Harriet Harman, the Solicitor General, called for a culture change in police attitudes to domestic violence yesterday after figures showed forces were failing to record more than half of such crimes reported to them.
Two official watchdogs have uncovered serious inconsistencies in the way police forces and prosecutors handled the incidents.
The study, conducted jointly by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, found that arrest rates for domestic violence incidents varied greatly between forces, from 13 to 63 per cent.
A quarter of incidents sampled, 118 out of 463, were recorded as a crime by police, but inspectors estimated that the total should have been more than double, at 260.
Ms Harman, who commissioned the report, said action was needed to ensure that operations by police, prosecutors and the courts reflected the wider policy. "What we need is a really big culture change; to end the attitude that 'Oh, it's only a domestic'," she said.
Assistant Chief Constable Jim Gamble, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said there was a "necessity to drastically improve our crime recording processes".
Police receive a domestic violence call every minute on average, and two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. The Government is bringing forward a domestic violence Bill to Parliament.