POLICE officers will be given greater expertise to deal with stalkers and perpetrators of domestic violence in a new plan unveiled by Northumbria's first Police and Crime Commissioner.
Vera Baird has announced that the region will take the lead in a new national strategy she has written on how to curb violence against women.
The new approach will see a lead specialist appointed to deliver a reformed domestic violence strategy and extra training for neighbourhood police officers and specialist protection units on sexual and stalking crimes.
Following a Northumbrian pilot, the plan could be adopted by all Labour commissioners across the country – including County Durham and Cleveland.
The former MP for Redcar, who previously chaired an All Party Parliamentary Group on domestic and sexual violence, said: “There is a five-pledge plan which I drafted for all the police and crime candidates in the country taken on by all the Labour crime commissioning candidates.
“The first one is to give it a priority in the policing and crime plan. To set up a violence-against-women strategy, to deal with it across the board, domestic violence, sexual violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, prostitution, trafficking and so on and to implement that by appointing a dedicated extra person to implement it within the first year.
“That’s the biggest and strongest of those pledges.”
The plan includes ensuring specialist domestic violence and public protection units within the police service are supported while maintaining an existing network of independent advisers and advocates to women survivors of violence.
She also wants commissioners to support early intervention to tackle violence against women and girls by working with schools, local authorities and community-based organisations to change attitudes and behaviour.
A final pledge is piloting a preventative policing project to promote the active monitoring and management of serial perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence, and stalking.
Ms Baird said: “Two women a week still die from violence inflicted on them in the home despite all that we’ve done to try and curb that.
“When I was in Government we had a large number of women MPs who focused for the first time very strongly on domestic and sexual violence. That focus has helped cut crime.
“There is much more to do.”
Between 2010 and 2011, over 28,000 incidences of domestic abuse were reported to police in the Northumbria Force area.
In the same year, only 3,000 people were prosecuted by the authorities, leading to just 2,264 convictions.
Earlier this year, Newcastle City Council revealed the growing problem is already costing taxpayers more than £30m a year.
Northumbria Force’s area also sees more ‘high risk’ victims of domestic violence than neighbouring councils, with an average of 50 cases each month, up from 30 in 2007.
Ms Baird’s expertise in domestic abuse stems from years as a criminal barrister and working as the Government’s Solicitor General.
She is also co-director of feminist organisation Astraea: Gender Justice, which carries out research into policy, law and practice and its impact on women in the justice system in England and Wales.
For the Labour party she also chairs the Women’s Safety Commission which researches the status of services which safeguard the personal safety of women.