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What we are doing to tackle violence against women and girls?

Reduction in VAWG offences

In the rolling 365 days to 10 January 2024 there were 24,282 VAWG offences recorded. This is a reduction of 12% compared to the previous 365-day period. The decrease is largely as a result of the reduction in violence against the person offences. This can partly be attributed to changes in counting rules and improved crime recording. There has also been a lot of police activity in preventing and deterring VAWG offences and offenders as detailed below.

Improved outcomes for victims

Since September 2022 until 31 January 2024, the sanction outcome* rate for VAWG offences** is 26.2%, with a charge/summons outcome rate of 21.3%. These outcome rates are higher than the equivalent rates for all such offences recorded (24.0% and 18.4% respectively).

Over the same time period, sanction outcome rates for controlling or coercive behaviour sit at 49.9% and sanction outcome rates for stalking sit at 52.6%; both rates are higher than during the first twelve months of these pieces of legislation being introduced. The sanction outcome rate for non-fatal strangulation (introduced in June 2023) is 36.4%.

*Sanction outcomes include charge/summons, cautions and community resolution notices.
**VAWG offences include female victims of violence against the person and sexual offences (excluding offences of corporate manslaughter, death/serious injury by unlawful driving and assault on police).

We are policing streets differently

We are using a new tracking tool for reports of crimes against women and girls and targeting neighbourhood policing resources to these locations. We want to ensure that we have a deterring presence with the aim of preventing violent, abusive or intimidating behaviours and making women and girls feel safer.

Taking a zero tolerance approach to offending

We will prioritise action in respect of those wanted for violence, intimidation or abuse against women and girls using existing and new legislation available to us to bring offenders to justice. From September 2022 to end of January 2024, we have arrested, on average, 73 people a month for the new domestic abuse offence, 15 people for stalking and since new legislation was introduced in June 2023, 77 people for non-fatal strangulation.

Working to design out crime

We have a dedicated Design out Crime team who provide specialist design solutions and assessments on the security to local businesses to influence their specifications in order to minimise crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour. Since the launch of our action plan violence against women and girls has been specifically factored into the design processes as part of a “Safer Spaces” approach. Since 1st September 2022 until end of January 2024, the Design out Crime team have provided specialist support to over 200 projects.

Examples include:

  • Bespoke accommodation and support centres for Women and Children at risk
  • Locations identified as higher risk (Hot Spots)
  • Night Time Economy Locations
  • Social Housing

Making our night-time economy even safer

We have joined together with licensed venues and security staff across Northern Ireland to help keep people safe while enjoying a night out. The safety codeword initiative ‘Ask for Angela’ is being rolled out to bars, clubs and other licensed businesses across Northern Ireland, with over 400 already signed up. Learn more about 'Ask for Angela'.

Ask for Angela Events Graphic

We are listening to the voices of our police officers and staff

We are taking positive action in response to any concerns raised about inappropriate behaviours in the workplace. Our Professional Standards Department has established a sexual misconduct review team, reviewing the last ten years of sexual misconduct allegations against police officers. We are also actively ensuring our officers and staff know how to report discriminatory or unethical behaviours via our internal reporting systems. From September 2022 to end of January 2024, we have held 10 misconduct hearings in relation to sexual and or domestic misconduct and seven of those officers were dismissed. We are telling the public when an officer has breached the standards expected or committed a criminal offence, and what action we have taken.

Ensuring our officers and staff are robustly trained

We have worked with local community groups and support services over the last year to develop specialist training packages with the voices of women and girls and their experiences at the forefront. Currently, 6,000 officers and staff have undergone revised training on domestic abuse, encompassing coercive control, as well as a year two refresher package. 

Over 3,000 have been trained to recognise and respond to stalking and non-fatal strangulation. New modules of training have also been developed and delivered in person across all policing districts for the Justice Act Offences known as “up skirting” and “down blousing”.

Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan. Over half of 41 actions complete. Hundreds of targeted neighbourhood patrols. Thousands arrested for Violence Against Women and Girls offences. Thousands of officers trained to better respond.

We are measuring our performance

We are measuring our performance in relation to crimes of violence against women and girls, via a dedicated dashboard. We are enhancing supervision of violence against women and girls investigations and reporting back to the Northern Ireland Policing Board who hold us to account against the actions and timescales set out in our plan.

We are committed to listening to women and girls

We are listening to victims more and more about their experiences with reporting and the criminal justice system. We are always seeking to work with our partners to improve victim experience and build trust. In year two of the delivery of our action plan we intend to roll out a series of district led engagement events.

We are working with our partners

We are working with White Ribbon NI to develop a training package which focuses on enabling the calling out of behaviours that are inappropriate. We have delivered a number of in person workshops with officers and staff and are moving this into an online platform to make sure that this is shared as widely as possible. 

Sadly there are a number of rape myths which need to be dispelled – we are working closely with NEXUS to deliver training to 4,000 officers that will address rape myths, how they may present when victims are disclosing trauma and how we can best present their evidence in court. 

We are also in the process of developing joint training with Women’s Aid to ensure that the provisions within disclosure schemes are more easily understood and applied to better support victims/ potential victims who are seeking information about their partners. This will highlight the lowering of the current threshold from serious harm to harm.

Making safe spaces for women and girls

We are working with our partners on safeguarding initiatives that give local people the tools to support victims in getting the help they need.

Ask for Ani is a codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims that is available in pharmacies and job centres across Northern Ireland.

All Police Stations are designated ONUS Safe Places. The Safe Place Map on the Onus website shows show all the participating safe places in Northern Ireland. We will be working with communities to promote the further roll out of ONUS across all policing districts.

Safe Place organisations:

  • Support the Safe Place Pledge: never to condone or stay silent about domestic violence.
  • Provide a safe place for victims to confidentially access information.
  • Acknowledge domestic violence is a problem that impacts on all of us as a society, and will be prepared to play our part in tackling this.

If women and girls aren’t safe at home, we want to continue to make safe spaces for them in our communities.

Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan - One Year On

As part of our commitment to tackling VAWG, we launched our first Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Action Plan in 2022. One year on, find out how, as a Police Service, we are working hard to ensure that women and girls can live their life free from fear, intimidation and harassment.

Download our Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan - One Year On.