Hampshire Constabulary’s top cop has defended the force’s disappointing performance in its latest inspection, during an event in Aldershot .

The force’s rating of “requires improvement” was tackled when Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane held Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney to account in a public meeting at Aldershot Library on Tuesday (April 4).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary had criticised Hampshire Police for having the lowest arrest rate in the country for domestic abuse reports , saying its performance in protecting vulnerable people had “deteriorated”.

Ch Insp Pinkney said the arrest rate in domestic abuse cases was around 42% but that international policing data suggested that a rate of around 50% was “about right”.

“I absolutely agree this needs to improve, but arrest in every case is not the right answer,” she said. “I expect the arrest rate to nudge higher, but not by that much.

“HMIC said we are good at identifying victims of crime, and when we do prosecute in domestic abuse cases we have a very successful conviction rate.

“I want to reassure people that they can report domestic abuse.

“Those who ask for our help are very pleased with the response they receive, in terms of what we do ourselves and in signposting them to other agencies.”

Ch Insp Pinkney said domestic abuse cases highlighted a general shift in the nature of crime from happening in public to happening in private, which accounted for people’s feelings that there was less visible policing.

She said far fewer crimes happened in plain sight, such as drunken violence, and many more were “hidden” such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and online fraud.

“Even 10 years ago it was our job to deal with the things that came to us, but now it is our duty to find those hidden crimes,” she said.

“That shift in the nature of crime affects where we put our resources. Some of the serious things we deal with, the public don’t know about.

“The risk has changed and we need to put our people where they need to be to meet it. There’s a challenge for me to do more to make people aware of that.”

Asked about a serious assault on two police officers in Aldershot in February , the chief inspector revealed that one of the officers who needed hospital treatment was about to return to work.

She said the morale and safety of Hampshire’s officers “matter enormously” and that was why they were regularly issued with new equipment such as Tasers and spit guards.

Police officers are expected to move towards danger , not away from it, to keep the public safe,” she said. “We take that duty seriously and we are honoured to do it.

“It’s my job to make sure they have the equipment and training to do their duty. Assaults on our officers are unacceptable and we take them extremely seriously.

“Morale in the constabulary was low two years ago. It is better now, but there is more still to do.”