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Violence against women - quarterly briefing

15 October 2010
MPA briefing paper 36/2010

Author: Lynne Abrams, MPA

This briefing paper has been prepared to inform members and staff. It is not a committee report and no decisions are required.


The briefing is intended to update Members on any issues arising from MPA or MPS work in the field of violence against women [1] (VAW), as well as external developments that may be of interest. The data analysed is two sets of 12 month rolling data, between June 08-May 09 and June 09-May 10.

VAW at committees

In May the Communities, Equality and People (CEP) Committee received an MPS paper exploring the issue of girls and women involved in serious youth violence, and use of weapons. The report noted that in the rolling year February 09–January 10 4% of recorded gun crime was committed by women, and 11% of knife crime was committed by women. The report accepted that women and girls had not been considered as a part of the recent gang stock-take but outlined a range of positive projects underway or planned which could benefit females hoping to exit or avoid gang association or serious youth violence.

Strategic and Operational Policing (SOP) Committee received an MPA paper in June exploring MPS performance on domestic violence. The paper compared two sets on annual MPS data and found that MPS recorded 119,

878 incidents of domestic violence across London, an increase of 6, 982 on the previous financial year. Of these incidents, 51, 809 were recorded as offences, over 1000 less than in the previous year, when 52, 910 offences were recorded. So 46% of all reported incidents were recorded as crimes in 2008-09, and 43% in 2009-10.

Sanction Detections (SD) across London remained broadly the same, 47% overall in 2008-09 and an increase to 48% in 2009-10. The MPS met and exceeded its performance objective of a 46% SD rate. The highest SD rate in 2009-10 was achieved by Westminster at 60%, followed by Richmond on 59% SD rate. The lowest SD rate was in Brent; 38%, followed by Harrow and Hammersmith and Fulham on 43%. Members know that a SD is a criminal justice disposal, which includes court outcomes as well as cautions. The proportion of cautions within the SD rate is high; 51% in 2008-09 and 48% in 2009-10. That’s 23% of all domestic violence offences that are reported.

The volume of recorded cases of forced marriage (FM) and so-called ‘honour’ based violence (HBV) increased by 86% from 127 cases in 2008-09 to 237 in 2009-10. The greatest increase in recorded HBV and FM was in Lambeth, where one case was recorded in 2008-09 and 13 in 2009-10. Westminster recorded two cases in 2008-09 and 13 in 2009-10. These increases should be welcomed as a reflection on the considerable improvements the MPS have made in reaching out to communities, inspiring confidence to report, and working with partners via mechanisms like Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) to provide a holistic and safer response to victims.

The Borough with the highest recorded volume of FM and HBV in 2009/10 is Southwark, with 17 cases (an increase from 6 the previous year), followed by Waltham Forest and Hillingdon with 14 cases each. Waltham Forest presented to the MPA Domestic and Sexual Violence Board in June 2010 and did not have a HBV Action Plan. Southwark have an officer who is working closely with the ACPO lead on HBV so it is notable that where there is leadership, expertise and focus, a picture appears that may better reflect prevalence.

MPA update

The MPA Domestic and Sexual Violence Board (DSVB) continue to review boroughs across London in their response to domestic and sexual violence. As part of this MPA officer and DSVB Members continue to support the MPS to develop a system for accessing feedback for domestic violence victims, with a meeting to review options being held on 22nd October.

The DSVB held its annual thematic meeting in July which explored the MPS initial response to domestic and sexual violence, through its call handling system, its front counters/ receptions, and its initial response officers. The meeting produced some unexpected findings;

  •  34,124 domestic violence incidents were reported via telephone in 09-10, and 3,800 sexual violence incidents were reported via telephone in the same time period.
  •  Sexual offences are most frequently reported during work hours, whilst domestic violence offences are more likely to be reported overnight, with a slight increase on Sunday nights.
  • 14.6% of all domestic violence reports to the MPS in 09-10 were to the front counter
  • 19.3% of rapes and sex offence reports were to front counter, and this has risen by 17% in the last three years.

There were also concerns raised at the meeting. Front counter officers, and initial response officers provide a crucial first response to victims reporting distressing crimes and yet receive a small proportion of training to allow them to respond appropriately. Front counters do not always have the appropriate facilities for victims to report in a private environment and the issue of forensic security of these interview suites (particularly relevant in rape cases) will be fed into the MPA Estates Panel. Also as a result of the DSVB meeting, the Central Communications Command will be feeding into the Territorial Policing training review the concerns raised at the meeting.

In September, Westminster and Islington presented to the DSVB. Both boroughs demonstrated excellent partnership working and both included sexual violence or other forms of VAW in their local priorities. Westminster were commended for their excellent performance on domestic violence (arrest rate 83% and Sanction Detection rate 58%), their plans to train front counter staff on trafficking, and their improvements underway in recording LGB and T [2] domestic violence. However the overall SCD2 Sanction Detection rate for serious sexual offences at 13% was a concern and they were asked to follow up on the low unsupported prosecutions.

