ACTION against domestic violence across the region is “disintegrating”, Labour has warned – after a big fall in prosecutions and convictions.
The Opposition revealed staggering drops in the number of people convicted in the North-East and North Yorkshire in just two years, of up to 27.6 per cent.
In three force areas – the exception was North Yorkshire – the number of prosecutions plunged even faster, between 2010-11 and 2012-13.
Crucially, the falls were much greater than the declines in the number of domestic violence incidents reported to forces, the official figures showed.
In Durham, complaints fell by 5.6 per cent – but prosecutions (down 21.2 per cent) and convictions (19.8 per cent) plummeted far further.
And, in North Yorkshire, there was a huge leap in complaints – of 26.8 per cent – yet prosecutions and convictions dropped by similar proportions.
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said the blame lay with Home Secretary Theresa May, which had slashed police funding to a dangerous level.
She said: “The scale of abuse is shocking, yet the Government and the Home Secretary have turned their backs.
“The clock is being turned back on years of progress. On Theresa May's watch, action against domestic violence in the criminal justice system is disintegrating before our eyes.”
Labour also highlighted similar falls in court actions against suspected rapists since the last general election, over the same two-year period.
The proportion of reported offences that resulted in convictions that fell in Cleveland and Durham – and the proportion leading to prosecutions dropped in Durham.
Durham force was asked to comment on the figures, but did not respond. North Yorkshire said it was unable to do so until further analysis of the figures.
Labour has vowed to publish domestic abuse and sexual violence league tables for police forces, in a bid to expose poor performance and raise standards.
And it plans to appoint a ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Commissioner’, to strengthen the law whenever appropriate.
Ms Cooper praised Vera Baird, Labour’s elected police and crime commissioner (PCC) in Northumbria, for making domestic violence a top priority.
Ms Baird had ordered detailed sampling of cases that had not been taken to court, to find out the reasons why – an initiative also interesting Cleveland and Durham.
But Ms Cooper said: “Overall, at a time when the police and Crown Prosecution Service are under real pressure, there has been no signal from the Government that this is a priority.
“Specialist domestic violence courts have closed and there has been a drop in special prosecutors. These are really complex cases – but there is no longer the expertise to work on them.”
Across the country, reports of domestic violence to police increased by 11 per cent from 2010-11 to 2012-13 - but the percentage of successful prosecutions dropped by 14 per cent.