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Domestic Homicide Review

Introduction

This guidance explains:

  • what a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) is;
  • how a DHR is conducted; and
  • the CPS's role.

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Domestic Homicide Review

A Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) is a locally conducted multi-agency review of the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by:

  • a person to whom he or she was related, or with whom he or she was or had been in an intimate personal relationship; or,
  • a member of the same household as himself or herself.

DHRs were introduced by section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (DVCA 2004) and came into force on 13 April 2011. Their purpose is not to reinvestigate the death or apportion blame, but to:

  • establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide, regarding the way in which local professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard victims;
  • identify clearly what those lessons are, both within and between agencies, how they will be acted on, within what timescales, and what is expected to change as a result;
  • apply these lessons to service responses including changes to policies and procedures as appropriate; and to,
  • prevent domestic violence homicide and improve service responses for all domestic violence victims and their children, through improved intra and inter-agency working.

The DHR will usually draw upon information obtained from:

  • interviewing family members;
  • interviewing significant people who may have known the victim; and,
  • obtaining information from participating agencies, either by way of an Individual Management Review (IMR), or by other means such as a chronology of events.

To support DHRs, the Home Office (HO) has developed a number of resources for practitioners. These are now available on the Gov.uk website. CPS staff involved in a DHR should ensure they are aware of the HO guidance.

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DHR Panel Membership

A number of agencies are cited as having statutory responsibility to establish or participate in a DHR, as set out in section 9 of the DVCA 2004. Those agencies include:

  • the police;
  • local authorities;
  • local probation services and providers of probation services; and
  • NHS Commissioning Board, NHS Trusts, and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Other agencies may have a role to play in the process, though their involvement is decided on a case by case basis. The CPS is not a named body in the legislation and therefore is not required to participate in a DHR. However, the CPS is often invited to participate; prosecutors should refer to the section on 'Factors to Consider' (below) for how to respond if invited to participate.

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Process

The local Community Safety Partnership (CSP) will be informed of a domestic homicide by the relevant police force. Any professional or agency can also refer a domestic homicide to the CSP in writing, if it is believed that there are important lessons for inter-agency working to be learned.

The overall responsibility for setting up a DHR rests with the Chair of the CSP. This decision has to be made within one month of the homicide coming to the Chair's attention. Once the Chair has decided that a DHR will take place, they will be responsible for setting up a Review Panel and appointing a Chair for the Panel.

The police play a key role on the Review Panel and will provide the CPS with a point of contact on these issues. It is therefore essential that effective communication between the CPS and the police is maintained throughout the process.

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Simultaneous DHR and criminal proceedings

The Review Panel Chair (who reports to the CSP) should ask the police and CPS (if appropriate) for advice on whether the DHR should take account of any criminal investigation or criminal proceedings. They should also ask what potential impact a review may have upon such investigations or proceedings, including whether a review should not start until after the proceedings are completed or, if the DHR is already underway, whether it should be delayed until after the outcome of the criminal proceedings. Following any criminal proceedings, the DHR should be concluded without delay.

The DHR is independent from the criminal justice process and it is not possible to enforce demands that the timescales or methodology of the DHR is altered.

The subject matter of each DHR, the identity of the agencies contributing to it, and the disclosure issues to which it gives rise will differ considerably from case to case. The dates on which police enquiries and DHRs begin and end relative to each other will also vary in different cases. However, if there is concern that the DHR will jeopardise ongoing criminal investigations or proceedings, there should be discussion and agreement reached with the Review Panel Chair on the way forward.

Additionally, the Review Panel may wish to interview the victim's family and friends for the purposes of a DHR which has been instigated whilst a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings are ongoing. This is potentially of critical importance, as in many cases there will be great deal of pressure placed upon those responsible for a DHR to conclude a timely review. It is imperative that if a criminal investigation is on-going, or criminal proceedings have commenced, the Senior Investigating Officer informs the CPS and Review Panel if any interviewees are potential witnesses, and again there should be urgent discussion on the way forward including whether the DHR should be delayed exceptionally until the criminal proceedings have been completed.

