Police ‘tanks sometimes feel empty’

06 September 2016

Police need more resources to stem the rising tide of sex and violence against women and girls.

While officers are tackling record numbers of assault and abuse cases, according to new Crown Prosecution (CPS) figures out today, forces are already “stretched to the limit with no sign of the workload tailing off – in fact the complete opposite”.

Karen Stephens, Public Protection spokeswoman for the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “Last year, the police referred 6,855 rapes to the CPS, an increase of 11.3%, while there were 13,282 child abuse referrals, an increase of 442. There were also nearly 118,000 domestic abuse referrals and increased forced marriage and human trafficking investigations.

“In the meantime there were also two new offences added to the statute books: coercive control and so-called ‘revenge porn’. The police service has never been busier but at times it feels like our tanks are empty after losing 20,000 officers in the past six years.”

The CPS annual Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) report reveals that convictions and prosecutions for rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse are at an all time high for the year ending March 2016. The crimes account for nearly a fifth of the CPS’ overall workload and are increasing year-on-year.

Mrs Stephens said: “We are concerned that we are seeing more victims in crimes which are some of the most heinous in society. These are some of the most vulnerable victims, so we must do everything we can to protect them. Obviously we are pleased that more of these serious offenders are now being brought to justice. However, officers at the sharp end of these often complex and harrowing investigations are reporting extremely heavy workloads, not to mention the impact on their personal resilience.”

The introduction of the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour was also placing an additional burden on forces, she said. And there was a growing trend in the use of social media connected to offences, including revenge porn.

Since the law changed, there have been five prosecutions for coercive control, and 206 where defendants have shared sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent.

Mrs Stephens said: “In some cases, offenders monitor phone messages and emails, and use GPS tracking to stalk or harass their victims. Like all cyber crimes, these can be complicated and time consuming to investigate, placing additional burdens on already already-overstretched forces.”