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Prosecuting Violent Crime

Violent crime covers a wide range of offences including:

These crimes are extremely rare, they account for only about 1% of all crime. Yet they cause significant harm, both to individual victims and their families in terms of physical injury and psychological trauma, and to society more widely in terms of fear. We are committed to prosecuting violent crimes efficiently and effectively.

CPS domestic violence figures show further rise in convictions

18/07/2007

The Crown Prosecution Service's latest figures for domestic violence show that convictions are continuing to rise year on year and have risen by 20 per cent since 2003. Three-quarters of the cases in the Crown Courts - where the most serious cases are heard - ended in a conviction.

The figures were released in the annual CPS snapshot survey which counted and analysed the number of cases of domestic violence finalised in December 2006. This is the fifth and final snapshot of domestic violence cases the CPS has carried out since 2002. The snapshot will be replaced in 2008-09 with an annual Hate Crimes Report.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, said: "These figures show the huge amount of work everyone has put over the past five years to make sure cases are prosecuted more and more successfully. Domestic violence victims are receiving a better service and better care in the criminal justice system than ever before.

"This 2006 snapshot reflects the national picture across the CPS. There is an increase in cases, which shows victims have more confidence in the system. We have also seen an increase in successful outcomes and the CPS is dropping fewer cases."

Conviction rates have risen from their lowest recorded point of 46 per cent in 2003, to 59 per cent in 2005, up to 66 per cent in 2006 - a year on year improvement of seven per cent and 20 per cent over three years.

Key findings in the survey included:

  • Recorded cases of domestic violence increased by three per cent compared with December 2005, to more than 3,100 cases charged for prosecution; double those recorded in 2002.
  • Magistrates' courts had a conviction rate of 64 per cent and Crown Courts had a conviction rate of 75 per cent.
  • Fewer cases were discontinued by the CPS: 17 per cent in 2003, 13 per cent in 2005 and 11 per cent in 2006.
  • There was a fall in the number of victims who retracted their statement. In 2004 it was 34 per cent and this fell to 28 per cent in 2006.

Sir Ken said: "I am determined that the improvements highlighted in this report will continue. During 2007and 2008, we will focus on driving up performance still further. We are aiming at a new target of 70 per cent successful prosecutions by April 2008."

Commenting on the CPS snapshot, Baroness Scotland, QC, Attorney General said: "Domestic violence is a terrible crime. Victims are attacked in what should be the safety of their own home by someone who should care for them. Domestic violence accounts for about 15 per cent of violent incidents. Clearly it is a crime that we should all be concerned about.

"The Crown Prosecution Service plays a key role in protecting the victims of domestic violence and bringing their attackers to justice. I am therefore extremely pleased to see that the CPS is bringing more cases of domestic violence to court and that more attackers are being convicted."

Sandra Horley OBE, Chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge commented: "Refuge is encouraged to see the rising number of convictions for domestic violence. As the most abhorrent of crimes, it is vital that domestic violence is taken seriously and perpetrators held accountable for their actions. The legal system is often complex, intimidating and isolating for victims of domestic violence, but Specialist Domestic Violence Courts are having a positive impact. Thanks in many cases to the support of independent domestic violence advocates, the number of women giving evidence is increasing."

There have been a number of initiatives during the year since the last CPS domestic violence report was published. These have included an increase in the number of Specialist Domestic Violence Courts to 64; a CPS poster campaign about violence against women highlighting the range of offences which could be prosecuted as well as support services for victims; the revision of the CPS employee domestic violence policy; and more than 2,800 CPS staff have been trained in domestic violence issues since April 2005, including all lawyers who prosecute in the specialist domestic violence courts.

  1. More than 57,000 domestic violence cases were charged for prosecution in 2006-07. The snapshot looks at the cases of domestic violence finalised in December 2006 - more than 3,100 cases.
  2. The number of Specialist Domestic Violence Courts has increased since the first pilot courts ran in Croydon (London) and Caerphilly (Gwent) from January 2004. The number was increased to 25 in 2005-06 with a further 39 selected in 2006-07, making a total of 64 from April 2007.
  3. The CPS Domestic Violence project tested out different ways of improving domestic violence prosecutions in Caerphilly and Croydon. In Caerphilly a specialist team of an independent domestic violence lay adviser, a dedicated police officer and a dedicated CPS lawyer provided a coordinated response at the start of cases which were fast-tracked through the courts. In Croydon a specialist court system was set up with specific domestic violence court sessions twice a week.
  4. The Domestic violence monitoring snapshot - December 2006 is available in the Prosecution Policy and Guidance/Domestic Violence section on this website.
  5. For further information contact CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8180.

CASE STUDIES

Humberside: A victim was kicked in the stomach by her partner in an attempt to "kick her baby out of her" - he wanted to get her back on the streets working as a prostitute for him. She did not provide a statement but gave very early/immediate accounts to her midwife, social worker, family and the police - her accounts were entirely consistent on each occasion and were consistent with her injuries. The CPS charged and ran the case on the basis of hearsay evidence and bad character evidence. The victim was entirely supported by the police/WCU and domestic violence support worker. About a month or so before the trial, the victim decided of her own volition that she would give a statement after all. She did so and on the day of trial the defendant pleaded guilty - he was sentenced to a total of five years' imprisonment.

West Yorkshire: The victim made an original complaint to the police of common assault. However she later became reconciled with her partner and refused to give evidence. The police had obtained photographs of the injuries and there were limited admissions during the interview. The trial proceeded on the basis of self defence and whether the defendant's actions were disproportionate. The defendant was convicted and given a community based sentence. The whole case took just nine weeks from assault to trial to sentence.

London: The victim was the girlfriend of the defendant. She had only been in the country for five months and they had been together for three months. An argument ensued about her talking too loudly on the phone whilst he was watching television. He punched her in the face and beat her with a belt causing lash marks on her back. There was a previous incident of violence, which the victim had been too scared to report. He was arrested and interviewed and denied hitting her with his hands but said that he had whipped her with a belt in "self defence". He could not explain why the marks were on her back. She had to move in a refuge, as she had nowhere else to go. He was charged with common assault and pleaded not guilty. The victim withdrew the allegations as she wanted to resume her relationship. The CPS decided to proceed without her evidence, on the basis of the admissions in interview and the evidence of her injuries and the fact that the defence of "self defence" was unlikely to be believed given that she had injuries to her back. The defendant pleaded guilty on the day of trial. He was sentenced to a two year community rehabilitation order with a condition to attend a domestic violence perpetrators' programme. He was also ordered to pay £200 compensation to his victim.