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Violence Against Women Strategy and Action Plans

April 2008

  1. Introduction
  2. Background and Contexts
  3. What We are Aiming to Achieve
  4. The Need for an Overarching Gendered Framework
  5. The Benefits of a Violence Against Women Strategy
  6. Gathering the Evidence
  7. Challenges and Opportunities
  8. What We Will Focus on in Next Three Years - Future Proposals
  9. Managing Risk
  10. How We Will Measure Progress and Success
  11. Schedule for Strategy Development
  12. Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment
  13. Action Plans

1. Introduction

1.1 The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recognises VAW as a fundamental issue of human rights. Human rights are the principles that underpin the development of violence against women (VAW) work, drawing on the United Nations conventions that the UK has signed and ratified. Freedom from violence and abuse is explicitly recognised in international law with respect to both human rights and gender. Violence against women is also recognised internationally and nationally as a cause and consequence of broader social, economic and cultural discrimination experienced by women.

1.2 Crime affects all communities in England and Wales. The criminal law is there to protect all members of our society and to ensure that those who break the law are dealt with appropriately. In developing this strategy, the CPS aims to provide an overarching framework to tackle crimes of VAW that have been committed primarily by men, within a dynamic of power and control. For example, CPS data shows that 89% of victims of domestic violence are women and 94% of perpetrators are men. [Note 1]

[Note 1. CPS December 2006 Domestic Violence Snapshot.]

1.3 The CPS is committed to the fair and consistent application of the criminal law so that offenders of VAW crimes are properly dealt with; victims and witnesses are properly supported and protected; and society as a whole is safer.

1.4 The CPS has a vision of becoming a world-class prosecution service. In December 2006, the CPS launched a Single Equality Scheme (SES), to develop further our improvements in delivering justice for all and being valued and respected by the communities we serve and our employees.

1.5 The Single Equality Scheme covers the equality strands of race, gender and gender identity, disability, age, religion or belief and sexuality. It also demonstrates the holistic approach to equality and diversity taken by the organisation.

1.6 The associated SES Action Plans deal with issues common to all of the strands. There are also strand specific plans, which allow the CPS to focus on the key obligations under each of the three positive duties that arise in respect of race, gender and disability. The development of a VAW strategy as part of the Gender and Gender Identity Equality Action Plan helps us to meet part of our obligation under the Gender Equality Duty (GED).

1.7 The CPS has included VAW in the top business priorities for 2008-11, alongside hate crimes and community engagement.

1.8 This is set against a background of national and international developments. Since the early 90s the United Nations, European Union and Council of Europe have all identified VAW within a human rights framework. They have recommended that governments develop national VAW action plans.

1.9 In the UK, the End Violence against Women (EVAW) campaign, [Note 2] launched in November 2005, is a coalition of organisations that has assessed Government departmental approaches to VAW.

[Note 2. EVAW was coordinated in 2005-06 through the Women’s National Commission and in 2006 onwards through Amnesty International.]

1.10 In 2006, the CPS was assessed for the first time by EVAW and was awarded the highest marks across Government for its work on VAW. EVAW recommended further work by the CPS to reduce attrition rates in relation to rape, domestic violence, stalking and child sexual abuse. It also recommended that the CPS introduce a VAW indicator to monitor offences of VAW brought to justice.

1.11 The CPS VAW strategy sets out the vision for developing our VAW work, building on the work of 2006-07, and provides supporting action plans for future work.


1.12 In this document, all references to ‘men’ should be read to include ‘boys’ and all references to ‘women’ should be read to include ‘girls’. The terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ have been used in order to include transgender individuals, regardless of whether or not they have undergone formal gender re-assignment.

2. Background and Contexts

2.1 International Context

2.1.1 The background to the VAW agenda is both international and national. The international agenda includes the work of the United Nations (UN) and the Council of Europe (CoE).

2.1.2 United Nations

  • The UN has prioritised VAW work within a human rights framework since the early 1990s. In 1995 the UK Government signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on VAW. The UN defined gender-based violence against women as:
    “violence that is directed against a woman, because she is a woman, or violence that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.”
  • Further information on the UN and its expanded VAW definition is in Annex A.

