Citizens Advice Cornwall is calling for the creation of a dedicated women’s protection unit within the police following claims of poor handling of domestic abuse and stalking complaints. 

The new unit would deal with gender-based violence and share intelligence, upskill officers and staff, and work closely with other agencies and organisations.   

The new unit is one of several recommendations in a new, hard-hitting report by the charity based on the experiences of people seeking help from it’s victims of crime co-ordinator, following complaints about poor communications, lack of empathy with victims and failures to address safety issues. 

Citizens Advice Cornwall interim chief executive Jon Berg, said: “Our clients have come to us with disturbing cases where they feel their concerns have not been properly addressed by the police and they feel their lives and property are at risk. 

“We know Devon and Cornwall Police, like many forces up and down the country, are under a great deal of pressure through lack of resources, but we hope speaking out on behalf of our clients will result in concrete steps to improve matters for some of the most vulnerable people in society.” 

The report has identified several issues raised by Citizens Advice clients including: 

• People not being called back when reporting allegations of stalking or threats of violence. 

• Failure to examine CCTV evidence.

• Lack of appropriate safety assessments.

• Lack of equipment (such as CCTV cameras) to deter potential attackers.

Citizens Advice victims of crime adviser Allison Livingstone, said: “Many of the clients we see are living in fear of their perpetrators on a daily basis, so it’s vital they have confidence in the police dealing with their case.  

“Victims who we’ve seen have told us they will end up dead or seriously injured or their perpetrators will move on to other relationships and will hopefully leave them alone, although this also causes huge anguish about what the next woman will go through and a misplaced feeling of responsibility to try and prevent this. 

“What they don’t tell us – what none of our clients have ever said - is they believe justice will be done and those accused will be charged, tried, and punished for these crimes and the unrelenting fear and distress that has been caused.” 

The Citizens Advice Cornwall report includes additional recommendations which could lead to an improved response, such as: 

• Improved officer training in recognising and managing trauma responses in victims and witnesses. 

• Monitoring appropriate language used with victims through bodycam footage.   

• Creation a single point of contact which victims and organisations supporting victims, can access to report new information and to get updates, which could be a trained civilian member of staff, rather than a frontline officer. 

Our clients have reported they have struggled to find out who is leading on their investigation. They are often told to call 101 which can have wait times in excess of two hours and doesn’t always result in a call back.