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National Police Chiefs’ Council, Crown Prosecution Service and College of Policing commit to transforming investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse

|News, Domestic abuse

Police chiefs, the College of Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are today announcing a joint commitment to transforming how they investigate, handle and prosecute domestic abuse to ensure victims are better supported, timeliness is improved, and more offenders are brought to justice.

Domestic abuse can have a severe and long-term impact on victims and their children, including physical, mental health and economic difficulties.

Taking a similar approach to policing and CPS’ joint national action plan for rape, the three organisations are committing to working together to drive improvements in their response to domestic abuse by developing a national Domestic Abuse Joint Justice Plan (DA JJP).

Under the DA JJP, the organisations will work together from the earliest stage to build robust, victim-centred and suspect-focused investigations and prosecutions which focus on the suspect’s actions before, during and after an alleged offence.

Baljit Ubhey, CPS director of strategy and policy, said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that can have a life-long impact on victims of all different backgrounds and ages.

“Our people work incredibly hard every day to bring offenders of this despicable crime to justice and there is no greater job satisfaction than knowing we have played our part in protecting victims and their families from harm and helping them move on with their lives – but we know there is still more work to do.

“This joint commitment is just the first step in our journey to transforming domestic abuse victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system - from report to outcome - and we are confident we can do better and provide greater protection for them and their children while bringing more offenders to justice.”

Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, NPCC lead for domestic abuse, said: “Domestic abuse is more than a third of violent crime. As justice agencies, it is essential we work together to better safeguard victims, hold offenders to account, and prevent the cycle of reoffending and victimisation.

“Domestic abuse devastates families and we want to work with the many brilliant charities who support victims. Listening to victims’ voices, we will ensure that our plan better meets their needs.

“For too many victims, their journey through the criminal justice system leads to further trauma and we know the interactions between our agencies need to be better.”

College of Policing Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, also the NPCC lead for violence against women and girls, said: “Domestic abuse accounts for almost one in five crimes and in policing we sadly see huge numbers of victims every week. It is part of a range of crimes which disproportionately affect women and children including stalking, harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour.

“Behind each of these crimes is a devastated victim and we know that we must do better for them. Which is why we have joined forces with the CPS on this plan. It will be ambitious but we know that victims deserve this focus so that they can feel safer in their homes and in their lives.”

Chief Constable Rob Nixon, NPCC lead for criminal justice, said: “Investigating and prosecuting domestic abuse cases can be complex and so by working together, we can start to simplify the process for victims, ensuring that the outcomes they desire are at the forefront of our minds. Wherever possible, we should be listening to victims and understanding the dynamics of human relationships so that their needs and wishes are taken into consideration.

“We look forward to delivering a plan which seeks to focus on a partnership approach from the outset, with an emphasis on timeliness and quality at every stage and improves everyone’s experience of the criminal justice system for domestic abuse.”

The core commitments in the plan will fall under the following three themes:  

  • Efficacy, culture and cohesion: by working together, we build strong cases from the outset.  
  • Effectiveness and supporting victims: victims of domestic abuse have confidence and engage with criminal justice partners.  
  • Efficiency and timeliness: we secure swift justice for victims of domestic abuse and hold perpetrators to account.   

If a victim feels unable to continue with their journey in a criminal case, this can lead to a recurrence of abuse.

The plan will tackle how to build strong cases right from the start, supporting the victim’s needs while relentlessly pursuing the perpetrator and bringing justice in whichever form the victim feels is appropriate for them.

The next steps in developing and implementing the plan will be to engage closely with those with lived experience through partners and stakeholders before launching the national plan in the spring of 2024.

Notes to editors

Collectively the National Police Chiefs’ Council, College of Policing and Crown Prosecution Service have jointly agreed the three key themes and overarching commitments that will frame the DA JJP. These will now form part of the stakeholder engagement work to support the development of the final plan.

Building strong cases from the outset 

Every victim of domestic abuse deserves an empathetic, effective, and professional response from the criminal justice system. They may fear for their safety and the safety of their families, and this may affect their engagement with the criminal justice process. We recognise that we must adapt our approach to embrace these concerns. 

Workshops with stakeholders, inspection recommendations and analytical insights tell us that to address this priority, it is essential that we develop a cohesive, effective system with individuals at all levels, who recognise domestic abuse as a priority; and that our response must involve all appropriate agencies in a coordinated manner. 

Within these commitments we will be developing “early help” surgeries between policing and CPS for complex, prolific and high-harm domestic abuse cases so we target reasonable lines of enquiry, develop early prosecution strategies, and bring about an increase in successful outcomes for cases. 

We will also introduce multi-agency scrutiny panels, that are designed to provide local insights into our joint handling of domestic abuse cases, including investigation, decision making, timeliness and proportionality of action plans. 
Supporting victims

It takes courage and bravery to speak out and that seeking help can be daunting. We recognise that supporting victims is vital as they navigate through the criminal justice system. 

Evidence tells us that victims feel more supported with specialist help such as that provided by Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs). We know that to better protect victims and prevent repeat and serial offending, it is essential to recognise and tackle behaviour-driven offending, rather than just focussing on the individual offences in which these behaviours may be expressed. 

Within this commitment we will consider all available powers including protective orders, and special measures from the earliest stage so that victims are safeguarded, cases are strengthened, and offenders are held to account. We will also listen to the voices of victims and those who advocate on their behalf to enable us to make the best decisions in their interests. 
Effectiveness and timeliness  

We commit to working together to enable quick decisions to secure swift justice for victims of domestic abuse and hold perpetrators to account. 

From the moment of contact with criminal justice partners, a well-timed, efficient, and informed response is fundamental to addressing domestic abuse offending. Taking a suspect-centric and evidence-led approach to case building, which involves looking closely at the actions of the suspect before, during, and after an alleged offence is essential to developing robust case strategy. 

Within this area, we commit to working with specialist organisations to better understand the needs and requirements of specific groups of victims including those from minoritised communities, older victims, disabled victims and victims who are children, and embed this in learning and in processes. 

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