60% of cases no disciplinary investigation took place at all. However, they did not recommend an overhaul of the system, to require all such cases to be investigated by an external force, which we argued was the only way to secure some degree of transparency and separation between the investigation and the parties.

31. The super-complaint was initially based on the common patterns that emerged in 20 cases examined by CWJ. It was lodged in March 2020, but within the following two years over 160 survivors of police perpetrated domestic abuse got in touch with CWJ to report similar experiences. We are still awaiting the responses of state bodies to the recommendations in the super-complaint.

32. In outline, the behaviours we identified in the cases analysed were as follows:

  1. 1. Difficulties in initial reporting
    2. Failures in investigation
    3. Improper manipulation of police processes

4. Improper responses to complaints/concerns
5. Accused officers’ personal links with others in the force
6. Accused officers using their police knowledge, status and powers

7. Improper decisionson criminal charges
8. Incorrect approach to misconduct investigations and decisions
9. Abused women arrested
10.Employment difficulties for women who are police officers

11.Workplace victimisation of women who are police officers

33. Our key concern is that when reports are made by victims and survivors (a significant proportion of whom are themselves employed by the police) there is a risk of collusion, and of ‘sweeping under the carpet’, because the accused is within the system that is investigating him. For a more detailed analysis by CWJ of the super-complaint outcome, including the conclusions on corruption and collusion, see our briefing from June 2022 responding to the super-complaint outcome report.

34. In light of the degree of public concern about misogyny exposed within the police since the murder of Sarah Everard, only clear and robust action to tackle all officers reported for VAWG offences can rebuild public trust. It is important for police forces to see this not just as a matter of rooting out a few ‘rotten apples’ but of cultural change across the police service. There is a strong link between the response to reports of abuse by officers, and broader inadequacies in the responses to VAWG offences more generally. Both involve minimising and de-prioritising VAWG in favour of other demands. We urge the Committee to stress that policing must give a much higher priority to tackling VAWG.

For these reasons, in our view the response to VAWG must be underpinned by a proper commitment to implementation, especially:

a) Funding criminal justice agencies effectively

b) Creating specialist dedicated police units

c) Investing in training of police on VAWG and the legal tools to tackle it.

d) Removing officers who are abusers from policing roles and openly addressing misogynistic culture, including victim-blaming and myths and stereotypes.

Without this the various official pronouncements on VAWG over the past 18 months amount to little more than empty words that do not make a significant difference to the lives of victims and survivors.


October 2022




Appendix A – letter to Martin Hewitt and DCC Maggie Blyth



Martin Hewitt QPM

Chair, NPCC

DCC Maggie Blythe


12 October 2022


Dear Mr Hewitt and DCC Blythe


Re. Centre for Women’s Justice super-complaint on police use of protective

measures in cases involving violence against women and girls


We write following the NPCC response to the recommendations of the super-complaint

bodies in the above super-complaint, and Harriet Wistrich’s recent meeting with DCC



The super-complaint outcome identified important failings in the use of protection orders

by the police. The super-complaint process is now complete, and following the

responses published in May 2022, there are no further steps taken by the supercomplaint bodies to enforce their recommendations. We therefore seek to address

future implementation with the NPCC directly. We have recently met with the MoJ and

Home Office to discuss future steps in implementing the recommendations made to



Overall, the responses of Chief Constables are deeply disappointing and inadequate,

and on the information available, it appears to us to be a severe missed opportunity to

address the findings of the super-complaint and its recommendations. We set out our

concerns in more detail below. This was the second super-complaint submitted under

the super-complaint scheme, shortly after the launch of the scheme. It was under

investigation for almost two and a half years until August 2021. Now, over a year after

the outcome, which upheld the vast majority of the complaints raised, we have not yet

seen tangible benefits as a direct result of the super-complaint. The reputation of the

super-complaint scheme itself is also at stake if recommendations do not lead to

change on the ground.


We are aware that the NPCC’s role is limited to collating the responses of Chief

Constables and presenting a collective response. The actions are for Chief Constables

to take, however we seek to engage with the NPCC to assist in progressing the work of

implementing the recommendations. The NPCC response letter is not disaggregated by

force, so we have no way of knowing which forces are referred to in the various points

raised, but each force has provided an individual response to the NPCC. We look

forward to discussing with you how improvements can be progressed where needed,

and what role the NPCC can play in this.


The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has considered the NPCC response, and will be

following up with PCCs, asking them to examine their own forces’ responses to the

recommendations, addressing whether they were adequate, and holding their forces to

account on this. The DAC’s office would welcome your thoughts on how best to engage

PCCs in this.


