A policing expert at Edge Hill University has helped to develop a groundbreaking new project to safeguard survivors of domestic abuse.
Dr Rebecca Phythian has joined forces with partners across the UK to launch Project Shield, a multi-agency pilot scheme to improve the level of policing service and response experienced by survivors of domestic abuse.
Dr Phythian, Senior Lecturer in Policing, said: “Protective orders for domestic abuse survivors consistently fall short on delivering the promised protection that victims and their families need and deserve. Information is not shared effectively or consistently between partner agencies, resulting in gaps in knowledge and an inability to offer appropriate protection and support.
“Project Shield has been created through collaboration with partners across the UK to help ensure that survivors feel safe and supported when attempting to leave, or after leaving, an abusive relationship. We hope that the pilot can be rolled out nationally to enhance information sharing, and to make sure that victims and survivors up and down the country experience improved safeguarding.”
If rolled out nationwide, the scheme would aim to prevent harm by delivering an improved service to enforce non-molestation orders (NMO), which are protective orders that victims can obtain through the civil courts to safeguard themselves and their families by preventing contact from their abusers.
Figures show that in April to June 2020, the number of NMO applications increased by 24% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2019.
Project Shield has developed a new approach to ensure vital information about the existence and conditions of victims’ NMOs is easily accessible to safeguarding professionals and police officers.
The project has been led by North Yorkshire Police, in partnership with Edge Hill University, the domestic abuse charity Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS), Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), and global IT and business consulting company CGI.
North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable Lisa Winward said: “We are incredibly privileged to have been involved in Project Shield and to have had the opportunity to work along such dedicated partners, to better protect victims of domestic abuse.
“The new ways of working identified by Project Shield have enabled us to respond more effectively when victims report breaches of their non-molestation order to us. Vitally it’s also allowed us to take early and decisive safeguarding action to prevent harm from occurring.
“We deal with victims of domestic abuse every single day and it’s essential that when they call us for help, we deliver an exemplary service to them, to help them feel safer. But ideally, I want us to be in the position to act before that call for service needs to be made. By having that vital information about their non-molestation orders at our fingertips, our Safeguarding Team can take action to prevent harm. If someone is harmed, they carry that experience and fear with them forever. We want to be part of the solution that prevents them from ever experiencing that fear and Project Shield will enable us to do just that.”
Sarah Hill, CEO of Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) said: “We are pleased to have worked in collaboration with North Yorkshire Police and partners HMCTS, Edge Hill and CGI, to develop this innovative approach using existing Police technology, the Police National Database, to improve the management of non-molestation orders. The Police in North Yorkshire are now equipped with a searchable register of non-molestation orders and are therefore able to take more proactive measures to protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse.”
Tara McGeehan, President, CGI UK and Australia, said: “We undertook the North Yorkshire pilot because it was the right thing to do. We sincerely hope that other forces and agencies look to the work North Yorkshire have done and look to instigate a nationalised version. It’s up to all of us to collaborate across the private and public sectors – to build something better and protect some of the most vulnerable in society.”
Edge Hill’s Professional Policing course offers opportunities for practical experience throughout the programme to help give students a practical path into the force. As well as learning in regular classrooms, students will interview ‘suspects’ and gather evidence in the Police Training and Simulation facility.