The report published on Thursday by HMIC is yet more evidence of this government's failure on domestic violence. Again and again, we have heard from victims about the police failing to gather evidence and of victims being treated as if they were to blame for the abuse perpetrated against them. The report provides yet more examples and shows the failure of some police forces to take this crime seriously.
We know that domestic violence is one of the major threats to women's health and well-being. Women between 15-44 are more at risk from domestic violence than they are from cancer. Two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner.
Yet while reports of domestic violence have risen under this government, 13% fewer cases are being passed by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service for decisions on charging. The HMIC report gives disturbing examples of failures to gather evidence and, in some cases, even to take photographs of the victim's injuries. They report vile abuse of victims by some police officers and say that the quality of the police response is left almost entirely to chance.
These are shocking findings but they come as no real surprise to anyone who has watched what has been happening under this government. There have been lots of announcements about the government's commitment to tackling violence against women but at the same time, the services women rely on have been under attack.
The police service is being hollowed out, with 10,000 officers already gone. Specialist domestic violence officers are being re-deployed to other duties, and the support services women need to help them through a court case have been cut. Refuges are turning more and more people away, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are being cut and specialist domestic violence courts are being closed.
Labour MPs have raised these concerns time and time again in the House of Commons, particularly the fall in the number of cases being passed to the CPS. On every occasion, these concerns have been dismissed by the home secretary and her ministers. On Thursday, when the police failures over domestic violence have been brought into focus, there was no statement in the House of Commons, no opportunity to question the minister responsible. If the same happened with any other crime of violence there would be an outcry.
It's not good enough. These failures have taken place on this home secretary's watch and we know it doesn't have to be this way. A serious focus on tackling domestic violence by the last Labour government led to a rise of 23% in the number of prosecutions. Better outcomes can be achieved if there is a relentless drive not only on improving policing which is vital, but on having the support services in place which help women to see a case through and bring the perpetrators to justice. That is what women need now from this home secretary. Enough of action plans and statements of intent-it is time to do.