There were fewer domestic abuse offences recorded in Surrey last year, new figures show.

Women's Aid said urgent changes are needed to improve police responses to domestic abuse as many survivors are still hesitant to report it.

Home Office data shows 8,172 domestic abuse related crimes were recorded by Surrey Police in the year to March 2023. It is a fall from 8,952 offences the year before.

Of the domestic abuse-related offences in the area last year, 5.7% resulted in a charge or summons.

Police across England and Wales recorded 889,918 domestic abuse crimes last year. It is a slight increase on the year before and well above pre-pandemic levels.

Devon and Cornwall Police is not included in these figures because of issues with its supply of data following the implementation of new force IT systems.

Looking at the 31 forces that provided data on offence outcomes, just 6.8% of domestic abuse offences resulted in a charge or summons.

Lucy Hadley, head of policy at Women’s Aid, said the numbers are "incredibly concerning".

She said: "We know from working with survivors that some of the key reasons for not reporting domestic abuse are mistrust in police, especially in survivors being believed, and fears that action won’t be taken to hold the perpetrator accountable and keen women safe.

"The very low proportion of domestic abuse crimes which currently result in arrests and prosecutions, which continues the steep declines we’ve seen since 2016, remains highly concerning."

The figures show there were nearly 51,288 domestic abuse-related prosecutions across England and Wales last year, down from 53,207 in the year ending March 2022.

Ms Hadley added urgent changes are needed to improve police response to domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls.

"Everyone working in our justice system must receive specialist domestic abuse training, which focuses on coercive control, from organisations like Women’s Aid, to better understand the complexities of this crime and the needs of survivors," she said.

"It is only by working together that we can ensure that women and children live in a society in which domestic abuse is no longer tolerated."

The Office for National Statistics crime survey estimates 2.1 million people aged 16 years and over in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse last year. Roughly 65% of the victims are believed to be women.

In addition, women were nearly twice as likely to experience non-sexual partner abuse and five times as likely to experience any form of domestic sexual abuse compared to men.

Ellen Miller, interim CEO at Refuge, said demand for the support service's helpline remains incredibly high, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

She said: "It’s vital that we take seriously the very real threat that domestic abuse continues to pose to women throughout the country and recognise it as the serious crime that it is.

"The ONS data shows that there is still a huge misunderstanding about domestic abuse, with 17.5% of victim/survivors reporting that domestic abuse is 'just something that happens'."

She added increased awareness and funding of support services is needed to improve understanding about the crime.

Nationally, 5.1% of people aged 16 to 59 years were estimated by the ONS to have experienced domestic abuse, down from 6.1% in 2020.

A Home Office spokesperson said the Government has gone "further than ever" in protecting victims.

They said: "We have classified violence against women and girls as a national threat, setting clear expectations for how the police should respond, as well as providing funding for forces to complete specialist domestic abuse training."

They added the Government will continue to work with police and The Crown Prosecution Service.