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Innovative project making strides in transforming how police handle domestic abuse

Rattle Snake cast on set with writer Catrina McHugh MBE and Barry Coppinger

PCC with Rattle Snake cast and writer Catrina McHugh MBE

A Home Office-funded project is using innovative methods to improve the way police handle domestic abuse incidents in Cleveland.

‘The Whole System Approach to Domestic Abuse’ project is being piloted across Northern police forces, following a successful bid to the Home Office’s Police Transformation Fund led by Northumbria PCC Vera Baird.

The £7m scheme aims to develop knowledge and criminal justice support, improve partnership working with family courts, and enhance multi agency safeguarding for victims and perpetrators.

In Cleveland, a team of experts has been established to develop how police and the court system handle domestic abuse cases, and to identify what improvements should be made.

One innovation is the appointment of North East theatre company Open Clasp, who will use their critically acclaimed play Rattle Snake to deliver drama-based training to police officers and staff on coercive controlling behaviour. 

The training, expected to begin in September, is delivered in conjunction with local specialist domestic abuse services and 98% of police officers from other Forces who have taken part have reported improved knowledge of coercive control. Last week the company also trained over 200 council staff, social workers, GPs, service providers and support workers in Redcar. 

Coercive controlling behaviour was formally introduced as a criminal offence at the end of 2015 and is the most common form of domestic abuse, often escalating over time into physical abuse. 

Examples of this type of abuse include victims being deliberately isolated from family and friends by perpetrators, or being deliberately belittled and intimidated as a means of controlling them. Victims may also have their finances controlled or restricted by the perpetrator.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “The very aim of the ‘Whole System Approach’ project is to offer a more joined up and comprehensive service for victims of domestic abuse in Cleveland, by working closely with the Force and other agencies across the area.

“Appointing Open Clasp to deliver training on coercive control is just one example of the wide range of exciting work underway to transform the way domestic abuse cases are investigated, handled and processed through the court system.

“Giving police officers a better understanding of the crimes they are investigating is central to this work and I’m confident that this hard-hitting play with help them recognise the danger of coercive control.”

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Barker, said: “Tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for the Force.

“We’re open to using innovative tools and techniques to help officers support victims and address offending.

“The training is designed to help officers deepen their knowledge, especially of newer offences such as coercive control and to continue to better protect victims and effectively deal with perpetrators  – in line with our pledge on domestic abuse.”

Catrina McHugh MBE, Artistic Director of Open Clasp Theatre Company said:  “At Open Clasp our mission is to change the world one play at a time. Our latest play, Rattle Snake, was developed to train police officers and it is now also touring theatres and community venues around the UK. 

“Before it became a professional touring production, Rattle Snake was created by Open Clasp to train frontline police officers so it's fantastic to be able to support police in Cleveland to tackle domestic violence and help to make a real difference to the lives of families there.”


Posted on Thursday 7th June 2018
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