Barnsley’s dedicated team, based at the Churchfield station, was formed in March and consists of specially-trained officers tasked with recognising signs of domestic abuse and supporting victims.
With support groups recognising an increased need for their services since lockdown was announced, officers have worked alongside these organisations to give victims ‘every opportunity’ to report incidents and get the support they need.
The team - consisting of Detective Inspector Kate Leake, two sergeants and a team of investigators covering the Barnsley district - was previously part of the Protection of Vulnerable People unit, but has since branched off to counteract that recognised need.
DI Leake told the Chronicle: “We have to make sure we are giving an excellent victim-led service, right from the initial report to any ongoing support we can provide, to maximise every opportunity for victims of domestic abuse.
“The focus is on preventing future incidents and moving forward, allowing victims to empower themselves knowing they have the confidence of being heard.
“We’re trying to be much more proactive.
“We are providing more disclosures under Clare’s Law (which allows for a person or their friends or family to check if someone has a history of domestic violence).
“During the Covid-19 crisis we have been carrying out reassurance visits to repeat victims of domestic abuse.
“We are working alongisde IDAS to provide community-based support. That partnership approach has been very important.
“We’re also working with Inspire to Change, which works with offenders who are motivated to improve their behaviour.”
IDAS - the Independent Domestic Abuse Service - has been forced to work remotely during the lockdown, with the charity seeing more people accessing its online support services than normal.
The rise follows a national trend, and IDAS expects further increases in demand once the lockdown is over.
In April, police launched a dedicated 24-hour portal for reporting incidents.
The portal works in the same way as calling 101, and is unbranded, with a capability to quickly close the screen should a person need to hide their report.
Those facing potentially abusive situations are advised to stay in touch with trusted people, keep a spare phone, ID documents, emergency funds and any children’s birth certificates to hand, plan escape routes and avoid rooms with items that could be used as weapons.
If a person calls 999 and it isn’t safe to speak, they can press ‘55’ and be transferred to police’s ‘Silent Solution’.
Staff will then listen to the call and assess the situation, before responding.
Part of the approach has also been to increase awareness of arrests and convictions.
In recent weeks, three men - Kyle Selby, 31, formerly of Hollycroft Avenue, Royston, Alan Guthrie, 38, formerly of Willman Road, Lundwood and Andrew Bond, 49, of Beech Close, Brierley - were handed prison sentences for domestic abuse offences.
“Showing that we’ve achieved these excellent results will hopefully be a vehicle for those people in the community who don’t feel they can come forward to gain that confidence,” added DI Leake.
“We do want to encourage more male victims, and LGBT victims, to come forward.”
DI Leake said the force urged victims of domestic abuse and honour-based abuse - offences relating to defending the honour of a family or community, which often involve multiple abusers - from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups to come forward.
She said if they didn’t want to speak directly to police, they can contact the Karma Nirvana helpline on 08005999247.
Call IDAS Barnsley on 0300 0110 110, email email@example.com, or visit the website idas.org.uk.
You can also call the 24-hour national helpline on 0808 2000 247.
To report abuse, visit www.reportingcrime.uk/SYPDA/