THE newly-elected police and crime commissioner for County Durham has pledged to make tackling domestic abuse one of his top priorities, winning him praise from a local women’s refuge.

Ron Hogg, who was elected as Labour commissioner for County Durham last month, said he would make community engagement, domestic abuse and hate crime his top three issues during his term of office.

Mr Hogg’s commitment to raising the profile of domestic abuse against both genders, but particularly crimes against women and girls, has won him the backing of Family Help, a charity that helps women and families across Darlington and South Durham.

Susan Degnan, manager of the charity, said Mr Hogg’s high profile could be vital to helping victims of domestic abuse get the support they deserve, as well as raising attention about the work of women’s refuges and charities.

Mr Hogg, who started his police career as a beat officer before rising to senior positions in both Durham and Cleveland Police, said: “For a long time, going back to the early 90s, I recognised just how serious the issue of domestic abuse is.

“Right throughout my career domestic abuse policy is something I’ve had a focus on. The view I’ve always taken is this – I might get assaulted in the middle of the street, but I don’t have to go home with the person who hit me. It’s about power and abuse of that power.

“It’s one of the most insidious and worst crimes out there and it’s a crime that is not easily reported. Most victims go through about 40 incidents before they contact the police for the first time.”

Mr Hogg said that up to 20 per cent of 999 calls are related to domestic abuse, and that one third of all calls received by Durham Police involve domestic violence.

For Susan Degnan, whose organisation is gearing up for one of its busiest periods, the support of someone like Mr Hogg is vital.

She said: “We’ve invited Mr Hogg to a meeting of all the different agencies across the area that work together to tackle domestic abuse and help victims and families. Having someone like him speak out about domestic abuse will be great and we are keen to hear how he will implement it.”

For advice, support and emergency help over the Christmas period, contact one of the organisations below: - Domestic abuse helpline: 01325-364486 - Rape Crisis (Darlington and Durham): 01325-354119 - Sanctuary Housing (outreach support, Darlington only): 01325-463141 - The Harbour Agency: 0845-6027308 - Victim Support: 0191-2810491 - LGBT support: 01325-355551 - Samaritans: 01325-465465 - National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808-2000-247 - My Sister’s Place, Middlesbrough (not 24 hours): 01642-241864 - Domestic Abuse Outreach – Durham: 0191-375-3689