2.1.3 Council of Europe

  • The Council of Europe has developed a number of initiatives to combat VAW since 1993 and is currently running a campaign to combat VAW, [Note 3] including domestic violence, which is being overseen by a European task force.
  • The Council works to a definition similar to that of the UN. The work of some Member States has also included addressing pornography.

[Note 3. The CoE drew up the first international instrument to propose a global strategy to prevent violence and to protect victims; developed a VAW action plan in 2005; and developed a monitoring framework with Member States to provide regular updates about their progress on VAW issues.]

2.2 National Context

2.2.1 Government-Wide Delivery Plans

Currently there is a range of Government-wide Delivery and Action Plans overseen by Inter-Ministerial Groups (IMGs), including on domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and prostitution. Further details are contained in Annex A.

2.2.2 The strong links between domestic violence and sexual violence have been recognised by the Ministry of Justice. This is reflected by the fact that the same Minister now has responsibility for both IMGs. The Home Office has also combined work on domestic violence, sexual violence and prostitution.

2.2.3 The Inter-Ministerial Groups on Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence are under review in the light of the development of a cross-Government Violent Crime Action Plan. The Reducing Reoffending IMG now has responsibility for implementing the Government’s Response to the Corston Report. The Corston Report proposed links between the work on violence against women and women offenders. [Note 4]

[Note 4. The Corston Report - A report by Baroness Jean Corston of a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, March 2007.]

2.2.4 The Minister for Women and Equality have indicated that tackling VAW and improving the way in which women who commit crimes are dealt with are among their top three priorities.

2.2.5 End Violence Against Women Campaign

  • Since 2005, the EVAW campaign has conducted an annual, independent analysis of Government departmental initiatives on VAW – “Making the Grade?”
  • EVAW recommends a Government-wide national strategy and action plans on VAW. The recent ‘Map of Gaps: The Postcode Lottery of Violence against Women Support Services’, published by EVAW and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has identified inconsistencies in the provision of services for victims of VAW. This suggests that there is a need for Government work on VAW to be more ‘joined-up’ and funded in a consistent and sustainable way.
  • EVAW believes that a strategic and integrated approach to VAW would provide many benefits. We have identified those likely to impact on the criminal justice system (CJS) in paragraph 5.
  • The EVAW recommendation for future work by the CPS was:
    “to ensure the effective delivery of justice in cases of violence against women”.
  • The accompanying EVAW recommended target and indicator for the CPS were to “reduce attrition rates in rape and domestic violence, stalking and child sexual abuse cases” and to “increase the proportion of violence against women offences brought to justice”.
  • This CPS VAW strategy and action plans take on board the recommendations of EVAW.
  • In 2007, for the second year running, the CPS scored the highest mark across all Government Departments. This score was based on our 2006-2007 work and future plans on VAW.

2.3 Legislative Context

2.3.1 Violence against women is recognised as a human rights issue. The main Articles from the European Convention on Human Rights that apply are listed in Annex A.

2.3.2 Protection from violence against women is also found in a number of other European conventions. These are also listed in Annex A.

2.3.3 The Equality Act 2006 established the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Gender Equality Duty, with effect from October 2007. Given the fact that violence against women is rooted in the inequalities found throughout society between men and women, the GED provides a way for public authorities to look at how they operate in order to address systemic inequalities.

2.3.4 Although there is no specific offence of VAW, there are some specific offences within the criminal law that may constitute VAW. For example, perpetrators can be prosecuted for offences of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking, prostitution, child pornography and female genital mutilation.

2.3.5 For some of the strands of VAW, there are no specific offences to prosecute under. However, if an offence falls within a specific policy or within an agreed definition, then it will be prosecuted as such. For example, there is no specific offence of “domestic violence”, so cases of “domestic violence” are prosecuted under a range of other offences from common assault to murder. Forced marriage and so-called honour crimes are prosecuted within the domestic violence policy and identified through individual definitions. Child abuse and crimes against the older person also include a range of offences, similar to domestic violence.

2.3.6 The Government has passed several pieces of legislation in the last five years that reflect an increased focus and commitment to tackling violence against women. These are outlined in Annex A.