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Invitation to the CPS to participate in a DHR

There is no compulsion for the CPS to participate in a DHR. However, if a CPS Areas is approached to participate in a DHR, it is expected that the Chief Crown Prosecutor or Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor should contact the Chief Operations Officer with details of the request that has been made.

An invitation to participate in a DHR will come from the Review Panel Chair addressed to the relevant CPS Area. The invitation may be to invite a senior member of the CPS Area:

  • to be a member of the Review Panel; or
  • to contribute to the review process, e.g. by the submission of an Individual Management Review (IMR), which is an account of an agency's involvement in the case.

The statutory guidance does not specify how contact should be made with the CPS. However, as a general rule, as the local DHR teams will be responsible for the running of the review, they will decide on how contact is to be made. Recipients of invitations are advised to verify that they are genuine, and should use secure methods for communicating where available.

Factors to consider

Requests to participate as a DHR panel member should be considered positively where there is a specific reason associated with the case which requires a response from the CPS (for example, where the homicide occurred whilst the defendant was on bail, or if there had been a previous decision to not charge a defendant). Alternatively, participation by the CPS may be required as an opportunity to explain our role and decision making process in a particular case. It is likely that panel members will be required to attend a number of meetings and such invitations should be assessed on a case by case basis.

Once informed of a DHR, the relevant CPS Area should ensure that steps are taken to secure any records relating to the current case and previous related cases. Where files have been destroyed due to passage of time or a decision not to charge, the police should be contacted for any records they may have.

The CPS should usually agree to participate in the DHR process, particularly when the CPS may have been misunderstood, leading to the possibility of erroneous conclusions. Where the CPS has had previous involvement in respect of the case in question, Areas should consider participating a DHR so that we can explain the CPS's role and the application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors in the decision making process. Accordingly, those attending a DHR should have full knowledge of the case, be able to explain the actions and clarify the role of the CPS and should have the appropriate seniority and experience.

When considering whether to participate consideration must be given to:

  • the fact that a case may be sub judice;
  • the danger of inadvertent disclosure of confidential information;
  • possible prejudice to the trial process as a result of information given to or received by the DHR Panel, including evidence;
  • the need to retain objective prosecutorial independence;
  • how to deal with actual or perceived criticism of decisions by the CPS to prosecute (or not); and,
  • how to deal with issues that extend beyond the circumstances of the particular case.

It should be remembered that it is not the role of the CPS to comment upon prevention and protection issues, unless the death under review has had criminal justice input prior to the offence, e.g. where a defendant was on bail when the homicide occurred.

There may be instances where the CPS is not invited to be part of the DHR process but are then referred to within the DHR by another agency. In such cases it would be appropriate for the CPS to make enquiries of the Panel and either offer to be involved, or request a copy of the report for accuracy before it is published and suggest amendments if appropriate to do so.

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Individual Management Reviews (IMRs)

An IMR is an account of an agencies role in how they dealt with a particular case. The aim of an IMR is to:

  • allow agencies to look openly and critically at individual and organisational practice and the context within which people were working to see whether the homicide indicates that changes could and should be made;
  • identify how those changes will be brought about; and,
  • identify examples of good practice within agencies.

There is no compulsion for the CPS to provide an IMR. Where requests are made to provide an IMR, the Chief Crown Prosecutor or Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor should inform the Chief Operating Officer so that advice and support can be given in undertaking and managing the IMR. Any IMR provided by the CPS and other relevant agencies will be incorporated in the final Overview Report.

As part of this process, it is therefore important that that those conducting IMRs on behalf of the CPS should not have been directly involved with the case and should not have been the immediate line manager of any staff involved in the IMR.

The Chief Operating Officer will decide with the Chief Crown Prosecutor who should undertake the IMR. This is likely to be a senior member of staff from another CPS Area but it will depend on the circumstances of the case and the Area's involvement. The senior person conducting the IMR should have a clear understanding of the Terms of Reference including requirements such as ownership of the IMR, quality assurance processes and agreeing the final IMR report before the process of review begins.

The Chief Crown Prosecutor will be considered as having commissioned the IMR and will be responsible usually for quality assuring the IMR and ensuring it is delivered on time and agreed as appropriate.

