Women in England and Wales are still more at risk of crime in their own homes than anywhere else, the Director of Public Prosecutions said in a speech today entitled ‘Domestic Violence: the facts, the issues, the future’.
Speaking at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) headquarters in central London, Keir Starmer QC said domestic violence is a “serious and pernicious” form of crime and that while much progress has been made in prosecuting offenders in recent years, police and prosecutors must do more to tackle it. Recent statistics show that nearly one million women are abused every year, two are killed every week by partners or ex-partners and more than half of all victims of serious sexual assaults have been attacked by partners or ex-partners.
Figures also show that young women between the ages of 16 and 19 are the most at risk of domestic abuse (12.7% according to the British Crime Survey). Mr Starmer said: “What that tends to show is that there may be a next generation of domestic violence waiting in the wings.
“Domestic violence is serious and pernicious. It ruins lives, breaks up families and has a lasting impact. It is criminal. And it has been with us for a very long time, yet is only in the last 10 years that it has been taken seriously as a criminal justice issue.
“Some good progress has now undoubtedly been made since those administering criminal justice woke up to domestic violence… These statistics are shocking and demonstrate that women are still more at risk of crime at home than anywhere else.
“Although greatly reduced, the refrain ‘It’s just a domestic’ is still heard far too frequently. The steps that we and our criminal justice partners are taking to tackle domestic violence risk limited success unless this complacency is tackled head on. A change in attitude is clearly needed.”
He added: “The entire criminal justice system has taken some great strides in recent years, including the training of all prosecutors in handling domestic violence cases; the setting up of specialist courts; and the creation of independent advisors for victims. We have seen the conviction rate for domestic violence offences rise from 49% in 2002 to 72% today, but domestic violence is still endemic in our society and we must take further steps to stop it.
“Gritty problems persist in the prosecution of domestic violence. Over 6,500 domestic violence cases failed in 2009-10 because the victim either failed to attend court or retracted their evidence. We prepare our cases with this knowledge and, if needed, we can issue a witness summons. But such summonses should be the last resort – it is far better to proceed on the basis of other evidence and ensure the victim has been made aware of the available specialist support services.”
To that end, the CPS will be working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to produce guidance for police officers and prosecutors across England and Wales on what evidence should be gathered and provided to the CPS in every domestic violence case. Where police and prosecutors are already using this best practice when gathering and using evidence, convictions rates have increased significantly. For example in Suffolk, the conviction rate is 84% – 12% above the average.
Mr Starmer said: “We need to be sure that we are applying best practice everywhere and consistently – for example police routinely supplying the CPS with 999 recordings and photographs of victims and crime scenes immediately after the offending has occurred.
“Gathering all of the right evidence at the right time can have a substantial impact on the likelihood of securing a conviction. Building a robust case on evidence leaves offenders with little option but to plead guilty and reduces the opportunity to apply pressure on victims to retract allegations. We have seen in Suffolk that gathering the right evidence at the right time produces clear results.”
Chief Constable Carmel Napier, ACPO lead for domestic abuse, said: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with the CPS to develop best practice guidance for the police and the CPS in relation to evidence gathering and sharing in the prosecution of domestic abuse incidents. Not only will this improve the conviction rate for perpetrators of domestic violence, and make victims safer, it will enable our officers to ensure that appropriate evidence is collated and shared with our CPS colleagues in a way that supports getting it right in the first instance. Building this confidence and mainstreaming this approach with our officers and CPS colleagues will strengthen the prosecution approach to domestic abuse incidents.”
Over the last five years Skyguard has enjoyed a close working relationship with our Police customers across the UK, allowing us to gain a deep understanding of how they operate. We’ve visited their control rooms and they’ve visited our Incident Management Centre in order to exchange knowledge and develop best practices. Drawing from this vast experience has led us to be recognised within the industry as the leading provider of personal safety alarms to UK Police forces. Our service is trusted and proven in use with over half the UK’s police constabularies, we’ve protected over 4,000 high risk victims, and as result, this has led to many successful convictions.
If you would like discuss further how Skyguard can provide effective protection for your Constabulary’s domestic abuse victims, please call us on 0845 0360 999 or click here to use our Contact Form.