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Last November, Essex Police proudly became a White Ribbon Accredited organisation and on Thursday 13 April, we mounted the plaque for all to see at the Chief’s House at Headquarters.
White Ribbon is a global campaign that encourages people, especially men and boys, to take action and change the behaviour and culture that leads to abuse and violence individually and collectively. To wear a white ribbon is to promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan, who is also our Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) lead, said:
“As a White Ribbon accredited organisation, Essex Police is fully committed to stopping male violence against women.
"There is no place in society for violence against women and girls and working with partners, Essex Police is determined to tackle this society wide issue.
“You will see evidence of how we are relentlessly pursuing offenders who commit violent acts towards women and girls, and how we work with partners to create safer spaces. Together, we can all help drive out male violence towards women and girls.”
Having the plaque is just the start of our commitment, a framed reminder of what the force will promise to do, and a recognition that there’s still a long way to go in eliminating violence against women and girls across the county and ensuring a safer place to live for all.
Our Violence Against Women and Girls strategy sets out our priorities to relentlessly pursue perpetrators with a focus on high harm offenders, improving trust and confidence in policing through addressing culture and behaviours as well as working with partners to create safer spaces in Essex.
Last month, ITV X released a documentary called The Social Media Murders: The Murder of Ashley Wadsworth. It chronicles the tumultuous relationship that led to her brutal and senseless murder at the hands of her boyfriend, Jack Sepple. In October 2022, Sepple was jailed for life with a minimum of 23 years.
Since Ashley’s tragic murder, Essex Police have reviewed how the data is used to identify ‘highest risk’ perpetrators, focussing on those which pose a threat to life, by using indicators that academic research has shown are known risk indicators for domestic abuse homicide, this will be compiled in a ‘Threat to Life’ list.
Detective Superintendent Matt Cornish reflects on the case and why it changed the way we work:
“Going forward our commitment to Ashley is to do everything we can to ensure something like this can’t happen again.
"Prior to Ashley’s death there’d been no reports to us of domestic abuse between her and Sepple, so we wanted to understand that and how the first report that came to us was a murder."
Det Supt Cornish continued:
“Previously we’ve been using the nationally approved ‘Recency, Frequency, Gravity’ model for assessing the risk posed by domestic abuse perpetrators, which the majority of forces use.
“While this did identify repeat perpetrators, it didn’t specifically look for those risk indicators that we know are linked to domestic homicides such as coercion and control, stalking etc.
“Using this system Jack Sepple, despite being known to police, did not feature within the cohorts of identified perpetrators.
“Using this information, we’ve created a database of people who pose the greatest risk and we’re able to manage them to reduce that risk, to prevent further homicides.
“We think this is a better way of assessing perpetrators because we’re identifying specific behaviour and offending, rather than just how recently and frequently they offended.
“So when we see that behaviour in others, it raises serious red flags and we can intervene.
“It’s a more nuanced approach and it’s based on evidence"
We’ve since shared our work with the College of Policing and the Home Office as we ae keen to work with partners and develop our approach so we continue to learn and improve it, as our commitment to Ashley is to do everything in our power to ensure something like this can’t happen again, regardless of whether the victim comes forward for help or not.
To further progress our mission, focussing on domestic abuse offenders, we are introducing the Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (DARA) – which is designed to pick up on coercive controlling behaviour, and has a more nuanced question set, where the answers are less binary than the previous assessment.
In 2021, our Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Teams (DAPST) came into action. Their remit involves supporting victims of domestic abuse and managing the risks posed by high-risk perpetrators. In the last year we have seen a 6.2% reduction in reported domestic abuse crimes: that’s almost 1,900 fewer crimes in the 12 months prior to January 2023 and domestic abuse offences in Essex are now falling compared to the pre-pandemic period.
We are also seeking to develop a more proactive approach to the use of Domestic Violence Disclosure Schemes (DVDS) and protective orders. We have introduced the Protective Orders Enforcement Team (POET).
As a newly Accredited organisation, we will continue to develop and deliver a comprehensive Action Plan to change the cultures that lead to abuse and violence and promote gender equality.
Scouring our social media channels, you might have seen our #Reflect campaign. Our successful campaign, in partnership with Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board and the Change Project encourages perpetrators to break the cycle of domestic abuse by changing their behaviour.
The campaign focuses on different types of abuse – from physical abuse, to controlling behaviour, stalking and harassment, and uncontrolled emotions like humiliation or anger. Since it’s launch, we have seen an increase in perpetrators coming forward to get the help they need.
If you feel it’s time to #Reflect on your own behaviour, call The Change Project on 0845 372 7701 or visit www.thechange-project.org
Essex Police continues to engage with our communities to really understand their concerns and continues to learn through public surveys, information is regularly received through the StreetSafe initiative, liaising with women’s community groups and across the county as well as Independent Advisory Groups and our Victim Feedback Panel.
Violence Against Women and Girls is a worldwide pandemic and we are aware that we cannot eliminate this overnight, but with our accreditation hanging proudly on the Chief’s walls, we can remind one another every day to be kinder, to be upstanders not bystanders and to work together to make Essex a safer county to all.