VICTIMS of domestic violence in Essex are getting a much better service today but improvement is still needed.
The force has been heavily criticised for failing some of the most vulnerable members of society, including three women beaten and murdered by their partners, in recent years.
However a new report out today, from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, praised the force for its progress during the past 12 months.
It states: “Rightly the force has prioritised improving the service it provides victims facing the highest risk of serious harm.”
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh was praised for taking personal control of domestic violence practice at the force.
The support offered by police and crime commissioner Nick Alston was also highly praised.
The report added: “There has been significant improvement in the joint work with partners.”
In 2008 Maria Stubbings was murdered by partner Marc Chivers in Chelmsford.
In July 2011, Jeanette Goodwin was murdered in Southend and Christine Chambers and her two-year-old daughter Shania were murdered in Braintree.
In all cases warning signs were missed by Essex Police.
Since then improvements have been made.
Body-cams are now available for officers, specialist teams have been set up and the force is working hard to help victims who are attacked on average 35 times before they report it to the police.
However the report also found areas of serious concern.
It states: “There are risks some victims of domestic abuse may still not be getting the effective response or quality of service they need from the police.
“The service provided to some victims remains fragmented and patchy.”
One of the biggest concerns is the attitude of some officers.
The report states: “HMIC is concerned about the lack of understanding and awareness of the complexities of domestic abuse demonstrated by many staff and officers.
“There is a negative attitude displayed by some frontline staff in relation to the subject.”
As of August 31 Essex had 621 active domestic abuse cases with a third considered high risk.
There were 8,862 domestic abuse related crimes in the preceding year.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “There has been a massive amount of work carried out in Essex, by both the police and our partner agencies, to improve the way we deal with domestic abuse.
“This is an on-going process and we know we need to further refine our response and we are speaking to victims, partner agencies and independent experts to do so.
“I am confident the people of Essex are better safeguarded by our approach today than they were six months ago.
“We are arresting more suspects and detecting more offences, we have better intelligence and stronger partnerships than ever before.”
More offences have been detected and more people arrested.
A new Domestic Abuse Crime Unit was set up at the start of February, with bases in Southend and Basildon.
Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said: “I am pleased the improvements have been recognised.
“The response has to be focused on where the greatest harm is.
“I am surprised and disappointed by some of the criticism but we will work even harder.
“I don’t think serious failings remain but we need to keep learning and improving.”
Domestic violence will remain the only single issue crime in the next police and crime plan as it was in the last.