World Cup domestic violence fears

This Is Lancashire: Charity Refuge is urging people who are victims of domestic abuse to reach out for help Charity Refuge is urging people who are victims of domestic abuse to reach out for help

The World Cup could spark a rise in domestic violence, police fear.

A number of forces around the UK have set up operations to identify potential abusers and limit the risk of attacks once the football tournament starts on Thursday.

Research suggests the threat of violence in the home increases during the competition, particularly when England play, in part because culprits drink more heavily.

Northumbria Police has launched a campaign called Kick Off, which will see dedicated vehicles on standby to respond to domestic violence alerts when Roy Hodgson's team are playing.

The force's Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: "It is well known that there's a tendency for incidents of domestic violence to increase during high profile sporting events, particularly as more alcohol is consumed. With this in mind, our police are using the competition to target offenders.

"There will be dedicated cars at each area command responding to domestic violence calls while England matches are played. High risk domestic violence offenders and those with links to football violence have been identified across the force area and officers will be paying special attention to them."

Specialist officers will be on duty to provide support to domestic violence victims and the campaign will be promoted on public transport, off licences, supermarkets and GP surgeries across the area.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have announced a similar initiative.

During the last World Cup in 2010 the force recorded 353 incidents of domestic abuse on the day England were knocked out by Germany.

Almost 6,000 calls were made to police - a 43% increase on the average number over a 24-hour period for a typical Sunday in June. North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) observed a similar spike, with a 34% increase in the number of assaults after England were eliminated.

Detective Chief Superintendent Vanessa Jardine, from GMP's Public Protection Division, said: "We want to make it clear to those offenders that this year' s event as with any sporting event will not be used as a way of justifying such abusive behaviour. As part of our policing plans during the games we will have specialist domestic abuse officers on duty at key times."

Derek Cartwright, of NWAS, urged fans to "drink sensibly".

He added: "In previous tournaments we have seen the combination of expectations, emotions, warm weather and alcohol consumption result in an increase in 999 calls for assaults."

As part of the campaign GMP released three audio clips of reports of domestic abuse.

In one call a distressed nine-year-old reporting an incident involving his parents can be heard screaming "come as soon as you can" and pleading "please help". The call was not made during a World Cup.

In Essex, police are putting on extra patrols during and after England's first match against Italy on Saturday night and have drawn up a list of 117 high-risk individiuals, the Guardian reported.

Research by academics at Lancaster University found that in one force area the risk of domestic abuse rose by 26% when England won or drew during the last three World Cups, while there was a 38% spike when the national team lost.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, said: "It's important to be clear - football does not cause domestic violence. Lots of men who abuse women have no interest in sport whatsoever, and many men who are avid football fans never lay a finger on their partners.

"Domestic violence happens all year round - whether the England football team is playing or not.

"Many forces run high profile awareness raising campaigns during key tournaments - so an increase in reports could reflect the fact that more women reach out for help because they are more aware of support. Football matches can also exacerbate existing abuse: violent men may choose to use match times to inflict further violence on their partners, blaming their actions on things like stress or alcohol.

"The police should be encouraging women to reach out for support every day of the year, not just during the World Cup."

National Policing Lead for Domestic Abuse, assistant chief constable Louisa Rolfe, said: " Analytical and academic work has shown that there is a propensity for an increase in domestic abuse during international football tournaments, usually heightened during match days.

"Police forces have planned their approach to preventing and tackling domestic abuse during the World Cup.

"The majority of forces will be working with local support services on campaigns to encourage victims to seek help and report abuse and send a strong message to perpetrators."

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