A senior police officer has called domestic abuse “terrorism on an epic scale”, as figures reveal a huge number of suspected violent criminals being released in the last two years.
Former chief superintendent John Sutherland described the crime as the “single greatest cause of harm in society” on BBC Newsnight.
He said: “I was a police officer for more than 25 years and I regard domestic violence as terrorism on an epic scale. It’s a disease of pandemic proportions.”
His comments came as Newsnight revealed that more than 93,000 suspected violent criminals and sex offenders – including people accused of rape and murder – have been released by police without any restrictions in the last two years.
At least 322,250 cases involved suspects being released under investigation (RUI) between April 2017 and October 2019, according to statistics obtained under freedom of information laws by the programme.
Of these cases, 93,098 involved allegations of crimes of violence against a person and sexual offences.
“I was a police officer for more than 25 years and I regard domestic violence as terrorism on an epic scale. It’s a disease on pandemic proportions.”— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) December 3, 2019
Fmr police chief superintendent John Sutherland says domestic abuse is “the single greatest cause of harm in society”#Newsnight pic.twitter.com/SoSQJmyUy3
The programme asked all 44 police forces in England and Wales to provide figures and just 20 responded – indicating that the correct figures are likely to be much higher.
Last month, the home secretary announced bail rules were to be reviewed amid mounting pressure to reconsider reforms brought in just two years ago.
Home secretary Priti Patel said the use of bail had decreased since 2017 and the number of RUIs had increased, adding: "Concerns have been raised that pre-charge bail is not consistently being used in instances where it may be necessary to effectively manage suspects and protect victims and witnesses.”
RUI is an alternative to bail introduced as part of reforms two years ago that sees suspects leave custody after an arrest without any restrictions while inquiries continue.
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The figures suggested at least 2,772 violent and sexual offences investigations remained as RUIs for at least a year.
Suspects on bail have to comply with conditions such as living at a certain address, not contacting particular people, or regularly visiting a police station.
But the law changed in April 2017, when Amber Rudd was home secretary, in a bid to limit the time someone spends on bail to 28 days to try to cut the number of people facing restrictions for long periods of time without being charged.
It instead offered police the chance to use RUI for an unlimited period of time.
Last year, Kay Richardson was murdered by her estranged husband Alan Martin after police released him under investigation.
He had a history of domestic abuse and she had reported him for rape.
Ms Richardson's mother Audrey Richardson, 77, of Sunderland, told Newsnight: "I wouldn't trust them to run a bath. Our law system in this country stinks.
"It absolutely stinks, the whole system needs an overhaul.”
Richard Miller, of the Law Society, told the programme it was "potentially a major scandal brewing”.
In April, the Centre for Women's Justice made a super complaint to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), a police watchdog, accusing forces of failing to use protective measures in cases of violence against females.
A month later, the "unintended consequences" of the reforms saw the National Police Chiefs' Council issue fresh guidance to forces and HMICFRS launch an overall inquiry into bail and RUI with Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.