Police reveal rise in teenage domestic abusers in St Helens

It is estimated there are 4,800 victims of domestic abuse in St Helens every year
It is estimated there are 4,800 victims of domestic abuse in St Helens every year

Police in St Helens has seen a rise in teenage domestic abusers, it has been revealed.

Sgt John Williams from Merseyside Police was invited to the People’s Board, which is made up of elected members and representatives from multiple agencies, this week to deliver a presentation about domestic abuse.

It is estimated there are 4,800 victims of domestic abuse in St Helens every year, with the majority of victims being women.

This includes physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

Sgt Williams told the board the police is seeing “more and more” 16-year-old domestic abusers in St Helens.

In response, MARAC, a multi-agency partnership set up to tackle domestic abuse, has changed the definition of domestic abuse to incorporate 16 and 17-year-olds.

Sgt Williams said: “Historically, most domestic abuse was involving people 20, going up.

“The definition of domestic incident has been changed to encapsulate 16-year-olds because we are seeing more and more 16-year-olds.”

Sgt Williams said that when dealing with incidents of domestic abuse, officers are being increasingly told that it is “just a way of life”.

According to the Office of National Statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Sgt Williams said that on average, victims will be assaulted around 25 times before they report the first incident.

He said some victims have reported numerous rapes, assaults and cohesive controlling behaviour that has gone on over several decades.

Sgt Williams added that police often receive reports of domestic violence after a murder has taken place.

“It’s almost like it’s normalised,” Sgt Williams said.

“It’s when we get to the tragic murder that we are getting told – they’re always fighting.”

Sgt Williams said previous comments from victims include, “it’s just our way of life”, “he is a good man without the drink” and “his mum will sort him out”.

He also revealed he has been accused by victims of being racist.

Sgt Williams said the police will always prosecute if there is enough evidence, even without the victim’s support.

Police data shown to the People’s Board showed there were a total of 2,087 reports of domestic abuse in St Helens during 2017-18.

From April to December of last year there were 2,210 incidents reported to police.

The most incidents were recorded in July (296). Last month, there were 234 incidents.

Sgt Williams acknowledged there are likely many more incidents of domestic abuse going unreported.

He asked the People’s Board to fund more independent domestic violence advisors and to invest in better IT equipment.

Council leader Derek Long, chairman of the People’s Board, revealed that domestic abuse was highlighted as a priority for the authority and its partners at a recent development day.

Sarah O’Brien, the council’s strategic director of people’s services, said there are some elements around domestic abuse the borough is “not getting right yet”, particularly around front door services.

She said a new sub group needs to be set up to drive forward the council’s domestic abuse strategy, which was approved in February 2018.

Ms O’Brien said: “This is everybody’s business and I think what we’ve got to do is decide how we’re going to bring it together in a more cohesive way because it affects adults, it affects children, it affects community safety, it affects health, it affects social care – it affects everything.

“And I don’t think we’re quite getting that right yet in terms of two we move the agenda on.”

Stephen Tracey, senior assistant director, housing, safer communities, recreation and libraries, agreed.

He said: “There is a lot of work going on across a lot of different organisations.

“But in terms of us having an understanding of what that is achieving, as a partnership, I don’t think we do understand that and that is the challenge that we have to address.”