2.3.7 While the criminal law is crucial in holding perpetrators to account, the civil courts in England and Wales provide vital injunctive relief for victims who need protection that may not be available through the criminal courts.

2.3.8 VAW can also arise in employment situations, for example through bullying, harassment and other forms of discrimination.

2.3.9 In the context of immigration, women who are refugees and asylum seekers and have suffered physical or sexual violence in their country of origin may be particularly vulnerable. They may also face the additional difficulty of having no recourse to public funds.

2.4 Multi-Agency Context

2.4.1 Work on many of the VAW strands is currently being addressed with partners in local and national multi-agency frameworks. Alongside the Government-wide delivery plans, some Government criminal justice departments consult regularly with external partners. In addition, there are a number of cross-criminal justice system initiatives, such as the Specialist Domestic Violence Court Programme, which involve partnership working between Government departments, statutory agencies, and key national voluntary sector organisations.

2.4.2 Multi-agency working is equally crucial at a local level. Local Criminal Justice Boards and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships have been developed over the past decade, in recognition of the importance of partnership working in addressing local issues and ensuring the delivery of outcomes.

2.5 CPS Context

2.5.1 The CPS has developed a VAW strategy and action plans, not only in recognition of UN, CoE and EVAW initiatives, but also in recognition of the importance the Service places on improving the prosecution of these crimes and supporting victims in the process.

2.5.2 The strategy has been amended following a 12-week public consultation. In total, 44 responses were received, from both non-governmental organisations and statutory agencies. The responses demonstrated widespread support for the strategy and for a gendered framework more generally.

2.5.3 The CPS consultation also included the CPS VAW Project Assurance Group, VAW Board, Community Accountability Forum, Domestic Violence Board and the Performance Management Project Board, which all involved Chief Crown Prosecutors from a number of Areas and senior CPS staff. The documents were also put on the CPS Infonet for consultation with CPS staff.

2.5.4 CPS work over the past few years has focused on the improved prosecution of many gender-related crimes. Since 2001, the CPS has developed policies and guidance on domestic violence, rape and sexual offences, prostitution, and human trafficking; and more recently on children and young people and crimes against the older person. The lessons learnt from these individual strands of work can now be shared, and patterns of crime, victimisation and support addressed.

2.5.5 The CPS has had inspections on domestic violence and rape that have highlighted areas for future action.

2.5.6 We have made most progress within domestic violence prosecutions and have variable levels of success in other areas.

2.5.7 The CPS Board includes VAW in its top priorities for 2008-11, and VAW is one of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ personal objectives.

2.5.8 We now wish to bring the various strands of VAW work together. The CPS Single Equality Scheme makes specific provision for the development of a single cohesive VAW strategy, with supporting action plans, by March 2008.

2.5.9 The VAW strategy will cover work within the remit of the CPS with respect to the prosecution of cases; support for victims, including CPS staff; and increasing public confidence in the CJS, as outlined in section 3 below.

2.5.10 The strategy will be underpinned by effective partnership working at both a local and national level. The CPS has organised national work with external partners on a range of VAW strands. For example, the domestic violence work has a governance structure that includes an External Consultation Group consisting of voluntary sector domestic violence organisations and statutory agencies to advise quarterly on CPS work. At an Area level, the CPS works with communities through local partnership structures (for example, domestic violence forums and Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels).

3. What We are Aiming to Achieve

3.1 Overall Aims

3.1.1 The VAW strategy aims to secure the coordination and improved prosecution response to a range of crimes that fall under the umbrella of VAW. In 2008-09, the focus will be on putting systems in place to coordinate, rationalise and integrate work across the VAW strands. This will include a focus on rationalisation of VAW strand coordinators, specialist prosecutors, development of VAW Guidance and a VAW indicator and systems to monitor victim, witness and stakeholder satisfaction. In 2009-11, the emphasis will move to embedding the strategy into core CPS business, monitoring performance across the strands, monitoring support for victims and witnesses and external satisfaction.

3.1.2 The CPS will address work within its remit that falls under the UN definition of VAW, excluding state crimes, as outlined in Annex A. Work on pornography and sexual harassment will be included in line with the definitions from the Scottish Executive and the Council of Europe.