We believe that the NPCC response is disappointing for the following reasons:

Most of the responses are worded in very general terms, and provide no specific or

measurable steps. It is not possible to know from reading the NPCC response whether

many of the matters being described relate to arrangements already in place within

forces, rather than matters that have been introduced in response to the supercomplaint recommendations. The lack of any clear reference to changes made in direct

response to the super-complaint strongly suggests that many of these are descriptions

of measures that already exist in relation to each of the issues. The super-complaint

bodies found that the existing arrangements are inadequate in various ways, so simply

pointing to what was already in place does not indicate improvements.


We believe that forces need to demonstrate what concrete steps they have taken as a

result of the super-complaint recommendations, what changes have been made, and

are planned going forwards. These need to be monitored over time. The response from

the NPCC simply does not allow any assessment of the effect of the super-complaint

recommendations on police practice on the ground.


The NPCC response provides various examples of good practice on various issues by a

number of forces. However, as is well known, one of the key difficulties is the

inconsistency between forces in the many ways in which domestic abuse policing is

carried out, and the post-code lottery in outcomes that this creates. Therefore, for the

NPCC response to provide a handful of examples of good practice on various

recommendations is to miss the point of the exercise, which is to look at poorly

performing forces and what needs to be done to improve. The tone of the response is

that of reassurance, rather than of any striving for change.


Overall, the tone of the NPCC letter appears to be designed to give the appearance of

multiple steps taken around the country to progress the super-complaint

recommendations, but closer examination of the content does not reveal such

implementation in practice. Some of the matters reported are not even relevant to the

recommendations they purport to address. Some are directly misleading, for example

Recommendation 10 requires the NPCC to consider data on the number of reported

breaches of non-molestation orders (NMOs). The NPCC response states that the Office

for National Statistics publishes data on NMOs and refers to table 17 in the November

2021 ONS statistics. Table 17 consists of data on prosecutions for breaches of NMOs,

not on NMO breaches reported to the police. It is precisely the gap between the number

of breaches reported and the number prosecuted that is intended to be addressed by

the super-complaint recommendation but this has been entirely ignored in this

misleading response.


In order to illustrate our concerns outlined above we provide a detailed breakdown of

the NPCC response to two of the ten recommendations made to Chief Constables and

the NPCC (recommendations 13 and 14). There are a many similar issues relating to

the responses to some of the other recommendations.


Recommendation 13: Chief Constables should assure themselves that: a. Their

officers are fully supported in carrying out their duties to protect all vulnerable

domestic abuse victims by: ensuring their officers understand the suite of

protective measures available (including new measures such as DAPOs).


This is an important recommendation, as training on the various protection orders and

how they can and should be used is a prerequisite for effective use, and frontline

domestic abuse services report that officers often do not have this knowledge.

The NPCC response states that forces referred to having guidance, toolkits and other

information, but that in itself does not mean that officers have read or apply this. The

letter sets out the following “of particular note”:

• Benchmarking existing knowledge of DVPN/Os through focus groups – this may

be helpful for future training but is not in itself training and does not include other

protective orders

• 28 forces using the DA Matters Programme – this programme does not contain

specific training on protection orders and would not enable officers to understand

the suite of protective measures available.

• Making a Difference Toolkit – a digital app on officers’ phones which enables

local safeguarding arrangements such as referrals to support services - this does

not relate to training on protection orders.

• Roll-out of a College of Policing Think Victim 2 Vulnerability and Risk, which

assists officers to recognise and respond to vulnerability factors. There is no

information on how many and what types of officers (eg new recruits, DA

specialists) access this course. There is also no mention of whether the suite of

protection orders is included. We do not know the content of this course, but in

view of the reliance on DA Matters above we are concerned that it may not

contain detailed training on protective orders.

• A planned new training package devised by CPS Eastern Region – this is

training for prosecutors not for police and there is no mention of the content of

this training.

• In one particular force delivery of comprehensive training on DVPN/Os across

the force delivered by specialists from its DA Safeguarding Team and refresher

sessions provided by the legal department. The same team offers ongoing

support and guidance on these orders as well as Stalking Protection Orders

(SPOs), R.Os and NMOs and are also experienced in use of Criminal Behaviour

Orders (CBOs). This is closer to what the recommendation envisages, but we

note that even here the training only covers DVPN/Os rather than the suite of

protective measures available. The other orders mentioned are not part of the

training but only ongoing support and guidance, presumably if a specific request

is made. If one force does provide such training, albeit limited, why is this not an

expectation of all forces. The NPCC response does not address this at all.


Training for all frontline officers and domestic abuse specialists on protective measures

available in domestic abuse cases is a fundamental and basic requirement to keep

survivors safe, and the measures are intended to save lives in the most extreme

situations. The NPCC response simply does not address the need for this to be

available as a matter of course in all forces, indeed the list of points above indicates that

it is not available and only these, sometimes irrelevant, substitutes are available.


Recommendation 14: Chief Constables should consider what legal support they

need to use protective measures (if they don’t already have this) and secure this

support. The NPCC should consider whether regional or national legal (or other)

expertise could be made available, so forces can easily access specialist support

and can maximise efficiency and consistency.


