NINE people in the North-East have been killed in ‘domestic homicides’ since 2016, while police in the region recorded more than 51,000 domestic abuse related crimes just last year.

A refuge boss has urged politicians to put their money where their mouth is and fund support for survivors after the North-East was found to have the highest rate of domestic abuse offences in the country.

Figures released this morning suggest there has been a stark rise in such crimes in the region since 2016, when domestic abuse accounted for 11 per cent of all recorded offences. It now accounts for 18 per cent.

The sobering statistics suggest that the number of recorded domestic abuse crimes equated to 19 for every 1,000 people in the region last year – and 14 per thousand for related violent offences.

Every force in the area – and North Yorkshire Police – has seen a rise in reports of domestic abuse in the past three years, with only West Yorkshire Police having a higher rate of such offences than Cleveland and Durham last year.

Since 2018, police have also been called to deal with around 900 incidents linked to coercive control, while 40 per cent of the 13,239 stalking and harassment offences in the North-East were said to be linked to domestic abuse.

While the increases in the North-East are sharper than elsewhere, there has also been a growth in recorded domestic abuse offences for England and Wales, with national figures showing that they accounted for 11 per cent of crimes in 2015/16, compared to 14 per cent now.

Every day, refuge manager Carole Clarkson sees the reality behind the stark figures, working tirelessly to mitigate the devastating and life-changing impact of a crime she believes remains almost too taboo to tackle.

Last year, the Darlington-based Family Help refuge had to turn away more women and children than they could offer sanctuary to – a situation mirrored across the country as safe houses for survivors struggle to cope with increasing demand and funding cuts of at least £7m since 2010.

Between January and March this year, around 6,000 people became homeless due to domestic abuse, equating to one in eight of the known number of homeless people in England.

Politicians must do more to make the crisis a priority, Ms Clarkson says, as she describes the struggle to help those fleeing abuse in a climate marred by political ‘limbo’.

She has called on party leaders to be clear about their intentions when it comes to tackling domestic abuse, urging them to get the repeatedly delayed Domestic Abuse Bill – which aims to afford greater protection to victims – through Parliament, to define the support they will provide to survivors and to commit to further investment around the issue.

Ms Clarkson said: “I hope the rise in figures for the North-East is a reflection of the awareness-raising work being done around domestic abuse and improvements in the recording and report of crime, and not a sign that the problem is getting worse.

“But we need more refuge spaces and I want to see this become a priority in this election, at the moment we cannot move forward and make progress.

“I want the party leaders to come out and tell us what exactly they’re going to do and what money they’re going to put into this.

“Politicians cannot expect refuges and charities to carry on as they are, coping with an increase in demand and trying to provide everything to everybody, helping people with complex needs, without the money needed to do it.

“They’re always making the right noises, but not doing anything – I want to see them put their money where their mouths are. This problem cannot be ignored when two women a week are killed through domestic abuse.”

Ms Clarkson also urged people to intervene and contact appropriate authorities where they suspect domestic abuse, adding: “We need to move away from the kind of stigma that suggests you cannot come between husband and wife.

“If someone abused a stranger in the street, people would be up in arms but when it happens behind closed doors, the reaction's not the same. If you keep minding your own business, you risk minding it until someone is killed – think about how you would feel then.”

Spokespersons for Durham Constabulary and Cleveland Police said they believe confidence in reporting methods had contributed to the increase in recorded crimes linked to domestic abuse.

Both forces said the issue was taken very seriously and that victims would be believed and supported.

Detective Inspector Matt Hollingsworth of Cleveland Police's Domestic Abuse Unit said:

"With the support and input of specialist agencies wherever possible, we will continue to ensure all our officers recognise, record and investigate instances of domestic abuse, with victims’ welfare at the heart of all our investigations."

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman added: “If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are in immediate danger, always call us on 999.

"If you are safe and want to report abuse, or are concerned for a friend or relative whose partner is abusive, call us on 101 – it could save a life.”