3.1.3 Specifically the strategy will focus on:

  • domestic violence, including harassment; [Note 5]
  • forced marriage;
  • so-called honour crimes;
  • female genital mutilation;
  • rape and sexual offences;
  • human trafficking, with a focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation;
  • prostitution, including child prostitution;
  • crimes against the older person;
  • child abuse; [Note 6]
  • pornography – obscene publications; and
  • sexual harassment at work. [Note 7]

[Note 5. Harassment is used instead of the term “stalking” (which is used by EVAW) as criminal cases of stalking are dealt with under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.]

[Note 6. At present the CPS has no formal definition of child abuse. Work to develop this is underway.]

[Note 7. All forms of harassment that are criminal offences will be addressed as part of domestic violence. Sexual harassment at work, although not a criminal offence, will be dealt with in relation to CPS staff through Human Resources.]

3.1.4 CPS work on VAW will focus on crimes where sexual exploitation occurs, in a broader sense, not just where actual physical or sexual violence is involved. This is in line with cross-Government strategies. For example, in relation to prostitution, crimes such as kerb-crawling will be included, as these fuel the exploitation of women by indirectly supporting drug-dealers and abusers, as well as perpetuating a market fraught with violence and abuse. [Note 8]

[Note 8. Part of the Government-wide prostitution strategy involves responding to community concerns by deterring those who create the demand for prostitution, and removing the opportunity for street prostitution to take place. This includes a campaign to deter kerb-crawlers. CPS work will include the prosecution of kerb-crawlers as well as bringing to justice those who exploit individuals through prostitution, and those who commit violent and sexual offences against those involved in prostitution.]

3.2 Objectives

3.2.1 The CPS specific objectives in crimes involving violence against women are to:

  • improve prosecutions;
  • increase public confidence;
  • improve support, safety and satisfaction for victims; and
  • address any disproportionality across the equality strands.

3.2.2 This strategy will help to deliver the overall criminal justice system Public Service Agreement of bringing more offenders to justice and increasing public confidence (PSA 24), by providing a framework and supporting action plans for the range of crimes outlined above. It will also help to deliver PSA 23 around reducing the rate of serious violent crime, including tackling the most serious sexual violence and domestic violence offences.

3.2.3 The VAW strategy will help the Government to fulfill its obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and will also help the CPS to meet its obligations under the Gender Equality Duty.

3.3 Broad Measures of Success

3.3.1 The criminal justice system PSA target shared by the CPS, Home Office (HO) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for 2008-11 (PSA 24) is as follows:

  • To deliver a more effective, transparent and responsive criminal justice system for victims and the public through:
    • improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the CJS in bringing offences to justice;
    • improving public confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of the CJS;
    • improving the experience of the CJS for victims and witnesses;
    • understanding and addressing race disproportionality at key stages in the CJS; and
    • the recovery of criminal assets.

3.3.2 The CPS Business Plans, Equality and Diversity Strategy and Single Equality Scheme, including the Gender and Gender Identity Equality Action Plan, all reflect previous similar targets around:

  • increasing the number of offences brought to justice by 2007-08;
  • increasing public confidence in the CJS – including the confidence of Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities; and
  • increasing the satisfaction with the services of victims and witnesses, while respecting the rights of defendants.

3.3.3 The CPS recognises that measures of success should address the support, safety and satisfaction of victims as well as bringing offenders to justice. The VAW strategy will therefore reflect these measures, which are linked to the following current CPS PSAs:

  • Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the CJS through bringing more offenders of VAW crimes to justice:
    • reducing unsuccessful prosecutions of VAW crimes; [Note 9]
    • coordinating VAW work;
    • rationalising VAW work, including resources and personnel; and
    • sharing good practice across VAW strands.
  • Improving public and stakeholder confidence in the CPS:
    • further enhancing CPS performance in addressing VAW and our local, national and international reputation in this area.
  • Improving victim and witness support, safety and satisfaction:
    • working with partner agencies in supporting victims and witnesses;
    • providing and improving appropriate support for VAW victims and witnesses; and
    • addressing VAW issues relating to staff policies and practices.
  • Addressing any disproportionality across all of the equality strands.

