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Domestic violence monitoring snapshot

Cases finalised in December 2006

Management Information Branch
July 2007


Introduction

In December 2006 we conducted our annual snapshot counting and analyzing the number of cases of domestic violence finalised in the month of December. This was the fifth and final snapshot monitoring exercise and the findings are contained in this report, along with findings from 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 to identify emerging trends. The snapshot will be replaced in 2008-09 with an annual Hate Crimes Report.

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Domestic violence snapshot data

The data in this report indicates an overall improvement year on year and over the past five years:

  • Recorded cases of domestic violence increased by 3% compared with December 2005 to over 3,100 cases charged for prosecution; double those recorded in 2002.
  • 61% of recorded offences were assaults compared with 66% in 2002.
  • Conviction rates rose from their lowest recorded point of 46% in 2003 to 59% in 2005 and to 66% in 2006 - a year on year improvement of 7 percentage points and an improvement of 20 percentage points over three years.
  • Magistrates' courts had a conviction rate of 64%.
  • Youth courts and the Crown Court had the highest conviction rates at 76% and 75% respectively but fewer cases pass through youth courts.
  • Victim retractions fell from 37% in 2002 to 28% in 2006. Of those victims retracting, 49% of cases continued with 40% of these resulting in a guilty plea, compared with a similar continuance of 50% in December 2005 and less than a quarter in December 2004.
  • Over the past five years:
    • fewer cases were discontinued by the CPS (16% in 2002, 17% in 2003, 13% in 2005 and 11% in 2006);
    • fewer cases were dropped because no evidence was offered (down from 17% in 2002 to 16% 2006);
    • only 0.2% of cases resulted in a judge ordered acquittal, compared with 0.4% in 2002; and
    • bindovers fell from 13% in 2002 (15% in 2003) to only 3% in 2006.

The 2006 snapshot reflects the national picture across the CPS - that of an increased volume of cases with more successful outcomes and fewer cases dropped by the CPS.

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National domestic violence performance 2006-7

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.

  • Over 57,000 domestic violence cases were charged for prosecution in 2006-07.
  • There has been an increase of 51% in recorded domestic violence cases since the quarter ending June 2005.
  • Convictions for domestic violence cases increased from 60% in April - June 2005 to 66.6% in January - March 2007; this was a significant improvement against the background of an increasing volume of prosecutions.
  • Prosecutions that were dropped - including judge ordered acquittals, cases in which no evidence was offered and bindovers - fell from 32.7% to 26.9% over the same period.
  • Bindovers fell from 17.7% to 8.7% over the same period.

This report should be read against the background of the following changes implemented since the December 2005 snapshot.

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Domestic violence delivery 2006-7

Good practice guidance

Lessons of good practice from the CPS Domestic Violence Project were compiled as Good Practice Guidance for the CPS and were used to inform the development of Area Business Plans for 2006-7.

During 2006-7, Areas were assessed on their implementation of this Good Practice Guidance. Areas indicated improved performance overall:

  • During 2006-7 the national target of increasing successful domestic violence prosecutions to 64% was exceeded, with an increase to 65.2%.
  • 95% of Area Domestic Violence Coordinators attended their local domestic violence Forums, compared with 80% in 2005-6.
  • 38 out of 42 CPS Areas have improved, or maintained, their domestic violence community engagement in 2006-7 compared with 2005-6.
  • Since April 2005, over 2,800 staff have been trained in domestic violence, including all lawyers prosecuting in specialist domestic violence courts.

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Specialist Domestic Violence Courts

The SDVC Programme has been the centrepiece of the Government-wide National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan. The programme is jointly managed by the Home Office, the CPS and Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS). The SDVC programme with its advisory expert panel produced a National Resource Manual containing 11 core components of a SDVC - including Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs).

Following the successful selection of 25 SDVCs in 2005/06, a further 39 SDVC systems were selected in 2006/07, making a total of 64 operational systems from April 2007. The SDVC Programme has enabled the development of a network of IDVAs to support victims within the SDVC areas and MARACs to assess the risks faced by victims.

The SDVC Programme was shortlisted for Whitehall & Westminster World's 2006 Award for Joined-Up Government.

