Don’t suffer alone

Don’t suffer alone

6 January 2021

THE police officer heading up the PSNI’s domestic abuse and crime service has one over-riding message to victims — please make the call.

Detective Chief Inspector Lindsay Fisher from the Public Protection Branch says she’s in her current role due to her experience from working with victims as a younger uniformed officer.

“Domestic abuse can impact anybody, regardless of gender, age, or sexual orientation,” said DCI Fisher.

“It has the potential to impact on absolutely anybody in the community. As a police service we have to be ready to help protect victims, no matter who they are, where they are, and our mission is to bring those perpetrators to justice.”

She continued: “I do recall a number of incidents where I spent some time working with victims while in uniform and it’s why I’m doing this work because I feel that its really important that we are providing victims with a quality service.

“I’m really proud that I’m in a fortunate position that at my rank I am able to have those conversations now with the Department of Justice, with our other statutory and voluntary agencies and really try and make a difference for victims.

“I know that sounds a bit trite but it’s not. I genuinely feel that as an officer in the front line I went out and did all that I could for individuals on those calls. Now I feel that I’m able to make a bigger impact across all victims.”

While the PSNI reported increases in domestic abuse incidents and domestic crime during last year’s lockdown, she is cautious about relying solely on statistics.

“We welcome the increase in reporting, but I don’t think that is reflective to say there has been an increase in crime as such because we know that domestic abuse is an under-reported crime — that’s been well documented and discussed previously.

“I see the increase in reporting as a positive especially during lockdown because the police and other agencies recognise this as really difficult time for people who are at home with their abusive partners and really struggle to find that voice.

“We are not letting the current climate, in terms of lockdown restrictions, prevent us from being able to respond in the timely manner that we need to. We recognise that domestic abuse calls are emergency and priority calls, we will maintain that even in these difficult times.”

She detailed how the PSNI also carried out a victim call-back scheme last year, making over 6,000 calls, which helped provide additional evidence or assistance with a police report or provided additional lines of enquiry.

Coping with a lockdown following a traditional difficult period of victims over the Christmas and New Year period, DCI Fisher said officers were well trained and equipped to go into homes to respond to calls with help.

With the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Law – which makes aspects of psychological harm from coercive abuse a crime – coming into effect this year, DCI Fisher says that officers have received extra training to recognise the signs in victims they speak to.

“This will be a completely new arena of legislation,” she explained. “That’s why it’s so important that we all work together now so that we have the training, support mechanism to be able to identify those signs and robustly prosecute where there is evidence for the offence of coercive control.”

She stressed that while officers will encourage a victim to report crime against them, they will not be forced into making a statement.

She said: “It’s so important that individuals make that call when they are ready to do so. While we would encourage victims of domestic abuse  to provide statements, we would never force or compel them to do so. That’s where our body worn video from officers is so relevant to what we then produce evidence for the PPS.

“No matter where or when the individual is brave enough to pick up the phone we will be there with them, no matter how how long it takes.

When they feel ready to make a statement, whether it’s a couple of weeks or months down the line to make that statement, we will be there

”She also pointed out that the PSNI has a role in sign-posting the victim and their children to other agencies who can support them.

“We appreciate that criminal justice outcomes aren’t always the focus for victims and we have a number of initiatives with different partnership agencies to ensure that they are there to support them.”

To contact police, call the non-emergency 101 number or call 999 in an emergency. There is a Silent Solutions Service which enables a 999 caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted.

A 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual abuse, now or in the past, on 0808 802 1414.