Conducting the IMR

The senior person undertaking the IMR for the CPS should consider the following issue when compiling an IMR:

  • an accurate chronology of involvement with the victim or defendant in any relevant case;
  • all relevant documents including relevant policies and procedures at the time should be examined;
  • conduct interviews with the relevant staff involved in the case. A written record of such interviews should be made and should be shared with the relevant interviewee. The interviewee should be assured that the interview forms part of the DHR and that the DHR's purpose is not to apportion blame to an individual but to learn lessons for future practice;
  • names of all staff involved in a case must be anonymised at all stages and not disclosed under any circumstances and Areas are advised to state job title of the staff only. Where the author is unable to interview a member of staff concerned, the reason for this should be included;
  • whether action was taken in respect of decisions made including actions not taken due to shortfall in resources should be taken into account;
  • notifying Communications, Private Office, Operations Directorate and Strategy and Policy Directorate to progress on the IMR and ensure the final draft is cleared accordingly; and,
  • Areas should advise the Chief Operating Officer of progress on the IMR and ensure the final draft is cleared accordingly; and
  • As it is possible that the IMR will include recommendations about future CPS actions and/or commitments on behalf of the CPS, it is essential that any proposed actions and commitments made on behalf of the CPS must be cleared with the Director and relevant HQ Directorates.

The IMR report must be quality assured by a nominated senior person in the organisation who has commissioned the report and this will usually be the relevant Chief Crown Prosecutor. This senior manager will be responsible for ensuring that any recommendations from both the IMR and, where appropriate, the Overview Report are acted upon appropriately. If necessary, this will be in consultation and agreement with the relevant HQ Directorates.

The IMR should be signed and dated by the IMR author and counter-signed and dated by a nominated senior manager. Areas may wish to use the draft template of an IMR.

Information given by the CPS will be scrutinised and included in the Overview report which will be published.

IMR Recommendations

On completion of each IMR report, there should be a process of feedback and debriefing for the staff involved in the review, in advance of the DHR Panel's completion of the Overview Report. There should also be a follow-up feedback session with the relevant staff members once the Overview Report has been completed and prior to its publication. The management of these sessions are usually the responsibility of the Chief Crown Prosecutor.

IMR recommendations for action contained in the report will be considered by the DHR Panel for inclusion in the Overview Report and Action Plan. Recommendations for change can be made, but the Review Panel should seek the agreement at senior level from each of the participating organisations including the CPS in order to check that they are satisfied that their information has been fully and fairly represented. CPS Areas should ensure there is effective communication with the Review Panel and ensure information submitted is accurate.

CPS Areas should note that the Chair may come to a conclusion (drawn from the information supplied in the IMR and other information) which conflicts with the CPS view. Areas should try to bring this to the Chair's attention and see if there is a way forward to resolve the differences. If the issue is not resolved, Areas should request that it should record our view within the Overview Report.

Areas should note that that IMRs are not mandated as part of a DHR and different approaches could be taken. This allow flexibility for local areas to respond as they see better fits their circumstances such as multi-agency discussions rather than an analysis of separate written accounts from the different organisations involved.

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Timescale for completion

The Review Panel is responsible for drawing up their terms of reference and appointing an Independent Chair. The Chair is responsible for managing and co-ordinating the review process and for producing the final Overview Report. The report will normally be produced six months from the date proceedings commenced, unless an alternative time scale has been agreed.

Publication of reports

In relation to a DHR report, the CSP Panel will send the final Overview Report to the Home Office Quality Assurance Group, which assesses DHR reports and eventually publishes them on the Home Office website. The CPS is represented on this group and any DHR reports involving the CPS is noted.

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Disclosure of Material

Whilst recognising the public interest in the proper conduct of the DHR, prosecutors should be aware about the timeliness of the collection of information by the Review Panel.

During the process of a DHR material will be generated (e.g. minutes of meetings) and gathered (e.g. IMRs from contributing agencies and notes of interviews). Reasonable enquiries must be carried out by the police to establish what material exists, and whether it may be relevant to the criminal investigation/criminal prosecution. If material relevant to the criminal prosecution exists, the police must alert the CPS to its existence.

Relevant material should be put on to a disclosure schedule in the normal way and reviewed by the prosecutor to assess whether or not the material is disclosable with respect to the disclosure test.

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