FOOTBALL COMING HOME?
So, the World Cup is underway. Russia, the unfancied hosts, have won two matches and qualified for the next round. Christiano Ronaldo has already scored four goals and, wonder upon wonders, England defeated Tunisia in their first match. The back - and some front - pages of the newspapers were effusive on Tuesday morning.
Last Friday there was a very different World Cup news story. The BBC reported that Hampshire Police are to deploy dedicated response cars to deal with domestic abuse after England’s World Cup matches. An extra five vehicles and ten extra officers will be on duty on match-days.
The BBC quoted Chief Inspector Mike Haines:-
“We know the tournament leads to an increase in both alcohol-related violence and domestic abuse. These additional officers will....spend more time with victims of abuse and help them with safeguarding.”
Hampshire is my home County and I have had many dealings with the police there - my professional background is as a lawyer! For a number of years I was a Duty Solicitor, on call to attend local police stations at all times of the day and night. My role was to provide advice and assistance to otherwise unrepresented defendants. Domestic violence cases comprised a startlingly high proportion of call-outs.
Football is not, of course, the reason behind domestic abuse. Alcohol, however, certainly seems to play a significant role. When on call, after being notified that I had a client, my first telephone call to the Bridewell (Custody Centre) would often result in me being informed that the arrested person was ‘in drink’. This meant that there would be a delay in the formal police process until he - it was almost always a ‘he’ - had sobered up enough to be interviewed. When I did get to meet my client I lost count of the number of times that he would tell me that he had had ‘a bit to drink’ - and every time I had to explain that the presence of alcohol was an aggravating not a mitigating factor.
The seriousness of domestic abuse cannot be underestimated. It is rightly being taken increasingly seriously by the UK Government. Their consultation document entitled “Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse”, issued earlier this year, began with these words:
“All forms of violence and abuse are unacceptable, but it is particularly shocking when it is carried out by those who are supposedly closest to the victims and by those who profess to love the very people that they subject to terrible psychological, emotional and physical abuse. Domestic abuse impacts on victims' everyday lives, can feel inescapable and can have devastating inter-generational consequences on children.”
I love football. I watched Monday night’s match in a crowded City Centre pub and ‘whooped’ with everyone else when Harry Kane scored his 91st minute winner. Will 2018 be the year for heroes? The last time England won the World Cup was in 1966 - 52 ‘years of hurt’.
There are some more alarming statistics though. An estimated 26 per cent of women In England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. In the last year alone, 7.5 per cent of women (1.2 million) experienced domestic abuse.
And this. Research suggests that domestic abuse rises by up to 38% after England games. Hampshire Police are right to be concerned.
(Andrew is co-Director of Restored)