Tis the season to be jolly - but an investigation has revealed the crimes that make Christmas anything but merry for many families.
Festive family fallouts resulted in around a third of all Christmas Day 999 calls to Thames Valley Police, with many centering around heartbreaking cases of domestic abuse.
And while most people spend their big day tucking into turkey and watching the Queen’s speech, our police probe has revealed the region’s boys in blue spent last December 25 investigating sexual assaults, missing people and drug dealing.
But our investigation under the Freedom of Information act reveals the shocking scope of domestic violence which ruins Christmas Day for so many families.
Milton Keynes has been crowned the Christmas crime capital of Thames Valley.
In total there were 58 crimes committed there, almost double that of second place Reading.
However, Christmas is also seemingly the season to forgive and forget with police taking no further action in the vast majority of cases.
Just under one in ten crimes ended up in court, with police not taking any action in around a quarter of cases.
And, a year on, police are still investigating 83 of them.
“Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, a time of generosity, a time of caring. But for too many women and children, the 25th December will be yet another day of living with fear, intimidation and violence.”
Those are the words of Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, who said that for some women and children, Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time due to domestic violence.
She was speaking after our probe revealed the force dealt with a case of domestic abuse on average nearly every 15 minutes in Thames Valley.
“Some police forces see increases in reports of domestic violence incidents at Christmas. This may be because many police forces run high profile awareness campaigns around Christmas time,” added Sandra.
“It can be very difficult for a woman experiencing domestic violence to access support during the festive period – a period when her abusive partner may be spending more time at home and monitoring her behavior more closely than ever.
“Domestic violence is an abuse of power – it is the repeated, habitual use of violence and intimidation to control another person. We cannot blame domestic violence on Christmas, alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress, money worries or ill health. These are just excuses for an abuser’s behaviour”.
Two women a week are killed nationally as a direct result of domestic violence, while one in four women will be subjected to it during their lives.
According to Sandra, for some, domestic abuse is part of their whole lives - not just something experienced over Christmas. She added: “The police should be encouraging women to reach out for support every day of the year, not just at Christmas.”
Our investigation is designed to show just what our region’s police have to deal with when on-duty on Christmas.
Violent crimes such as assaults were rife last Christmas, as were cases of criminal damage.
But several Thames Valley Christmases were ruined by burglars, with four home break-ins investigated by the force while several other buildings were raided and 15 other thefts reported.
“As we do our Christmas shopping, gather our gifts and leave our homes to visit family and friends, it can provide opportunities for thieves,” said Detective Inspector Andy Shearwood, from Thames Valley’s force crime strategy unit.
His force have released a set of tips to help prevent Christmas burglaries, while the force has also launched a crackdown on Christmas drink driving.
It comes after our probe revealed 11 incidents of drink driving were investigated on Christmas Day alone last year.
The force has this year launched a ‘Where will you end up tonight?’ campaign, which has so far resulted in 111 men and 24 women arrested.
Road Safety Sgt Chris Appleby said: “Unfortunately, as we can see from the number of arrests made, some people are still making the wrong choices, deciding to drink or drug-drive when there are alternatives available. And these are just the people we catch.
“Drink-driving is dangerous and it kills or seriously injures many people each year, devastating families.”
Our investigation revealed that Thames Valley Police dealt with 316 crimes on Christmas Day last year.
That figure equates to roughly one every four minutes, one of the highest figures nationally, while the force will have fielded hundreds more 999 and 101 calls for routine incidents like car shunts.
“People seem to think that because it’s Christmas, the world just stops and that includes crime,” said a police source.
“But as you can see, it’s just like any other day in terms of what we have to deal with. In many ways it is worse because you have that cocktail of drink and family which is often the fuel behind so much crime.
“And because it’s Christmas, it’s usually the day you get some of the weirdest crimes of the year.”
Around the country these include everything from Christmas trees being used as weapons to a man shooting his brother in the backside.