North Yorkshire Police say courts backlog is impacting on victims of domestic abuse incidents

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North Yorkshire Police, which says it is facing “a definite spike” in domestic abuse incidents, has highlighted concerns over how a backlog of court cases is impacting on outcomes for victims.

North Yorkshire Police deputy chief constable Mabs Hussain said while the force was focusing its efforts, factors beyond its control were delaying cases as councillors questioned whether the criminal justice system was effective for domestic abuse victims.

He was speaking at a meeting of North Yorkshire and York’s police, fire and crime panel following opposition members of the county council unsuccessfully pressing for £450,000 of unspent government funding to be used to help domestic abuse victims in the coming financial year.

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Councillors, including Malton member Lindsay Burr and Falsgrave and Stepney member Liz Colling said the cost of living crisis had led to a sharp rise in misogyny in the county and that domestic abuse could not “be put under the table”.

North Yorkshire Police say that the backlog courts are facing is having an impact on victims of domestic abuse incidentsNorth Yorkshire Police say that the backlog courts are facing is having an impact on victims of domestic abuse incidents
North Yorkshire Police say that the backlog courts are facing is having an impact on victims of domestic abuse incidents

The county council’s leadership said it would instead spend whatever is needed to help domestic abuse victims once a review had been completed.

The decision followed reported domestic abuse incidents in the county rising from 7,825 to 8,652 in 2021 and it being reported that few cases were being dealt with as nationally crown courts are swamped by a 63,000-case backlog.

A veteran North Yorkshire magistrate this week said the outlook for hearing such cases in magistrates courts in the area was similarly bleak following the introduction of staffing efficiencies at the same time as the domestic abuse cases had soared.

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She said: “It’s a money-saving exercise in which the only people benefitting are the criminals who are not being brought to justice.

"Eventually when the outcomes come they are much the same, but the wait for the cases to happen is probably having a massive impact on victims.”

Councillor Burr told a meeting of the panel there had been a “definite spike” in domestic abuse and some residents were calling for their cases to be dealt with more quickly by the police.

Deputy chief constable Mabs Hussain responded saying the force graded domestic incidents according to the level of risk and was putting more resources into ensuring “timely attendance” at incidents to gather evidence and protect the most vulnerable.

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He said incidents were reviewed by local police teams and reported to a “force level meeting” on a daily basis.

Mr Hussain said: “There is a lot of scrutiny that takes place in relation to domestic abuse incidents, in particular those at high risk involving the most vulnerable.”

He said the length of time it took to consider what action to take over an incident depended on numerous factors, such as forensic evidence and advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Mr Hussain said: “Once it gets to CPS you are at times waiting for it to get through the criminal justice system.

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"The biggest challenge is the wider criminal justice system, not just the police side as enforcement.

"The backlog in court cases is having an effect on criminal justice outcomes and conclusions for victims.

"In some cases that takes a significant period of time, which is out of our control.”

After the meeting, Councillor Burr said she remained concerned over the strategy of both the county council and the police.

She added: “I do feel our strategy isn’t quite right.

"The police are sounding very confident, however residents aren’t as confident and it’s a concern.”