Thousands Of Domestic Violence Victims Withdraw Prosecutions

Dated:   

  • One third of victims refuse to press charges
  • Lack of evidence sees over 100,000 cases dropped

Over a third of domestic violence cases are discontinued because the victim has withdrawn their support for a prosecution, new figures reveal.

In 2014, the Home Office launched a new crime statistics framework with 18 and later 21 potential outcomes for recorded crimes. The aim was to replace the high number of cases recorded as ’undetected’ (see table at the end).

Through Freedom of Information, law firm Simpson Millar has obtained figures from 36 Police forces regarding instances where domestic violence crimes were recorded with the following two outcomes:

  • Named suspect identified: victim supports police action but evidential difficulties prevent further action
  • Named suspect identified: evidential difficulties prevent further action; victim does not support (or has withdrawn support from) police action
Year 2016 2015
Domestic Violence Crimes 438,349 393,551
Named suspect identified: Victim supports police action but evidential difficulties prevent further action 102,295 90,204*
Named suspect identified: Evidential difficulties prevent further action; victim does not support (or has withdrawn support from) police action 164,510 117,196*

*Figures were not provided by Suffolk Constabulary and Nottinghamshire Police for 2015

The research brings to light how frequently victims of domestic violence find themselves unable to provide evidence, or to support a charge and prosecution due to very real fears about their personal safety, and that of their children.

John Pratley, Head of Family Services at Simpson Millar comments: “We appreciate that there may be variations in how crimes are recorded and processed across regions, and that a crime recorded as taking place one year, might be recorded as having concluded another. However, we cannot ignore the fact that a significant number of domestic violence crimes do not result in a charge; often due to a lack of evidence or a lack of support from the victim who may feel unable to provide this kind of support.

“Victims, and women especially, are often either unable to provide evidence about their abuse, or decide to withdraw what evidence they have presented, because they feel coming forward will put themselves, their children and family members at significant risk of serious harm.

“More resources are needed to identify alternative avenues of collecting evidence and building a case against abusers without putting the victim at risk. This is a challenge, I know, but one which must be addressed in the face of these latest figures.”

John Pratley has been campaigning on behalf of domestic violence victims for five years. He adds: “Victims of domestic violence live in an intricate and harrowing matrix of lies and fear, which they often cannot escape from without help from the Police and other professionals.

“Officers who deal with domestic abuse have a challenging job; these crimes are complex, sometimes subtle and often difficult to identify. Domestic violence crimes come in many shades of grey and these figures tell us that more resources and more training for officers is required so that additional crimes result in a formal charge.”

John says: “The first formal accusation of domestic violence is rarely the first incidence. Victims of domestic abuse may have found the courage to come forward in a moment of confidence, but their fears about their on-going safety may leave them in a position where they no longer want to support a complaint. It requires a professional and targeted effort to help them through the days, weeks and months that follow.

“Victims who live with their abuser are particularly vulnerable and at risk of further harm after they have reported the violence. All victims need a huge amount of practical and emotional support to maintain the accusation through to a prosecution.” 

John points out that it can be difficult for the victim to leave the relationship safely. He says: “Victims need help and support to ensure they are able to see a way forward, but also to guarantee their personal safety and that of their children. All too often, women simply do not feel safe enough to leave despite having had the courage to make a true and recognised accusation to the Police. In the very worst cases, they lose their life to their abuser.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said: “We know that not all survivors of domestic abuse want a criminal justice outcome. However, what these figures show is that, for those who do, there is still a very real culture of victim-blaming and fear that stops survivors from accessing justice.  We also know that there is a significantly heightened risk for women in the first year after separation from a perpetrator – therefore, robust support and protection is needed during that time. With two women a week on average being killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales, it is vital that we take these findings seriously.

Table 1.1: Detection types prior to April 2013 and the outcome frameworks in place thereafter

Detections Regime - Prior to April 2013 (outcomes 1-6) Outcomes Framework - April 2013 to March 2014 (outcomes 1-9) Outcomes Framework - April 2014 onwards (outcomes 1-19)
1. Charge Summons 1. Charge Summons 1. Charge Summons
2. Caution

2. Caution - Youths

2. Caution - Adults

2. Caution - Youths

2. Caution - Adults

3. Taken into Consideration - Previously Recorded

4. Taken into Consideration - Previously Not Recorded

4. Taken Into Consideration (TIC) 4. Taken Into Consideration (TIC)
5. Penalty Notice for Disorder 5. Penalty Notice for Disorder 5. Penalty Notice for Disorder
6. Other

6. The Offender has Died (all offences)

7. Cannabis Warning

8. Community Resolution

9. Prosecution

6. The Offender has Died (indictable only/sexual offences)

7. Cannabis/Khat Warning

8. Community Resolution

9. Prosecution not in the public interest (CPS)(all offences)

Data Not Collected by the Home Office

10. Formal action against the offender is not in the public interest (police decision)

11. Prosecution prevented - named suspect identified but is below the age of criminal responsibility

12. Prosecution prevented - named suspect identified but is too ill (physical or mental health) to prosecute

13. Prosecution prevented - named suspect identified but victim or key witness is dead or too ill to give evidence

14. Evidential difficulties victim based - named suspect not identified - the crime is confirmed but the victim declines or is unable to support further police action to identify the offender

15. Evidential difficulties named suspect identified - the crime is confirmed and the victim supports police action but evidential difficulties prevent further action

16. Evidential difficulties victim based - named suspect identified - the victim does not support (or withdraws support from) police action

17. Prosecution time limit expired - suspect identified but the time limit for prosecution has expired

18. Investigation complete - no suspect identifed. Crime investigated as far as reasonably possible - case closed pending further investigative opportunities becoming available

19. National Fraud Intelligence Bureau filed (NFIB only). A crime of fraud has been recorded but has not been allocated for investigation because the assessment process at the NFIB has determined there are insufficient lines of enquiry to warrant such dissemination

20. Further action resulting from the crime report will be undertaken by another body or agency subject to the victim (or person acting on their behalf) being made aware of the action to be taken (from April 2015)

21. Further investigation, resulting from the crime report, which could provide evidence sufficient to support formal action being taken against the suspect is not in the public interest - police decision (from January 2016)



To find out how we could help you please make a no-obligation enquiry or call freephone: 0808 129 3320.




News Archive


Get In Touch