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. John Pratley, Head of Family Services at Simpson Millar has actively campaigned on the issue of domestic violence since 2012. He is concerned that the fall in charges might be a symptom of a cash-strapped support system.

He 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."

John suggests that legal aid cuts are starting to filter through in terms of the number of people who have access to legal advice. He 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."

John 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."

John 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 Police 2554 3670 -1116 -30%
West Midlands Police 2393 2960 -567 -19%
Hampshire Constabulary 574 992 -418 -42%
Nottinghamshire Police 900 1248 -348 -28%
Lancashire Constabulary 1033 1365 -332 -24%
West Yorkshire Police 2043 2310 -267 -12%
Suffolk Constabulary 403 642 -239 -37%
Durham Constabulary 589 749 -160 -21%
Norfolk Constabulary 595 754 -159 -21%
Devon & Cornwall Police 787 902 -115 -13%
Derbyshire Constabulary 889 961 -72 -7%
Cumbria Constabulary 542 601 -59 -10%
Wiltshire Police 410 466 -56 -12%
Bedfordshire Police 372 410 -38 -9%
Cleveland Police 682 718 -36 -5%
Lincolnshire Police 502 511 -9 -2%
Cheshire Constabulary 1055 1053 2 0%
Humberside Police 512 507 5 1%
Cambridgeshire Constabulary 579 550 29 5%
Gloucestershire Constabulary 339 307 32 10%
Metropolitan Police Service 7199 7159 40 1%
Thames Valley Police 1340 1276 64 5%
Warwickshire Police 715 647 68 11%
Surrey 665 595 70 12%
Staffordshire Police 878 772 106 14%
Northamptonshire Police 379 249 130 52%
Kent Police 1158 1002 156 16%
Hertfordshire Constabulary 862 679 183 30%
West Mercia Police 1815 1592 223 14%
Northumbria Police 1371 1076 295 27%

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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