39% detection rate for domestic abuse in town
FEWER THAN four out of every ten recorded domestic abuse crimes in Newquay end with a police caution or court appearance, the Cornish Guardian has learnt.
Latest statistics show there were 139 cases of violent crime in the home between April 1, 2011, and March 31 this year – almost three every week. Of these, 55 ended with the perpetrator being cautioned or charged, which is just 39 per cent.
Acting Detective Inspector Lisa Meredith, who heads the county's under-threat domestic violence investigation units, said there were many reasons why victims did not wish to proceed with prosecution.
She said the 'detection rate', or number of crimes that lead to a caution or charge, typically stood at around 40 per cent in Newquay.
"It may be that the crime was reported third-hand and the victim does not wish to proceed," said Mrs Meredith.
"Also, the procedures by which the police deal with domestic abuse has changed recently and this is currently being reviewed to see if performance can be improved."
However, she also revealed that police call-outs to reports of domestic abuse were on the rise – up almost 10 per cent from 387 in 2010-11 to 425 in 2011-12.
"This is really positive," said Mrs Meredith. "It shows that more and more people are recognising that domestic abuse is not acceptable, because of things like media publicity and training, and that people have increased confidence in the police and so are reporting more.
"I think that people, particularly victims, are realising that police will always take positive action when dealing with domestic abuse and will deal with the incidents in a very robust manner."
This newspaper reported in March this year that the three investigation units, in Camborne, Launceston and Newquay, could be scrapped under police budget cuts.
Mrs Meredith, who persuaded police chiefs to let her launch a pilot scheme five years ago, said the now successful countywide service was "invaluable".
She was backed by Cornwall's Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) service which sees around 80 per cent of its high-risk referrals come from the police.
While Newquay police's detection rate stands at 40 per cent, Mrs Meredith's team sees 70 per cent of the crimes it deals with result in a charge or caution.
The units deal exclusively with "high risk" domestic abuse, where victims are at risk of serious injury or even death.
Despite the increase in police call-outs, Mrs Meredith said it was a sad fact that domestic abuse often went unreported.
"There are all sorts of reasons for this," she said. "Often, victims may seriously believe that if they report to the police, they could get further assaulted or even killed by the offender. But under no circumstances should anybody have to suffer from domestic abuse."
Victims of domestic abuse can call the helpline 0808 2000247.