ALL police officers in the South West including Gloucestershire now have new powers to help victims of domestic violence and abuse.

When an incident if domestic abuse is reported to the police but there is insufficient evidence to bring a charge, the suspect is currently released from custody, often without any restrictions on their movement.

But from today (Monday) under the new scheme, if there is concern a partner has been the subject of violence or the threat of violence and that risk remains, a 48-hour Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) can be authorised by a Superintendent before a suspect leaves custody.

This can result in banning them from returning to the victim’s address - which might also be their home - or the area around it and from molesting the victim.

The decision must then be referred to Cheltenham Magistrates Court which will decide if the notice should be turned into an order (DVPO), which can last between 14 and 28 days.

Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson from the Public Protection Bureau, Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: "At a time when victims are vulnerable and lack the confidence to pursue a criminal prosecution, the use of the DVPN/O allows officers to better safeguard individuals.

"DVPN/Os will also provide the victim the opportunity to engage with specialist services and the time and space to think things through in a safe environment without the fear of further threats or violence. "Perpetrators will be signposted to appropriate support agencies in an effort to prevent further re-offending."

The scheme was trialled in Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire over a 15 month period 2011/2012 and was then subject to Home Office evaluation.