Children have 'started attacking parents during lockdown'

Victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird says frustrated teenagers have started attacking their parents as anti-social behaviour spikes during Covid-19 lockdown

  • Dame Vera Baird was speaking to MPs on Commons Justice Committee today
  • Has been speaking to representatives of victims’ services around the country
  • She revealed that ‘there were some real features emerging’ during the lockdown
  • Among them was ‘a big uptake in help for dealing with anti-social behaviour’
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Frustrated teenagers have started attacking their parents as complaints of anti-social behaviour grow during lockdown, the Victims’ Commissioner has said.

Dame Vera Baird told MPs on the Commons Justice Committee there has been ‘quite a big spike’ in calls about anti-social behaviour during the coronavirus outbreak.    

She has been speaking to representatives of victims’ services around the country on a weekly basis to gather information on who is being affected by crime amid the pandemic.

Although the information was anecdotal and not based on data, and crime had dropped overall, ‘there were some real features emerging’, she said.

Among them is ‘some suggestion’ of domestic abuse by older children against their parents during the lockdown, Dame Vera said.

Dame Vera Baird told MPs on the Commons Justice Committee there has been ‘quite a big spike’ in calls about anti-social behaviour during the coronavirus outbreak

She told MPs: ‘So this is a newer kind of domestic abuse which is probably suggestive of kids wanting to go out and not being allowed to. We are talking teenagers.

‘That, I think, is a worry and there’s a sense in which there’s a spike likely to emerge of this kind of domestic abuse complaining which is just coming through now.’

Dame Vera also told the Commons Justice Committee: ‘There’s quite a big uptake in help for dealing with anti-social behaviour.

‘It looks like, if I can put it this way, people are getting more frustrated and slightly angrier at things like noise nuisance, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given what’s going on.

‘But that is a big upturn, quite a big spike in calls about anti-social behaviour.’

Earlier this month, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said reports of anti-social behaviour had risen by 59 per cent during lockdown.

There had been an overall drop in levels of crime in England and Wales in the four weeks to April 12 of 28 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Regarding domestic violence, Dame Vera said: ‘Calls to the helplines have rocketed, complaints to the police have not gone up commensurately but complaints to victims’ services clearly have.

‘There are real worries about access to any help if you are locked down with the perpetrator in the next room.’

Victims’ services were also receiving high numbers of calls about welfare, she added.

Dame Vera told the committee: ‘Victims’ services are getting quite a lot of welfare-related calls – so about not having enough food, not being on Universal Credit, not having enough money, they’ve lost their job, as if people are having to resort to a friendly face and they’ve been victims of crime before.

‘They are asking for stuff which the victims’ services can’t answer.’

Dame Vera said calls to domestic violence helplines have ‘rocketed’. Victims’ services were also receiving high numbers of calls about welfare, she added

She has been working with Citizens’ Advice to try to make sure people are pointed towards the right support services.

When asked about victims’ experiences in court, Dame Vera said the ‘massive backlog’ of cases, particularly in Crown Courts, was ‘just going to get longer and longer’.

She told of incidents where victims had not found out until the very last minute their case had been delayed or they had not been notified about a cancellation and were being given unrealistic dates for adjournments, while some were confused about rules on attending court or if their health could be in danger.

Dame Vera added: ‘There’s a whole lot of confusion and chaos and the difficulty is, of course, we suspect that victims won’t stick at it and they won’t support if it doesn’t sort itself out fairly soon, so I think it’s bad for victims, I think it’s bad for the system.’

It comes after campaigners earlier in the month said soaring levels of domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown had led to at least 16 killings.

Karen Ingala Smith, the founder of Counting Dead Women, which records the number of women killed by men in Britain, said there had been at least 16 killings between March 23 and April 12. 

Dame Vera told MPs at at an earlier Commons Justice Committee: ‘Counting Dead Women has got to a total of 16 domestic abuse killings in the last three weeks. 

‘We usually say there are two a week, that looks to me like five a week, that’s the size of this crisis.’

Last week it was revealed that Metropolitan Police officers are arresting an average of 100 people a day for domestic violence offences during the lockdown.

The force said that charges and cautions were up 24 per cent from March 9, when people with Covid-19 symptoms were asked to self-isolate, compared to last year.

Commander Sue Williams said domestic incidents, which can include family rows not recorded as crimes, were up 3 per cent year on year and 9 per cent between March 9 and April 19, although offences were up just 2 per cent in the virus period.

There have been two domestic-related murders recorded in London as police continue to warn of an increased risk of abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.

Metropolitan Police Commander Sue Williams (pictured in London in 2017) said domestic incidents were up 3 per cent year on year and 9 per cent between March 9 and April 19

‘We are seeing a rise, there’s no doubt about that, and we welcome that because we will take positive action against any perpetrators,’ Ms Williams said.

‘We are arresting about 100 people a day for domestic offences, which I think is pretty amazing, even given all the challenges we have in London.’

She said police officers were finding it ‘much easier’ to arrest suspects, who are either at home during the coronavirus lockdown or with family members or friends.

‘If you’re a domestic abuse suspect, we want them charged, cautioned or bailed,’ she said.

‘Our charges and our cautions are up 24 per cent on last year, and that’s in the Covid-19 period. So, we are charging more people. 

‘It will be a mixture of charges and cautions, but mainly charges because we don’t like cautioning and the CPS don’t like cautioning people for domestic abuse.

‘So, they have definitely gone up. If we have to bail someone, we bail them with conditions.’

Ms Williams told reporters success stories included a pregnant woman in east London who called police for help.

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