Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:51 UK

Caution over domestic abuse alarm

Wendy Thomas
Wendy Thomas was murdered by former partner Neil Morrison in June

An organisation which helps women suffering domestic abuse says it has concerns over a new alarm scheme being used for the first time in Wales.

Welsh Women's Aid welcomes the Telecare scheme piloted on Anglesey, but it is worried the use of operators speaking to sufferers will stop women using it.

Victims press an alarm alerting staff who decide if they should call police.

Anglesey council said calls would be recorded and the service would be expanded if it proved successful.

The 12-month scheme, funded by the local authority and the Home Office, is the first of its kind in Wales and will be initially used by domestic abuse victims who are assessed to be at high risk.

They are given alarms which if activated, trigger a silent telephone call to the Gofal Môn control centre in Llangefni.

The operator will speak to the victim via a telecom system fitted into their home and call the police on their behalf if necessary.

If a person uses it while the situation is occurring the person in the call centre would be able to hear what is going on and call the police
Lowri Ann Roberts, Anglesey domestic abuse co-ordinator

Domestic violence accounts for a quarter of all violent crime in the UK. One in two female murder victims are killed by their male partners often an on-going abusive relationship.

Wendy Thomas, a 40-year-old nurse from Brackla in Bridgend, was one of the most recent victims in Wales. She was murdered in her home in June. The body of her ex-partner Neil Morrison was later found in his home just a few miles away.

Anglesey Domestic Abuse co-ordinator Lowri Ann Roberts said: "We hope the new scheme will provide safety and much needed assurance to many victims.

"They can remain within their own homes and communities knowing that assistance is readily at hand 24-hours a day."

Ms Roberts said operators would speak over the telecom to the person to check they were okay.

"If a person uses it while the situation is occurring the person in the call centre would be able to hear what is going on and call the police," she said.

"It is an extra security measure and it keeps a record of any incidents that have happened."

It is hoped the service might be expanded if it proves to be successful in reducing levels of domestic violence in Anglesey.

999 call

Welsh Women's Aid said the new service had the potential to transform the lives of women and children by giving them the option of staying in their home.

It said a similar system had been in use in Scotland from as early as 2003 and the reports about it were positive.

But it said it had worries over the use of the operator because it might make women less inclined to make full use of the service.

"In Scotland a completely silent call is generated from the alarm and the operator does not speak, they listen in to what is happening in the house and the call is recorded for use as evidence," said a spokeswoman.

"This is so that the perpetrator is not alerted to the call and the risk of the escalation of violence is minimised.

"Each activation of the alarm is treated the same as a 999 call, unless the woman expressly states that it is not an emergency.

"Even then the police will still make a face-to-face visit to check everything is ok.

"It seems that in Anglesey the operators will speak to the woman and decide if the police need to be summoned.

"That can be a very difficult judgement to make at the end of the phone line."

The new Telecare system is to be launched at the Anglesey show.

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