GREATER Manchester police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd has praised Bolton’s Fortalice and Safe Haven for offering a “lifeline for victims of domestic violence”.

Mr Lloyd was speaking after a visit to the town’s refuge for women and children.

He came to Lewis House, the refuge run by Fortalice, in the week that a damning report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary stated that thousands of people were at risk of harm or even murder because of widespread police failure in this field.

Greater Manchester Police was one of three forces specifically criticised, with police accused of unacceptable weaknesses, despite domestic abuse being linked to eight per cent of crimes and police chiefs saying abuse was a priority.

In Bolton, Fortalice has been working with police, with training and co-operation during the past year in particular, and had invited Mr Lloyd along to see the refuge’s work for himself.

Carole Marsden from Safe Haven, the local advocacy project for women recovering from domestic violence, was also on hand to show how the two organisations worked together for local people.

Gill Smallwood, director of services for Fortalice, said that it had been a “very worthwhile visit”.

She felt that Mr Lloyd had been given “the opportunity to see the excellent services Bolton has to offer”.

Mr Lloyd said domestic abuse was “far more widespread than many people assume” with at least one in four women experiencing some form of abuse during their lives.

“Men are also affected,” he added. “Thirteen per cent of victims in Greater Manchester are male, although this percentage is likely to be significantly lower than the actual incidence.

“This destructive crime takes far more lives than is realised, and a significant part of the problem is that victims simply suffer in silence.”

He said that organisations such as Fortalice and Safe Haven offered services which give people the confidence to reach out and gain the appropriate help when and where it is needed.

Mr Lloyd added: “These organisations are a vital lifeline for victims of domestic violence and the many children who are also affected. I have been impressed time and time again by the work and dedication shown by those who work for and on behalf of the likes of Fortalice and Safe Haven.

“I once again encourage victims of domestic violence to come forward and seek the appropriate help that’s available. Fortalice and Safe Haven do exactly what the entire criminal justice needs to do with its approach to domestic abuse — putting the victim at the heart.”