[Note 9. The aim is to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions through increased guilty pleas and convictions at trial without reducing the number of appropriate cases coming into the criminal justice system.]

3.4 Painting a Picture of Success in 2011-12

3.4.1 Here we picture the CPS in 2011-12, recognised as being increasingly successful in this area.

By 2011-12 we would want to see:

  • increased successful prosecutions of all VAW crimes, without reducing the number of appropriate cases coming into the criminal justice system;
  • all women victims report significantly increased levels of support, safety and satisfaction with the CPS at all stages of the process;
  • women from a range of communities report significantly increased levels of confidence in the CPS;
  • voluntary sector partners involved with CPS in relation to VAW work commend the outcomes;
  • a thematic inspection of VAW commends CPS progress in recent years (2011-12);
  • external assessors rate CPS VAW work positively and highly;
  • specialist prosecution resources on VAW exist and are working effectively across each CPS Area; and
  • women who are employed by the CPS report high levels of confidence in how they are, or believe they would be and supported by managers when facing harassment or violence.

4. The Need for an Overarching Gendered Framework

4.1 Overall Rationale

4.1.1 There are many categories of offence that involve violence against women (such as rape) and there are many general descriptions of unlawful behaviour that, of themselves, are not criminal offences but in respect of which women are the substantial majority of victims (such as domestic violence). The link between all these offences is that most often the victims are women and the defendants are men. Often, the nature of the offending indicates that the defendant exerts a controlling influence on the victim’s life. The context is frequently one of abuse of power, used by the perpetrators, the majority of whom are men, to control victims who are women – forcing them, for example, into marriage, prostitution, pornography or sex.

4.1.2 Often, the defendant and the victim will be known to one another and may be partners or relatives. The nature of the relationship between the two may well mean that the victim has additional issues to consider before even reporting an offence to the police. For example, there may be children and/or young people involved, or there may be a high level of financial dependency, which may in turn cause the victim to become financially insecure if the defendant is removed from her environment. There may also be cultural issues to be addressed.

4.1.3 The purpose of drawing the most common strands of VAW together is so that the expertise and experience acquired in respect of some strands can be brought to bear on others that have the same dynamics (for example, men being violent towards women with whom they are in a relationship). This will help prosecutors to be aware of the raft of issues that they may need to address. For example, prosecutors should be aware of the potential for repeat victimisation, which is a significant factor in many cases of violence against women. Not only is specialised support needed for the victim, but the approach to the prosecution of the defendant also needs to be specialised. This is reflected, for example, in the policies and guidance provided on domestic violence and rape. Prosecution policies also need to address issues relating to evidence in the light of the often close relationship between victim and defendant and the increased likelihood of victim intimidation and retractions.

4.1.4 There is a clear benefit in devising a strategy so that a common approach may be adopted in cases where offences are directed at women and girls, because of their gender, or in cases that disproportionately affect women and girls as victims,. This is an approach that has been favoured by the UN and EVAW.

4.1.5 VAW issues should be addressed within a gendered framework because:

  • the majority of victims of these crimes are women (see paragraph 6);
  • the majority of defendants are men (see paragraph 6);
  • unlike other forms of violent crime, the majority of offenders are known to the victim, which creates more complex dynamics of crime for both the victims and the criminal justice system to deal with;
  • most of the crimes are committed within a context of power and control used by men against women – for example, forcing them into marriage, prostitution, pornography or sex;
  • there are specific intimate or family relationships between many of the perpetrators and victims – for example, domestic violence, forced marriage, so-called honour crimes, FGM, rape within relationships, familial child abuse or crimes against the older person. The existence of this intimacy creates a context of coercive control;
  • offenders known to the victim create a more complex dynamic of crime, for both the victims and the criminal justice system to deal with;
  • a family or intimate link in many VAW cases often leads to a reluctance of victims to report to the criminal justice system or to stay in the system after reporting;
  • abuse may be organised – as, for example, in trafficking for sexual exploitation and child sex abuse networks;
  • historic abuse, especially abuse in childhood, also appears to make women vulnerable to other forms of violence – for example, sexual assault, harassment or domestic violence in adolescence or adulthood;
  • patterns of coercive control of victims, present in many of these cases, often leads to victims’ reduced ability to act – especially for children and young people, immigrant women, and trafficked women;
  • there is a sexual nature to many of these crimes – pornography, rape, sexual assaults, prostitution, trafficking for the sex industry, forced marriage and some aspects of child abuse. This makes naming and reporting even more complex;
  • rehabilitation, where possible, needs to recognise the root causes of power and control by challenging disrespect based on gender.

