WORRYING figures have revealed a stark rise in cases of domestic abuse during the first year of the Covid pandemic across the North East.

Tens of thousands of complaints were made to police across the region during the introduction of lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions.

Home Office data shows a six per cent rise nationally but the charity Women’s Aid has said it is the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

In County Durham alone, domestic abuse crimes have almost tripled over the last six years, and 13,434 offences were recorded by Durham Constabulary in 2020-21, making up nearly a quarter of all offences recorded that year.

The area has seen a 183 per cent rise in domestic abuse offences since 4,740 were logged in 2015-16, when records began.

A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “We believe that people are becoming increasingly confident in reporting crimes to the police, which has resulted in an increase of recorded crimes.

“Durham Constabulary makes tackling high harm crime, including rape and domestic abuse, our top priority.

“That’s why we put extra resources into our safeguarding teams and have improved on our already close working relationship with the CPS to deliver good case management.

“Rape and domestic abuse is a horrendous crime and we know it takes courage and strength for survivors to come forward.”

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Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen is supporting the changes the Home Secretary Priti Patel has agreed to make to the Policing Bill to include domestic abuse and sexual violence crimes in the serious violence duty alongside knife crimes and homicides.

The Northern Echo: Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Joy Allen.

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen

She said: “These crimes are some of the most harmful, invasive, and intrusive crimes, the impact of which can have long-term consequences for victims, their families, and communities.

“The inclusion of these crimes in the new duty will send a very clear message to victims that they will be taken seriously and that those who commit these crimes will be dealt with in an appropriate way.

“Tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence is everyone’s business and this new duty will enable a strengthening of our existing partnership arrangements and demonstrate that we are determined to take a system wide approach to addressing the harm caused by tackling the root causes of these crimes, putting in place effective support for victims and ensuring meaningful consequences for offenders.”

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said to tackle domestic abuse, society must work together to tackle the “inherent sexism and misogyny which underpin women’s inequality and violence against them”.

She said: “Women will not report domestic abuse if they aren’t confident they will be believed and action will be taken on their behalf.

“We all have a part to play in unlearning sexism.”

The figures suggest most cases of domestic abuse will not see perpetrators charged, with just eight per cent of cases concluded nationally last year resulting in a charge or summons.

The Northern Echo:

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid

Ms Nazeer said work was needed to restore faith in policing after more than three quarters of investigations were dropped due to evidential difficulties nationally – more than half because the victim pulled out of the investigation.

Figures show domestic abuse crimes more than doubled in Teesside over the last six years with more than 12,000 were recorded during the first year of the pandemic.

The area has seen a 132 per cent rise in domestic abuse offences since 5,447 were logged in 2015-16, when records began.

A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “We have run a number of awareness campaigns, during lockdown for example, to ensure that victims knew support was still available to them and they could leave home if they feared for their safety.

“We’ve also worked with hairdressers and pharmacies, as locations where victims may be able to be alone, and have the opportunity to speak to police about abuse.”

Domestic abuse has also more than doubled in the Northumbria force area over the last six years with tens of thousands of cases recorded during the first year of Covid.

The area has seen a 149 per cent rise in domestic abuse offences since 10,209 were logged in 2015-16.

Detective Chief Inspector Les Goodliff, of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding Department, said: “We know that domestic abuse can take many forms.

“It isn’t just physical, and for this reason, it can take great courage for victims to take that first step in reporting incidents to police.”

Domestic abuse has also soared in North Yorkshire with Home Office data showing 7,825 offences were recorded by in 2020-21, making up 20 per cent of all offences recorded that year.

The area has seen a 67 per cent rise in domestic abuse offences since 4,675 were logged in 2015.

Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, North Yorkshire Police’s lead for Safeguarding, said: “Even prior to the pandemic, we have seen a year-on-year increase in reports of domestic abuse.

“This can be explained, in part, by more victims having the confidence to seek help and intervention

“North Yorkshire Police has worked to promote the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - also known as ‘Clare’s Law’ - which gives anyone a right to ask the police about possible risks posed by their partner or the partner of a family member or a friend.”

Simon Dennis, chief executive of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s Office, said tackling domestic abuse was a priority for the force.

He said: “We know that the person directly abused is not the only one who suffers, so we need to do more to provide help and care to the families of those being abused.

“The pandemic, with many forced to stay at home, has undoubtedly seen domestic abuse become more prevalent - with even more opportunity for abusers to hide what they are doing and making it harder for those abused to get help.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse, assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said the “complex and entrenched societal problem” was a policing priority and highlighted an increased number of victims reporting abuse in recent years.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government is committed to ending violence against women and girls, and said its landmark Domestic Abuse Act would improve victim support and strengthen legislation.

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