THE number of arrests made by Hampshire police over controlling behaviour in relationships has almost trebled in the past three years, according to new figures.

The statistics, released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show the force made more than 350 arrests made over allegations of controlling or coercive behaviour in 2018.

The figure is almost three times higher than in 2016.

Both police and anti-abuse campaigners say the figures show an improvement in the use of the law, which was first introduced in 2015.

But charity bosses have also raised concerns over the number of abuse cases dropped following arrest.

Figures show police took formal action against less than 10 per cent of those arrested for the offence between 2016 and 2018.

And charity chiefs say this is putting abuse survivors at “serious risk”.

Lucy Hadley, campaigns and public affairs manager at Women’s Aid, said: “We are pleased to see that Hampshire police force has improved its response to this crime with an increase in the numbers of arrests year-on-year.

“It shows that the force is taking this crime seriously and that any investment in specialist training has helped to improve the police response when survivors reach out.

“However, we are concerned that the majority of these arrests are continuing to result in no further action being taken. This can leave survivors and their children at serious risk.

“The police and the CPS must work hand-in-hand to make sure that the necessary evidence is gathered in cases of coercive control, to ensure that arrest, charges and prosecutions are not solely reliant on the victim’s testimony at a time when they are living in extreme fear.”

The FOI figures reveal Hampshire Constabulary made a total of 668 arrests over allegations of controlling and abusive behaviour in relationships between 2016 and 2018. Of those, 355 were made in 2018.

Just 34 of those arrests resulted in formal action being taken.

That figure is almost six times as many as the six formal action cases in 2016 – when police made more than 120 arrests.

Police say more than half of the cases were dropped due to victims not wanting to support a prosecution.

Sergeant Debbie Ashthorpe, from Hampshire Constabulary, said: “As a force we have always been very proactive in improving our response to all domestic abuse-related offences, including control and coercion.

“We are not complacent to the complexities and challenges that we face when investigating and prosecuting domestic abuse.

“These can be very lengthy investigations and there is myriad of reasons why an investigation may not lead to a formal outcome.

“As the figures show, almost half of arrests made result in no formal action due to the victim not supporting a prosecution.

“There are of course times when we pursue victimless prosecutions, but this may not always been in the best interests of the victim.

“We continue to encourage anyone that has been affected by this type of abuse, or knows someone who is being abused, to contact police.”