IN AN age when organisations are under increasing pressure to share information about potentially dangerous offenders, Wales Probation service is already ahead of the curve.

Claire’s Law, which gives people the right to ask the police for information about their partner, is being piloted in Gwent, and the unique Domestic Abuse Conference Call takes place daily in Gwent among probation, police, social services, health, women’s aid and housing associations.

“Every time the police get called to a domestic abuse incident there is a log and all of those logs are discussed first thing in the morning between all agencies,”

explained Wales Probation team manager Diana Binding, who works in Newport.

“We have always been able to contact the police and ask for information but that can take a week or two. Now we have realtime information.”

Wales Probation, whose priorities include public protection, reducing re-offending, the effect of crimes on victims and rehabilitation, was created in 2010 by merging four services and now has five offices across Gwent.

They work with offenders on community orders, those on licence following release from prison, and as part of the Intensive Alternative to Custody (IDAP) programme.

The IDAP comprises 27 sessions over nine months, adding up to 81 hours of intensive group work.

The probation service puts women in touch with a women’s safety worker, carries out healthy relationships counselling and oneto- one supervision.

One of its main focuses is tackling the cause of domestic abuse, which costs £800 million a year in Wales, according to the Welsh Government’s White Paper on domestic violence from November 2012.

The abuse is less likely to be reported and women are assaulted on average 35 times before reporting it to the police.

Every week two women are killed by their partner or former partner, and 45 per cent of all female murders are by partners or former partners.

In fact, domestic abuse makes up 15 per cent of all violent crime, and the perpetrators come from all income levels and all ethnic groups, said Mrs Binding.

The myth is that domestic violence is linked to alcohol use or drugs, but most offenders do not use those.

It can be a one-off, but it is most commonly part of a pattern, part of an abusive power-and-control relationship, she said.

“No event should be seen as insignificant,” said Mrs Binding.

“It does escalate, that’s the type of offending it is.”

Working with victims and perpetrators gives Wales Probation a unique insight and opportunity to help women, particularly female offenders whose abuse has led them to crime, said fellow team manager Sian Thomas.

“In Gwent there are 262 offenders convicted of domestic abuse that we are working with, but the amount of people we work with you can’t put a figure on,” she said.

“The pattern of behaviour often comes out through working with them for something else. Our staff have to be skilled and experienced in working with perpetrators and victims.

“We have got to pick up patterns of behaviour to assess risk.”

Trained probation staff sit with offenders and often hear stories of violence involving cigarette burns, suffocation, and many different types of abuse.

“They are sometimes the hardest people to work with because they can bring a lot of that aggression to the room,” said Mrs Thomas.

The Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a similar process to the daily conference call but involves the most serious cases and more action can be taken.

Five local meetings – Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Newport and Blaenau Gwent – take place each week, chaired by Gwent Police, so offenders and those working with probation can be assessed for risk with the full range of information available.

“If someone has re-offended we can recall them to prison if they’re on licence,” said Mrs Binding.

“We work with our offenders on a human level, but we are not a soft option.”