Police lack training in spotting coercive stops as only 3% of reports result in charges
Police still lack the basic training needed to spot cases of coercive control, a leading charity has warned, as figures show less than 4% of reported offenses result in a perpetrator being charged .
About 30,000 victims go to the police each year to report that they are victims of emotional abuse, threats, humiliation and intimidation by their partner.
But between April 2020 and September 2021, of the 50,338 coercive control offenses recorded, only 1,717 people were charged, or just 3.4%.
Figures released by the Crime Survey of England and Wales suggest the number of sufferers who do not report could be as high as 1.5million, meaning that just 0.1% of victims are likely to get justice.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, one of the charities which campaigned for coercive control to be added to laws six years ago, said part of the reason the numbers were so low was that there was a “fundamental lack of training”. for the police.
Coercive control involves emotional and physical abuse that often requires the victim to be told what to wear, who to see, and even how to spend their money.
It regularly escalates into physical assault and domestic violence and, in extreme cases, culminates in homicide.
But coercive control can be a notoriously difficult crime for outsiders to spot, with perpetrators often adept at masking their wrongdoing.
A coercive control storyline in Radio 4’s The Archers, starring Helen and Rob Titchener, helped raise awareness of the crime and encouraged more victims to seek help, but it is still widely seen as an offense hidden.
Working with the College of Policing, three leading charities have designed a training program to help police better identify cases of coercive control and domestic violence.
But so far only two-thirds of police forces in England and Wales have signed up to send their officers to take the course.
Good training for the police
Ms Nazeer said pursuit rates would only start to improve if police were properly trained to spot the signs.
She said: “It’s such a heinous but misunderstood crime and what’s important to understand is that coercive control is at the heart of all abusive relationships.
“The figures for the number of lawsuits are truly shocking and disappointing and there are many reasons.
“There are a lot of good, dedicated, hard-working police, but on the whole the police don’t really understand coercive control.
“They don’t understand how to look for evidence, how to ask the right questions and they are often very convinced by the abuser.
“There’s a fundamental lack of training. Unless they’ve had the rigors of training to understand domestic violence and coercive control, they can draw the wrong conclusions from how something initially looks. “
Ms Nazeer said there were also problems in the criminal justice system, meaning many cases were dropped before they reached court.
She said that even when a perpetrator was found guilty, they often received lenient sentences that had no deterrent effect.
She said: ‘We are very aware that judges are not trained in domestic violence or violence against women. [Violence Against Women and Girls] they misunderstand it, they misinterpret it, and there’s a lot of concern about the kind of lenient sentences that are handed down.
“The maximum sentence for coercive control is five years and for something that absolutely destroyed a person’s life, it’s not a particularly punitive sentence.
“We need an urgent sentencing review for these offences. Five years isn’t going to deter an abuser, but 10 or 12 years might.”
“A third of police forces have still not signed up for training under the Domestic Abuse Matters program which is very disappointing, especially considering that when officers complete the course there is a 41% increase in arrests for these crimes.”