This is a topic that has been discussed before many times but on my blogs I try to see things a bit differently. Or at least from the angle of an ordinary person.
Domestic Violence (DV) is probably the number one reason for most murders in the UK, and takes up a huge amount of police and court time. It’s quite right that its dealt with robustly – like most officers I have seen some horrendous cases and it drives you to want to nail these thugs and send them to jail for a long time.
Mostly they are men- I’ve only had a female abuser on rare occasions. The police have a zero tolerance – positive action -policy set out by government / CPS in order to prevent harm, which is fine in theory.
I’ve arrested men who have seriously assaulted their partners, only to end up fighting with the victim when they jump on you for arresting their man after they called you in the first place. I’ve even had a woman try to stab me with a kitchen knife when we said we were removing her husband for the night to sober him up and prevent any more arguments. I was saved by my colleague that day and I owe him one!
The reason I mention this subject was down to my neighbours having a row the other day. It was a verbal argument about who knows what, that went on for about 4 hours.
Now in the past I’ve lived next to some horrible people that I wouldn’t think twice about calling the police on – they dealt drugs, made huge amounts of noise all through the night and drank and rowed constantly. I found my old neighbour drunk and shirtless in the street one morning after their kids went to school! ..and when I say they rowed it was akin to world war III with all the ‘f’s and ‘c’s and threats of violence to each other. His female partner was equally as horrible – there’s something really wrong in my old fashioned mind about women of that type- I am yet to decide if I’m prejudiced through work in dealing with them all day, or whether its in built from my values. ( is it sexist of me that I hate them behaving like men?) Either way I recognise I favour ‘good’ people over ‘bad’.
I get past this prejudice at work by following the law and force policy. In other words I do what’s needs to be done and console myself with having done it right.
When my neighbours fell out the other day, I toyed with calling the police – mostly because I was shattered and it was keeping me awake after a long shift. Then I actually thought about what that meant. These neighbours are different. They are decent working people, with lovely young kids, who gutted their house after the scum before them and have spent ages doing it up. They just happened to fall out that day.
So what would have happened if I’d called the police ?
It would have been classified as a DV incident, and given a fast response. At least a couple of officers would attend
( it’s almost impossible to deal with a domestic on your own as there are always at least 2 people involved, sometimes violent)
On the way the officers would be thinking of the ‘positive arrest policy’ for DV incidents. This means you are expected to make an arrest and will have to explain your actions to senior officers if you don’t.
On arrival both parties would be taken to separate rooms and spoken to on their own. Now the tricky part- in a case of a verbal DV incident such as my neighbours , the officers may decide to arrest one party to prevent a breach of the peace. Hugely controversial this – no crime has taken place, no one got hurt and the kids are fine. I will come back to that in a bit.
If the officers are brave and don’t make an arrest then they will take everyone’s details and record them on some computer that will forever cast one of them as the ‘offender’ even if its not obvious. The kids, if present will also be recorded and assessed if they may be ‘at risk’.
I don’t have an issue with this per-se, because if its a real violent incident, or a dysfunctional family with a long DV history it needs to be recorded and assessed properly. But back to my ‘normal’ family next door – if police had arrested one of them (usually the man) then he would be handcuffed and taken to custody, and put in a cell for several hours. This in itself is a humiliating process for someone without a criminal record. Not to mention the distress to his family.
This is how the police lose public confidence.
And on top of that, on some future date the arrested man might apply for a job. He will likely have to disclose any arrests or convictions, or undergo an advanced CRB check. What do you suppose is going to happen when he is listed as a DV offender ? This situation is unacceptable. Clearly the rules were not intended to be used indiscriminately like this.
And the children ? One day afterwards, they might answer the door to social services, a visit triggered by the DV report. All because mum & dad had an argument and someone called the police.
There is also something being trialled called ‘Clare’s law’ where women can find out if their prospective partners are violent – would my neighbour show up on one of those checks as an offender?
There is a solution to all this – PACE code G for a start- all officers need to justify any arrest under certain criteria.
More importantly police supervisors (like me) need to take a grip of their teams DV incidents and support decisions made around discretion.
Some simple checks will tell officers all they need to know.
So I didn’t call the police on my neighbours, and they made up and carried on life as normal.
If someone called the police on me if I had a row with the other half, I would be facing internal discipline and my career would come to a grinding halt.
The irony in all this is that this policy was brought in to protect the innocent.
When I was wrestling with the knife wielding ‘victim’ who on earth was I kidding?
If the powers that be think decent people never have an argument then they truly are detached from reality. We cannot go on pigeon holing the good with the bad.
It’s time for a rethink on positive action and discretion.