Islington’s performance on domestic violence was also good and they were commended on their plans for local consultation events on VAW, the pilot project at the Whittington hospital to better identify domestic violence, and their borough sexual offences investigation unit which was considered a centre of excellence by a Territorial Policing review. Islington were asked to review their LGB and T recording and take learning from Westminster in this area.

MPS update – VAW data special

Members will be aware that data for this section usually focuses on domestic and sexual violence and reports by exception on borough and SCD2 performance respectively. This time we will be looking across London as a region, considering a range of crime types under the VAW umbrella. For most of these crime types, the prevalence is such that individual borough data would be negligible. Reviewing this data every six months over the coming years should develop a picture from which trends, developments, and performance information can be extracted. For an overview of domestic violence data please see the section above titled VAW at Committee.

Stalking and Harassment

Members will be aware that there is no ’offence’ of stalking, so recorded offences will be under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This created an offence of ‘Harassment’, and one of ‘Putting a person in Fear of violence’.

A breakdown of the data on ‘Harassment’ shows 48,475 incidents in 2008-09, of which 47,333 were offences and 48,693 incidents in 2009-10, of which 48,378 were offences. Though the volume of offences remained very similar, the sanction detection rate improved from 35% to 41%. We do not have data at this stage as to what proportion of these sanction detections are cautions. The number of incidents of ‘Putting a person in fear of violence’ decreased from 1203 in 08-09 to 1069 in 2009-10, though the number of offences remained roughly the same at 750 and 755 respectively. The SD rate decreased from 21% to 18% however.

After domestic violence, which had 51,526 offences recorded in 2009-10, harassment has the most significant volume of offences across the spectrum of VAW crime types. As a result, this will be the subject of a focussed MPA briefing in the coming months.

Female Genital Mutilation

Members will be aware that whilst Female Genital Mutilation is known to be practised in the UK amongst some communities, there have been no convictions since the offence was introduced in the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. However it is recognised that this offence takes place almost exclusively within families and children are often unwilling or unable to support prosecutions against family members. The MPS have a dedicated team working to tackle FGM in London, named Project Azure.

In 2008-09, incidents of FGM numbered 54, though none of these were recorded as offences and therefore no SD rate exists. In 2009-10, 46 incidents were recorded and 3 were as offences, though again no sanction detections have yet been recorded. The MPA have commissioned a report from Project Azure which will be presented to CEP Committee in November 2010.

Trafficking and sexual exploitation

Some offences relating to trafficking and sexual exploitation are relatively new and should also be noted that the Human Exploitation and Serious Organised Crime Directorate (SCD9) was created in April 2010. An MPS paper on the activity of SCD9 will be presented to SOP Committee in December 2010.

The number of offences of ‘trafficking persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation’ rose from 21 in 2008-09 to 45 in 2009-10; however the sanction detection rate decreased from 47% to 11% over that period. There are no recorded offences of ‘Trafficking for the purposes of domestic servitude’ in the time period, however it is understood that there have since been cases. Two offences of ‘Buying the sexual services of a child’ have been recorded in 2009-10, one of which resulted in a sanction detection (which amounts to a somewhat misleading 50% SD rate). In 2008-09 one offence was recorded and no sanction detections resulted.

In relation to offences of causing, arranging or facilitating child prostitution or child pornography, three offences were recorded in 2008-09, though there were no sanction detections. In 2009-10 there were nine offences recorded with a 22% SD rate (which amounts to two offences).

Sexual Violence

Across London, reporting of rape and other serious sexual offences has risen by over 35%. Members will be aware that specially commissioned research is currently being conducted by the MPS into the possible causes of this increase. 3591 serious sexual offences [3] were reported to the MPS between June 2009–May 2010, of which 2940 were crimes. An additional 8932 ‘less serious’ sexual offences [4] were reported in the same period, of which 7174 were crimes. A total of 10,114 sexual crimes were recorded in London over the reporting period; that’s 27.7 per day.

Developments in the field

The London Mayoral VAW strategy The Way Forward continues to deliver against its action plan, including a recent health roundtable on VAW held at the GLA and continued work to coordinate a network of agencies working together to tackle trafficking before during and after the London 2012 Olympic Games. The GLA, MPS, MPS, EHRC and partners [5] are coordinating this and the next network meeting will be held on 25 October and will finalise an ambitious programme of work. A review of the existing literature will be produced and shared with Members.

At a national level, the coalition Governments’ plans on VAW remain somewhat unclear, though it is positive to note Home Secretary Theresa Mays’ assertion that VAW is a priority. The coalition Government is publishing a ‘strategic narrative’ on VAW in November, followed by an action plan next Spring.


1. Violence against women includes intimate partner abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, prostitution and sexual exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ crimes [Back]

2. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [Back]

3.  Cases which are investigated by one of the 18 Units of SCD2 Sapphire – Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Command. Please note that some sexual offences will be investigated by SCD5 – Child Abuse Command and these cases have not been included in this data overview. However offences of rape amounted to 3017 in the 09-10 reporting period, so it can be deduced that the crimes not counted above will have gone to SCD5 for investigation [Back]

4. Cases which are investigated by one of the 32 MPS Borough Operational Command Units [Back]

5. Including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, London Safeguarding Children Board, Anti-Slavery International, Eaves and the Home Office [Back]

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