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Violence against women

The CPS is developing work on Violence against Women; linking domestic violence with other types of violence, for example forced marriage, honour-based violence, rape, female genital mutilation, violence against children, prostitution, elder abuse and trafficking.

In March 2006, the CPS ran a poster campaign about violence against women, highlighting the range of offences that could be prosecuted within this theme. The campaign also listed support services for victims.

In November 2006, the CPS was awarded top marks across government for its work on violence against women by the End Violence Against Women Campaign (see note 1).

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Employee domestic violence policy

The Crown Prosecution Service employee domestic violence policy was revised in 2006-7. The CPS is part of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence which is a group of progressive companies and organisations working individually and collectively to address the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. The new CPS policy has expanded not only on the support available for staff victims, but also on the ways to address perpetrators in the workplace - whether they are harassing staff or committing acts of domestic violence at home. Care First provides any CPS employee (and their immediate dependants) facing domestic violence with a 24-hour counselling service.

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2007-8 work plans

The remaining two key aspects of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004 were implemented on 1st July 2007:

  • Section 1 makes the breach of a non-molestation order a criminal offence, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment on indictment;
  • Section 4 makes couples who have never cohabited or been married eligible for non-molestation and occupation orders, under the Family Law Act 1996.

The Home Office will make any further announcements on implementation of Section 12. This extends the courts' powers under the criminal provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, enabling them to impose restraining orders when sentencing for any offence or on acquittal.

The next steps for the national SDVC Programme are to:

  • review the progress of those SDVCs selected in 2005/06;
  • embed the SDVCs selected in 2006/07; and
  • select further SDVCs following the review and implementation programmes; and
  • award grants to IDVA services supporting existing and new SDVCs and services outside of SDVC Areas.

In December 2006 the CPS launched its Single Equality Scheme, which included plans for a strategy and action plans for tackling Violence against Women to be drawn up by March 2008. Violence against women has been prioritised with the CPS six national strategic themes for 2007/08.

A pilot is being carried out to investigate the prosecution of forced marriage and honour-based violence cases. The domestic violence team will also undertake an equality and diversity review of domestic violence prosecutions.

All prosecutors, caseworkers and Designated Caseworkers will have been trained by March 2008. CPS human resources advisors will also be trained on the revised CPS employee domestic violence policy and ensure that it is monitored.

During 2007-8, CPS will focus on driving up performance through improved performance management and implementation of good practice, with a new target of 70% successful prosecutions by April 2008.

July 2007

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Key findings

The key findings for the month of December 2006 are summarised below.

