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Police and crime commissioner Labour candidate Ben Twomey calls out current Conservative postholder Philip Seccombe on domestic abuse staffing after jobs axed

PLANS to axe nine jobs from a police team dedicated to investigating domestic abuse have been branded a “total disgrace”.

The latest lockdown has seen another surge in domestic abuse, with nine people killed in the UK in the past week alone.

Tory Philip Seccombe, left, and Labour's Ben Twomey (44195113)
Tory Philip Seccombe, left, and Labour's Ben Twomey (44195113)

Stark figures released just after Christmas showed that, far from being a season of togetherness, for many the festive period meant domestic violence and abuse.

In late December, domestic violence accounted for half of England’s police force workloads. In Warwickshire, that figure was even higher, with 38 out of 60 arrests in Christmas week related to domestic abuse – eight of them in the Stratford area.

Now serious questions are being asked about how Warwickshire Police could claim to be prioritising a domestic abuse campaign while cutting staff at a dedicated unit.

In a battle to save money, the force announced in November that a number of civilian posts would be lost in an “operational shake-up”. This will see around 85 staff lost – including all nine police investigator roles in the county’s domestic abuse unit.

Ben Twomey, Labour candidate for the police and crime commissioner elections in May, branded the plans a “total disgrace”.

He argued the nine staff had 70 years’ experience between them, adding: “More than half of people in Warwickshire police custody over Christmas were arrested for domestic abuse. The increase in domestic abuse during the pandemic is a local and national crisis.

“To choose this moment to cut an entire team of experienced and dedicated domestic abuse risk officers is a total disgrace. Cuts continue to affect the most vulnerable in our county because, after nearly five years in the role, the Conservative police commissioner has never written to the government to seek proper funding for local police.”

The incumbent commissioner Philip Seccombe hit back, maintaining that supporting victims of domestic abuse had been one of his key priorities since taking office in 2016.

He pointed to the fact that he was partly responsible, along with the county council, for commissioning domestic abuse charity Refuge to provide the county’s domestic violence service, which ensures support is available to victims 365 days a year.

Justifying the loss of the current domestic abuse team, he said: “While it is correct that the force is implementing a new operational model within its domestic abuse unit, it is incorrect to suggest that the unit is being disbanded. It very much will remain in place, with police officers undertaking an enhanced role.

“A new operating model has been developed by the force which will deliver additional capability to a number of roles, such as the domestic abuse risk officers, using warranted officers who can use their police powers and safeguarding responsibilities to greater effect in an enhanced role.”

He added: “Difficult though this process undoubtedly is for those impacted, the chief constable has my full support in making these changes.”

n Elections for the next Warwickshire crime commissioner, in which both Mr Twomey and Mr Seccombe will be standing, are due to take place in May after being postponed last year because of the pandemic.

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