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Domestic violence monitoring snapshot

Cases finalised in December 2005

Management Information Branch
June 2006


Introduction

In December 2005 we conducted our annual snapshot monitoring of our performance in prosecuting domestic violence cases. In the snapshot monitoring exercise we count and analyse the number of cases of domestic violence finalised in the month of December. This was the fourth snapshot monitoring exercise and the findings are contained in this report along with findings from 2002, 2003 and 2004 to identify emerging trends.

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Domestic violence snapshot data

The data in this report from the December Snapshot 2005 indicates an overall improvement year on year over the past four years.

  • Recorded cases increased by 32% from last year to over 3000 cases charged for prosecution, nearly double those recorded in 2002.
  • More cases of common assault are being charged (74% of cases compared with 51% in 2004).
  • Successful outcomes rose from its lowest recorded point of 46% in 2003 to 59% in 2005 - a 13% improvement in two years.
  • Cases dealt with in specialist domestic violence courts indicated an even greater improvement - 71% successful outcomes, similar to that from the Caerphilly domestic violence pilot of 73% and nearing the national average for all cases prosecuted by CPS of 82.3%.
  • Victim retractions fell from 37% in 2002 and 2003 down to 30% in 2005. Of those victims retracting, 36% of the cases continued with half of these resulting in successful outcomes, compared with less than a quarter last year.
  • Over the past four years
    • less cases have been discontinued by the CPS (16% in 2002, 17% in 2003 and down to 13% in 2005);
    • fewer cases were dropped because of no evidence being offered (down from 17% in 2002 to 14% 2005);
    • only 0.1% of cases resulted in the judge ordering acquittals compared with 0.4% in 2002; and
    • bindovers reduced from 13% in 2002 (15% in 2003) to 8% in 2005.

The findings from the 2005 snapshot reflect the national picture across the CPS - that of an increased volume of cases with more successful outcomes and less cases dropped by the CPS.

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National domestic violence performance 2005-6

Since April 2005, Areas have reported on their performance in relation to the prosecution of hate crimes as part of the Area performance review system.

  • Just under 50,000 domestic violence cases were charged for prosecution in 2005-6.
  • There has been an increase of 43% recorded domestic violence cases since April 2005.
  • Success in prosecuting domestic violence cases has increased from 55% in April 2005 to 59.7% in April 2006, this is a significant improvement against the background of increasing numbers of prosecutions.
  • Prosecutions that were dropped - including judge ordered acquittals, cases in which no evidence was offered and bindovers - fell from 37% to 33%.
  • Bindovers fell from 18.2% to 14.9%.

Data collection from 2006 will include a breakdown of cases by gender and ethnicity as well as type of offence.

This report should be read against the background of the following changes implemented since the December 2004 snapshot.

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Domestic violence delivery 2005-6

All the key recommendations from the joint inspection by HMCPSI and HMIC into how the police and CPS handle cases of domestic violence ('Violence at Home', February 2004) have now been implemented. These include:

  • improved identification and monitoring of cases;
  • specific improvements required in prosecution and management of cases;
  • training for our staff; and
  • a specific role for CPS Domestic Violence Coordinators (DVCs).

The Domestic Violence Policy and Guidance for prosecutors were updated and launched with the first CPS Training Manual in February 2005.

Since April 2005, 1300 staff have been trained in domestic violence, including all Area Domestic Violence Coordinators and lawyers who prosecute in the specialist domestic violence courts.

The two-year domestic violence project to evaluate measures to improve successful prosecutions was completed in June 2005. Five specialist DV courts (SDVCs) in England and Wales were evaluated in addition to two pilot projects in Caerphilly, Gwent and in Croydon. The findings on the two pilot projects were published in June 2005, illustrating ways to increase guilty pleas and convictions and reduce victim withdrawals, discontinued cases and no evidence being offered.

Lessons of good practice from the project were compiled as Good Practice Guidance for the CPS, distributed to all CPS Areas in autumn 2005 and were used to inform the development of Area Business Plans for 2006-7.

The CPS has worked with HM Courts Service and the Home Office in the development of 25 specialist domestic violence courts (this includes existing courts) across England and Wales by April 2006. The tri-partite steering group together with national DV specialists has produced a National Resource Manual to help Areas develop future specialist domestic violence court systems. The CPS has led the development of data collection systems for these courts using a new SDVC flag in the COMPASS computer system. An ongoing implementation programme is being co-ordinated across the three departments, planning further courts for 2007 onwards and in the rolling out of a programme of independent DV advisors to support the specialist courts.

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National domestic violence implementation team

A DV National Implementation Team was set up in July 2005 to oversee the domestic violence work across CPS. The Team reports to a Domestic Violence Board, consisting of the Directors of Equality & Diversity, Policy and the Business Development Directorate. External partners advise a CPS-wide Project Assurance group that reports to the DV Board.

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Key findings

The key findings for the month of December 2005 are summarised below.

