Domestic Violence Prosecutions Fall By Over A Third In Some Regions

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The Law Of... domestic violence prosecutions

New figures from 30 police forces across england and wales show how some regions have recorded dramatically fewer charges than last year, with others increasing actions by over 50%.

The Law Of... domestic violence prosecutions

The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information, show significant variations in levels of charges across forces. Overall, 2,588 fewer people were charged with domestic violence offences in the first half of 2016 compared with that same period in 2015 – reversing previous years’ trends. But Northumbria Police bucked the trend and charged 295 more offenders than last year.

Overall, more than half of participating police forces saw a fall in domestic violence charges. Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Services at Simpson Millar has actively campaigned on the issue of domestic violence since 2012. She is concerned that the fall in charges might be a symptom of a cash-strapped support system.

She says: "For several years we have seen a steady rise in domestic violence charges which was largely attributed to an increase in public awareness and a change in the attitude within police forces to pro-actively tackle these cases. It is rather idealistic or hopeful to assume that we are witnessing a society-wide fall in instances of domestic violence, regardless of how much I wish that was true."

"Several police authorities have recorded a rise in the number of people charged with domestic violence offences, and I know that this is a real priority for many forces across the country. For victims of domestic abuse, being heard and recognised when coming forward and asking for help is absolutely essential, and the Police play a vital role in that regard."

Emma suggests that legal aid cuts are starting to filter through in terms of the number of people who have access to legal advice. She explains: "A cut in the legal aid budget has had a negative impact on the level of access people have to legal advice; this could now be having serious implications for abuse victims."

"My team of family lawyers and I always advise victims of domestic abuse to report it to the Police – even when it is a matter of coercive control and not yet physical violence. But in the past 12 months we have seen a marked fall in those cases which is reflected in the latest police statistics – with some regions showing a particularly significant drop in the number of people charged."

"In some police authority areas, the number of people charged has fallen by over a third from one year to the next. We urgently need to understand why this might be to make sure victims are not suffering in silence."

Emma, who is also Chair of domestic violence charity, Corporate Alliance, adds: "If there is a problem we need to resolve it and make sure the Police have the tools they need to bring perpetrators to justice and protect victims. It could be that some forces would benefit from additional awareness and training in how to spot the signs of domestic violence."

Emma concludes: "Victims of domestic violence need to know that they can come forward and ask for help from either the Police, their lawyer or other support agencies for help. But I fear that fewer people now feel and understand that help is within reach."

"For women aged 15-44, domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury and illness and we need to make sure that the law is being applied so that they can live without fear and harassment."

Between 29 December 2015 and 30 June 2016, how many individuals were charged with domestic violence offences in your Police Authority? Between 29 December 2014 and 30 June 2015, how many individuals were charged with domestic violence offences, in your Police Authority? Rise/Fall % Change
Greater Manchester Police25543670-1116-30%
West Midlands Police23932960-567-19%
Hampshire Constabulary574992-418-42%
Nottinghamshire Police9001248-348-28%
Lancashire Constabulary10331365-332-24%
West Yorkshire Police20432310-267-12%
Suffolk Constabulary403642-239-37%
Durham Constabulary589749-160-21%
Norfolk Constabulary595754-159-21%
Devon & Cornwall Police787902-115-13%
Derbyshire Constabulary889961-72-7%
Cumbria Constabulary542601-59-10%
Wiltshire Police410466-56-12%
Bedfordshire Police372410-38-9%
Cleveland Police682718-36-5%
Lincolnshire Police502511-9-2%
Cheshire Constabulary1055105320%
Humberside Police51250751%
Cambridgeshire Constabulary579550295%
Gloucestershire Constabulary3393073210%
Metropolitan Police Service71997159401%
Thames Valley Police13401276645%
Warwickshire Police7156476811%
Staffordshire Police87877210614%
Northamptonshire Police37924913052%
Kent Police1158100215616%
Hertfordshire Constabulary86267918330%
West Mercia Police1815159222314%
Northumbria Police1371107629527%

Merseyside Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police, Leicestershire Police, Sussex Police, Dorset Police, Avon and Somerset Constabulary did not provide figures.

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