This recommendation relates primarily to use of police legal departments in applications

for DVPOs in the Magistrates Courts. The super-complaint report found that DVPOs

were only used in an average of 1% of DA flagged crimes, with wide variation between

forces, some forces using them at rates 10 times higher than others (varying from

0.25% to 2.5%). Clearly there is cause for concern about insufficient use of these orders

(which may also impact upon the effectiveness of the new Domestic Abuse Protection

Orders to be introduced in the coming years).

• The NPCC response states that “of those forces that provided information to

respond to this recommendation, all were satisfied they had sufficient legal

support in place relating to the use of protective measures.” This is extremely

disappointing and indicates a simple failure to respond to the identified need to

increase legal support to enable forces to use DVPOs at a higher volume.

• The NPCC response to recommendation 14 is also unclear, stating that some

forces have invested in and introduced dedicated teams/roles to work specifically

on protective orders such as DVPOs and SPOs. However, it is not clear whether

this is in response to the super-complaint recommendations, or a pre-existing

feature, as such teams and roles existed before the super-complaint. Indeed, one

of the pieces of evidence submitted by CWJ in the annex to the super-complaint

was a report from a DA service in Leeds, who estimated that they saw an

estimated 100 MARAC cases a month where DVPNs were recommended

(approx 25 per week). Despite the force having a dedicated unit for DVPOs,

when the annual statistics were published they showed an average of only three

DVPO applications per month to the Magistrates court (see report here:



• The NPCC response also states that “forces noted that more use of civil orders

as part of the policing of DA, VAWG and associated safeguarding activity to offer

better protection to victims increases the burden on force legal teams. In some

forces, measures are in place to monitor these pressures, e.g. through a Gold

Group. One legal department referred to its completion of an annual assessment

of demand, capacity and capability as part of the Force Management Statement

process.” This does not represent improvements made in response to the

recommendations of the super-complaint, it is precisely because of the increased

demand that the super-complaint bodies recommended that forces should secure

legal support, but that has not been acted upon.

• The NPCC response to recommendation 14 refers back to recommendation 11,

which includes: One force in the North of England has established a dedicated

DVPO Team comprising six permanent police staff, trained by one of their

solicitors. It’s policy states these orders should be considered the reviewing

supervisor in every eligible DA investigation, along with recording a rationale to

support their decision. The team, which is believed to be one of the most

successful in terms of DVPO applications per 1,000 population attracted praise in

a recent HMIC Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy (PEEL) inspection

and as such was highlighted nationally by the Inspectorate.


Whilst the practice at this force is very encouraging, it raises the question of why

all forces are not operating at this level of resource. The best performing

Northern forces on DVPOs according to the super-complaint outcome report,

have DVPOs granted in around 2.5% of DA flagged crimes. The NPCC response

only highlights a small island of good practice, rather than addressing the fact

that the majority of forces do not appear to be prioritising this work in the same

way and have expressed no intention to increase their resourcing of legal support

to meet this need.


Taken as a whole, the impression given by the NPCC response is that the concerns

addressed by the super-complaint and the recommendations made have been brushed

aside, with only lip services paid to improving the use of protective orders. It may be that

there are many substantive and concrete actions in the responses of individual forces,

which have not come through in the amalgamation in the NPCC response, but this has

not been communicated. We invite policing bodies, including Chief Constables, the

NPCC and PCCs to clearly identify what is being done in direct response to the

recommendations and how any improvements are being progressed into the future.


We would be keen to engage further with the NPCC to consider how positive

implementation of the super-complaint recommendations can be progressed by forces,

in particular those with poorer performance in relation to protection measures and other

domestic abuse indicators.



Harriet Wistrich


Centre for Women’s Justice

Nogah Ofer (super-complaint author)


Centre for Women’s Justice

[1] CWJ’s work is mainly focused on these areas and we have more limited experience of modern slavery, forced marriage and other types of VAWG

[2] In particular the College of Policing and NPCC National Framework for Delivery on VAWG Dec 2021, and the HMICFS inspection into the police response to VAWG Sept 2021

[3] Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system dataset

[4] HMICFRS update report Feb 2019 on police response to domestic abuse

[5] Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system dataset


[6] ONS domestic abuse data tool year ending March 2021

[7] HMICFRS update report Feb 2019 on police response to domestic abuse, we have not found more up to date figures for charge rates broken down by force

[8] latest figures from ONS year ending March 2021 show 9,173 DVPOs and 845,700 domestic abuse offences reported

[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/management-information-stalking-protection-orders/review-of-stalking-protection-orders-accessible-version#national-stalking-consortium-feedback

[10] https://eachother.org.uk/pandemic-sees-huge-rise-reports-stalking/


[11] Home Affairs Committee report on the investigation and prosecution of rape March 2022 para 19

[12] Femicide Census 10 year report page 31