A new partnership approach is helping a North East police force to provide better support for victims of domestic abuse and speed up charge rates.

Operation Nightingale was launched by Durham Police last year to help to deliver an improved service and quicker treatment for sufferers of domestic abuse.

Existing working practices have been streamlined resulting in victims who have sustained injuries through domestic violence being provided with bespoke medical treatment by one of the force’s forensic practitioners at a safe location of their choosing.

Previously, all such victims were examined in hospital.The Northern Echo: Operation Nightingale, designed to improve the service Durham Constabulary offers to victims of

During the examination, the forensic practitioner documents the complainant’s injuries in a specially designed booklet featuring extensive body mapping, and photographs.

Initial witness statements are then taken from both the victim and medical practitioner.

This evidence is then used by investigating officers to build a high-quality case file to send to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging advice.

Operation Nightingale was used 35 times last year, resulting in charges for offences such as attempted grievous bodily harm, non-fatal strangulation, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The Northern Echo:

It is the brainchild of Detective Sergeant John Tyers and Investigating Officer Heidi Weir, from Darlington Safeguarding Team.

IO Weir said: “This is a very simple way in which we are helping to provide a better service for our victims by simply streamlining and modernising our way of working.

“We already work in partnership with healthcare provider, Total Healthcare, whose staff are based within our custody suites, providing treatment to prisoners, administering medication, and examining injuries.

“We thought we could help to provide a quicker and better service to our victims by using these healthcare staff, rather than sending victims to hospital, which in turn reduces demand.  

“By doing so, victims receive high quality medical care quickly, and we receive gold standard evidence which often translates into charges, and justice for our victims.”

Det Sgt Tyers said: “Emerging information would suggest that this approach leads to quicker, more streamlined charging decisions in our domestic abuse cases.

“Operation Nightingale is providing a fantastic service for our victims and has saved the force both time and money.

“It has also resulted in charges being secured for more serious offences, due to the quality and standard of the evidence we are securing.”

A spokeswoman for Total Healthcare said: “Operation Nightingale is a fantastic initiative allowing Durham Constabulary and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust’s forensic practitioners to work in collaboration to provide a safe and streamlined holistic care package to complainants. 

“The focus being to safeguard the complainants, provide forensic interpretation, and instigate onward referral pathways of treatment and support.

“Forensic practitioners are well equipped to present the evidence collected in the court process, assisting in the judicial outcome, which in turn supports the complainant.”

Anyone who has suffered domestic abuse should contact police on 101, or by dialling 999 if they are in immediate danger.

For victims unwilling to speak to the police, other helplines are available.

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The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is available 24 hours a day on 0808-200 0247.

A local service, Harbour, is also available round the clock, on (03000) 202525.

All of above options provide support for both men and women.