  1. Monitoring forms were completed in respect of 3,137 defendants, compared with 3,045 for December 2005, an increase of 3%. 2,299 forms were completed in December 2004, 1,882 forms in December 2003 and 1,569 in December 2002.
  2. 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 2006 with the figures captured through Compass suggests that the former were under-recorded by approximately 18%, an improvement on the 22% under-recorded in 2005. This reinforces the positive steps that have been taken within CPS in regular data collection.
  3. The overwhelming majority of offences recorded were perpetrated by male defendants (94% of the total), while 89% of victims were female. This data has been consistent since 2002.
  4. 19% of victims were spouses or former spouses, compared with 22% in 2005 and 61% partners or former partners, the same as the previous year. 35% were identified as a vulnerable or intimidated witness, compared with only 25% in 2005. The remaining 20% were family or extended family in 2006, compared with 17% in 2005.
  5. 43% of defendants were aged between 31 and 45 while 40% were aged between 18 and 30 (compared to 45% and 37% in 2005). The most common age for victims was 18-30 (33%) slightly higher than the figure of 30% recorded in 2005, although the age of the victim was not stated in 21% of cases.
  6. Recording of ethnicity improved. 3% 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 9% in 2005. The ethnicity of victims was "not stated" in 21% of returns, compared with 39% in 2005.
  7. Of those with recorded ethnicity, 86% of defendants and 90% of victims were recorded as white British, compared with figures of 85% and 88% respectively in 2005.
  8. 50% of offences recorded were common assaults, compared with 54% in 2005, 15% were criminal damage, the same as in 2005, and 9% actual bodily harm, compared with 11% in 2005. There were seven murders in 2006 compared with five in 2005.
  9. There was a further improvement in the conviction rate for Domestic Violence. In 2006, 2,065 (66%) were convicted, the remaining 1,072 (34%) resulting in an unsuccessful outcome. The conviction rate of 66% compared with 59% in 2005, 53% in 2004, 46% in 2003, and 50% in 2002.
  10. The conviction rate for cases prosecuted in magistrates' courts was 64%.
  11. The conviction rate for cases prosecuted in the Crown Court was higher, although fewer cases were dealt with. 378 cases were dealt with, of which 75% were convicted. This is to be welcomed due to the serious nature of crimes dealt with in these courts.
  12. Youth courts also achieved a higher percentage of successful outcomes (76%), but the number of prosecutions recorded was low (72).
  13. A National Review of SDVCs is currently being undertaken by the National SDVC Steering Group, which will include a full analysis of all COMPASS data from the 2006-07 SDVCs. It was not possible to show discrete data for SDVCs within the present report; in the 15 Areas which provided snapshot data returns for SDVCs, there was a 54% variance compared with COMPASS and therefore this was not a reliable and representative sample.
  14. Guilty pleas increased to 58% from 52% in 2005. A guilty plea rate of 57% was recorded in magistrates' courts, 75% in youth courts and 62% in the Crown Court.
  15. Convictions after trial increased to 8% from 7% in 2005; 8% 2004, 3% in 2003 and 4% in 2002.
  16. The 34% of cases resulting in an unsuccessful outcome consisted of 30% dropped by the CPS and 4% found not guilty after trial; compared to 41% (35% dropped by the CPS and 6% found not guilty after trial) in 2005, 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.
  17. Of cases dropped, 74% were dropped for evidential reasons, similar to the figure of 75% in 2005. 26% were dropped for public interest reasons. Of the total of 3,137 cases, 22% were dropped for evidential reasons, compared with 26% in 2005 and 8% for public interest reasons similar to the 9% recorded in 2005.
  18. Within the 30% (933) of prosecutions dropped:
    • 344 (11%) cases were discontinued, compared with 407 cases (13%) in 2005, 320 (14%) in 2004, 331 (17%) in 2003 and 258 (16%) in 2002;
    • 483 (16%) cases were dropped as no evidence was offered, compared with 425 (14%) in 2005, 374 (17%) in 2004, 306 (16%) in 2003 and 267 (17%) in 2002;
    • 6 (0.2%) cases were judge ordered acquittals, compared with 4 (0.1%) in 2005, 3 (0.1%) in 2004, 6 (0.3%) in 2003 and 7 (0.4%) in 2002;
    • 100 (3%) cases were bound over compared with 231 (8%) in 2005, 257 (11%) in 2004, 273 (15%) in 2003 and 204 (13%) in 2002.
  19. In 2006, 129 (4%) of cases were found not guilty after trial, compared with 183 (6%) in 2005, 123 (5%) cases in 2004, 88 (5%) in 2003 and 52 (3%) in 2002. This needs to be looked at in the overall context of the rise of guilty pleas (from 52% in 2005 to 58% in 2006) and convictions after trial (increasing from 7% 2005 to 8% 2006).
  20. 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, to 30% in 2005 and to 28% in 2006.
  21. Of those retracting 30% did so before plea (39% in 2005), and 63% before trial (53% in 2005). In 73% of retractions the police obtained a formal withdrawal statement, compared to 66% in 2005.
  22. 896 victims, in 868 cases, retracted in 2006 compared with 951 victims in 2005. In 421 (49%) of these 868 cases, the CPS decided to continue with the prosecution after retraction. This compared with 341 (36%) in 2005, 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.
  23. In 40% of cases continuing after retraction, the defendant pleaded guilty; compared with 50% in 2005 and 24% in 2004. 8% of victims gave evidence after retraction, compared with 12% in 2005 and 7% in 2004. In 6% of cases other evidence sufficed similar to last year.
  24. A witness summons was issued in 172 cases which continued after retraction (35%) compared with 91 (24%) of cases in 2005 and 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. 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.

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Notes

1. The Women's National Commission and Amnesty UK coordinate the End Violence Against Women campaign

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