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Tagged In:  Criminal Justice

Many would have listened with bated breath to The Archers’ recent dramatic storyline, in which Helen Titchener stabbed her husband Rob after suffering long-term domestic abuse. It’s a plot that has captured the imagination of its listeners – so much so that more than £170,000 has been raised for women and children’s charity Refuge through the Helen Titchener Rescue Fund. 

While Helen’s story is fictional, newly-released statistics from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show a dramatic rise in the number of domestic abuse prosecutions. In 2015-16, almost 101,000 prosecutions were secured in domestic abuse cases, the highest volume ever recorded. Around 83 per cent of the victims in these cases were women. Prosecutions for violence against women and girls in the same year stood at just over 117,500, again the most ever recorded by the CPS. 

Managing the impact of social media

The recent report also outlines the service’s updated social media guidelines, which incorporate the new and emerging domestic abuse crimes being committed online. According to the report, the use of social media platforms, emails, text messages, smartphone apps and even spyware and GPS tracking software is increasing, with the aim of humiliating, controlling and threatening victims. This includes a growing trend of creating false online profiles and websites set up in victims’ names, sharing false and damaging information about them. 

Coercive behaviour

Elsewhere, prosecutors have been successful in securing convictions under newly-enshrined legislation. Since its implementation in April 2015, there have been more than 200 so-called revenge pornography prosecutions; again indicative of the growing number of offences being committed through social media. Similarly, five prosecutions were secured under new controlling and coercive behaviour legislation – the kind of domestic abuse suffered by Helen Titchener. These convictions were made between the law’s introduction in December 2015 and March 2016. 

A reported drop in completed DV programmes

Of course, prosecutions are just part of the story when it comes to dealing with the perpetrators of domestic abuse. Initiatives such as the accredited Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme aim to rehabilitate offenders through group work where they are encouraged to change their behaviour. Regular sessions are centred on identifying the beliefs and attitudes which underpin violence and abuse, and teaching participants how to cope with their feelings in difficult situations.  

Yet, it’s concerning that in the same timeframe, NOMS reported a 19% drop in community domestic violence programme completions between 2009/10 and 2015/16, and in the 12 months leading up to July 2016, a 26% drop. 

A worrying trend

This is concerning for a number of reasons, not least because 46% of women in prison are survivors of domestic abuse and 53% report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse during childhood. 

As reported in the government’s Ending Violence against Women and Girls 2016-2020 strategy, “The proportion of female prisoners that report experiencing some form of abuse during their childhood is twice as high as among male prisoners with many reporting that their offending was to support their partner or someone else’s substance misuse”.

Currently, less than 1% of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention. This the government says is because the evidence base for offender healthcare professionals and probation officers to follow for perpetrator interventions “has been mixed”, which has driven down the number of completed programmes in recent years. The plan, over the next four years, is to give local areas more flexibility to draw upon a growing evidence base to help tackle the root cause of abuse. 

As the government pushes on with its aim to introduce more specialist interventions, we would like to know what you think. Is enough being done to encourage more specialist interventions or perhaps you are involved in trialing a new approach? Either way, we would like to hear from you.  
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