  1. Forms were completed in respect of 3,045 defendants, compared with 2,299 for December 2004, an increase of 32%. 1,882 forms were completed in December 2003 and 1,569 in December 2002. The large increase in the size of the sample captured could be accounted for by an increased number of arrests by the police with more cases charged, coming into the criminal justice system as well as improved compliance with the Domestic Violence Snapshot scheme.
  2. However, there was still evidence of some under-recording. In addition to the present information, collected through manual records over a period of one month, information on proceedings for domestic violence is captured through the COMPASS electronic case management system. Comparison of Domestic Violence Snapshot data for December 2005 with the figures captured through Compass suggests that the former were under-recorded by around 22%. This reinforces the positive steps that have been taken within CPS in regularly collecting data quarterly through COMPASS.
  3. The overwhelming majority of offences recorded were perpetrated by male defendants (95% of the total), while 90% of victims were female. This data has been consistent since 2002.
  4. 22% of victims were spouses or former spouses, compared with 25% in 2004 and 61% partners or former partners, compared with 59% last year. 25% were identified as a vulnerable or intimidated witness, compared with only 18% in 2004. The remaining 17% was family or extended family violence in 2005, compared with 15% in 2004.
  5. 45% of defendants were aged between 31 and 45 while 37% were aged between 18 and 30 (both similar to 2004 data). The most common age for victims is 18-30 (30%) similar to 2004, although 26% of cases did not state the age of the victim.
  6. While the recording of ethnicity improved, 9% of returns showed the ethnicity of the defendant as "not stated" (i.e. ethnicity information had not been provided by the police, or by the defendant), compared with 20% in 2004. The ethnicity of victims was "not stated" in 39% of returns, compared with 52% in 2004.
  7. Of those with recorded ethnicity, 85% of defendants and 88% of victims were recorded as white British.
  8. 74% of offences recorded were common assaults, compared with 51% in 2004, 21% criminal damage, compared with 15% in 2004 and 16% actual bodily harm, compared with 13% in 2004. This may illustrate that more low level crimes are being detected and charged. There were five murders in 2005 compared with seven in 2004.
  9. There was a further improvement in the conviction rate for Domestic Violence. In 2005, 1,795 cases (59%) were convicted, the remaining 1,250 (41%) resulting in an unsuccessful outcome. The conviction rate of 59% compared with 53% in 2004, 46% in 2003, and 50% in 2002.
  10. The conviction rate for cases prosecuted in Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs) was much more favourable. 209 defendants were recorded as being dealt with in SDVCs (see note 1), of whom 71% were convicted.
  11. The conviction rate for cases prosecuted in the Crown Courts was also more favourable. 319 cases were dealt with, of which 68% were convicted. This is to be welcomed due to the serious nature of crimes dealt with in these courts.
  12. Youth courts also indicated a higher percentage of successful outcomes (77%), but the number of prosecutions recorded was low (48).
  13. Guilty pleas increased to 52% from 45% in 2004. 49% in magistrates courts, 71% in youth courts, 61% in specialist DV courts and 60% in Crown Courts.
  14. The 41% of cases resulting in an unsuccessful outcome consisted of 35% dropped by the CPS and 6% found not guilty after trial; compared to 47% (42% dropped by CPS and 5% not guilty after trial) in 2004, 54% (49% dropped by CPS and 5% not guilty after trial) in 2003 and 50% (47% dropped by CPS and 3% not guilty after trial) in 2002.
  15. Of the cases dropped 75% were dropped for evidential reasons, compared with 64% in 2004, although 15% of cases in 2004 had not recorded the reasons. 25% were dropped for public interest reasons. Therefore, of the total of 3045 cases, 26% were dropped for evidential reasons and 9% for public interest reasons.
  16. Within the 35% (1,067) of prosecutions dropped:
    • 407 cases (13%) were discontinued, compared with 320 (14%) in 2004, 331 (17%) in 2003 and 258 (16%) in 2002;
    • 425 (14%) of cases were dropped as no evidence was offered, compared with 374 (17%) in 2004, 306 (16%) in 2003 and 267 (17%) in 2002.
    • 4 (0.1%) of cases were judge ordered acquittals, compared with 3 (0.1%) in 2004, 6 (0.3%) in 2003 and 7 (0.4%) in 2002.
    • 231 (8%) cases were bound over compared with 257 (11%) in 2004, 273 (15%) in 2003 and 204 (13%) in 2002.
  17. In 2005, 183 (6%) of cases were found not guilty after trial, compared with 123 (5%) cases in 2004, 88 (5%) in 2003 and 52 (3%) in 2002. The relative increase in these outcomes should not necessarily be viewed negatively, as the increase in overall convictions of 6%, reflects the likelihood that more effective dealing with cases overall is leading to more guilty pleas (see 13 above). It also may reflect that we are continuing with cases we would have previously discontinued (for example, following retraction of the offence by the victim). Of victims retracting, 7% of them did so at trial.
  18. There was a fall in the proportion of victims who retracted their statement. In 2002 and 2003 37% of victims retracted. This fell to 35% in 2004 and to 30% in 2005.
  19. Of those retracting 39% did so before plea, and 53% before trial. In 66% of retractions the police obtained a formal withdrawal statement, similar to 2004 (68%).
  20. 951 victims retracted in 2005. In 341 (36%) of these cases, the CPS decided to continue with the prosecution after retraction. This compared with 321 (40%) in 2004, 27% of cases in 2003 and 19% of cases in 2002. The revised DV policy and guidance for prosecutors (Feb 2005) emphasised that decisions on the continuation of cases following victim retraction should include taking into consideration the safety of victims and their children.
  21. In 50% of cases continuing after retraction, the defendant pleaded guilty, compared with only 24% in 2004. 12% of victims also gave evidence after retraction, compared with only 7% last year. In 5% of cases other evidence sufficed compared with 4% last year.
  22. A witness summons was issued in 91 cases which continued after retraction (24%), compared with 140 (27%) of cases in 2004. The revised DV policy and guidance for prosecutors (Feb 2005) provided a clear framework for how to assess the safety of victims and their children and the kinds of factors that should be taken into account when considering a witness summons. The emphasis is placed on the use of a summons in cases where this is essential to ensure that the prosecution can continue, in order to protect the victim and their children from any further violence. This guidance may have led to more discerning decisions being taken on the use of summonses.

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Notes

1. Note, not all SDVCs had recorded their cases separately.

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