Domestic abuse victims being let down by Westminster

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Almost half of Welsh police officers have not been trained to implement a new law making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime, a Freedom of Information request shows.

The figures, obtained by Plaid Cymru, show that 43% of police officers in Wales’ four police forces have not been given training since a new law came into force, making coercive and controlling behaviour a form of domestic abuse.

South Wales Police have the lowest proportion of trained police officers with just 39% of police officers having been trained since the law came into force. North Wales Police is the best performing force having trained, or planned to train 76% of its police officers. Dyfed Powys Police have trained 70% and Gwent Police 68%.

The figures, obtained by Plaid Cymru through a Freedom of Information request also show that just 13% of reported cases of coercive or controlling behaviour lead to a charge, with 58% of cases dropped.

There have been 565 alleged incidents of coercive or controlling behaviour since the law came into force in December 2015 with the vast majority being reported by women in relationships.

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour include humiliation and verbal abuse, restricting victims' movement, preventing victims from seeing friends, stopping them from having hobbies, controlling their finances or where they are allowed to go.

Plaid Cymru has called for all four police forces to ensure all first respondents and middle managers to be adequately trained on the new law by the end of the year, and for policing to be fully devolved to Wales which would deliver a £25 million funding boost to the Welsh Police Forces.

A Bill was due to be enacted in March 2014 to make coercive and controlling behaviour a crime, following a Private Members’ Bill from Plaid Cymru MP, Elfyn Llwyd. The Bill was delayed to December 2015 at the request of Plaid Cymru to ensure Police officers could be trained. The Freedom of Information request has revealed that no police officers were trained between March 2014 and December 2015.

Commenting, Plaid Cymru’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime was an important step forward but victims of domestic abuse are still being let down.

“Plaid Cymru warned the Westminster Government in 2014 that police would need to be trained and it is frustrating that they have done so little to ensure that training took place. Sadly this is reflected in the low number of prosecutions.

“All police officers, including middle managers, need to be trained to ensure they are aware of the new legislation and understand the nature of the new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour. Ensuring first responders are adequately trained is a critical part of ensuring culture change within the police and ultimately across society.

“Devolving policing – mirroring the situation in the other devolved countries – would provide an immediate boost of £25 million per year to the Welsh police forces, and allow the Welsh Government to provide mandatory training.”

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