A NEW project will use a theatre production to improve the way police and support agencies handle domestic abuse incidents.

The Whole System Approach to Domestic Abuse is a Home Office-funded project which being piloted across police forces, including Cleveland.

A team of seven experts have been established in Cleveland to develop how police and court system handle domestic abuse cases, and to identify what improvements should be made.

One innovation is the appointment of a North-East theatre company, Open Clasp, who are using their critically acclaimed play, Rattle Snake, to deliver drama-based training to police officers and staff, in conjunction with local specialist domestic abuse services.

Rattle Snake is based on the real life stories of women who have faced and survived coercive control in domestic abuse. Coinciding with the change in UK law in 2015 making coercive control in relationships a crime, Rattle Snake was originally commissioned by Durham University and Durham Constabulary.

Open Clasp will train nearly 1,000 police officers and staff across Cleveland, and the company also trained over 200 council staff, social workers, GPs, service providers and support workers earlier this year.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “The aim of the Whole System Approach project is to offer a more joined up and comprehensive service for victims of domestic abuse in Cleveland, by working closely with the Force and other agencies across the area.

“Appointing Open Clasp to deliver the Coercive Controlling Behaviour Training is just one example of the wide range of ongoing work to transform the way domestic abuse cases are investigated, handled and processed through the court system.

“Supporting victims and reducing reoffending are central themes in my Police and Crime Plan and I look forward to the other ground breaking work that the team have planned.”

Catrina McHugh, artistic director of Open Clasp Theatre Company said: “At Open Clasp our mission is to change the world one play at a time.

"Rattle Snake was created to train frontline police officers in County Durham in better responding to sexual and domestic abuse, coinciding with the change in UK law in 2015 making coercive control in relationships a crime.

"Officers sat in bullet proof vests, daring us to make an impact and we did. Today we find ourselves in 2018, living in a world where some still feel a sense of entitlement to take away another person’s liberty, to control, threaten and annihilate so it's fantastic to be able to support police in Cleveland to tackle domestic violence and help to make a real difference to the lives of families there.”