4.2 Men as Victims of Violence

4.2.1 The VAW strategy provides an overarching framework for crimes that have been identified as being committed primarily by men, against women. The gendered patterns and dynamics involved need to be acknowledged and understood in order to provide an appropriate and effective service. However, the CPS VAW strategy and action plans sit alongside other general policies (for example, on domestic violence and rape), which address the prosecution of offences of violence. All of our existing policies are gender neutral, and will be applied fairly and equitably to all victims of crime.

4.2.2 Although this strategy focuses on women as victims, the CPS is fully aware that men may also be victims (such as in cases of rape and domestic violence). These victims will have the same access to protection and legal redress. CPS policies and procedures on victim and witness care are applicable in all cases. The impact of violence on all victims will be recognised and men who are victims will be treated with dignity. An assessment of the safety and needs of victims will be conducted on an individual basis.

4.2.3 In recognising the dynamics of VAW, the CPS will not neglect the abuse directed towards men or perpetrated by women. The gender of the perpetrator will not make a difference to the CPS approach to bringing offenders to justice. All defendants will continue to be prosecuted fairly and justly, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

4.3 Intersectionality - Recognising the Diversity of Women

4.3.1 Although we refer to ‘women’ throughout the strategy, the CPS recognises the diversity of women. The CPS is keenly aware that the experiences of women subject to violence may be affected by other factors or ‘identities’ such as their ethnicity, gender identity, age, disability, sexuality, religion or belief, or social class.

4.3.2 Whilst there may be some commonality of experience on the basis of gender, the interaction of gender with other identities can produce a substantively distinct experience of violence for each individual woman and can ‘contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege’. [Note 10] The CPS considers that an understanding of these different identities – referred to as ‘intersectionality’ – is crucial to tackling violence against women.

[Note 10. Symington, A (2004) Intersectionality: A Tool for Gender and Economic Justice.]

4.3.3 As a result of intersectionality, individual women’s experiences of violence will be different. Women may also encounter additional barriers to accessing justice. For example, a lesbian might be anxious about reporting violence because of a fear of homophobia, or being forced ‘to come out’. An older, disabled woman could find it difficult to report violence because of her disability and because of fears that there are no services available for her.

4.3.4 Without the benefit of an overall, co-ordinated strategy on violence against women, women’s experiences may be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. Where links are not made between the different aspects of a woman’s identity, the prosecution response is likely to be ineffective. We recognise that women’s different experiences require specific responses from the CPS.

5. The Benefits of a Violence Against Women Strategy

5.1 We have identified the following potential benefits of addressing CPS work on these issues under a VAW umbrella:

  • better policy making, as it can be gender-informed and appropriately targeted;
  • improved tackling of the cross-cutting connections between VAW crimes in terms of victimisation and perpetration, and ensuring that the links between different types of offending are not missed and work is coordinated (for example, trafficking and prostitution; forced marriage and so-called honour crimes; domestic violence, sexual offences and child abuse);
  • alerting prosecutors to the multifaceted nature of such prosecutions (for example, recognising that honour killings may involve organised international crime that is linked to trafficking or prostitution), which will help to strengthen the prosecution process and bring more offenders to justice;
  • recognising that some victims may experience more than one offence; for example, a woman trafficked to the UK may be forced into prostitution through violence by a partner. If she is under 16, this also amounts to sexual abuse of a child;
  • improved multi-agency working, including linking of services, to ensure that a victim facing many crimes is supported in the most efficient and appropriate way;
  • potential to develop integrated expertise on VAW and the transfer of knowledge across VAW strands; and to move away from an exclusively strand-specific approach;
  • good practice can be shared across the topics; for example, improvements in enhanced evidence gathering or dealing with victim retractions through Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs);
  • victims may benefit from support to address a range of issues that could also reduce the likelihood of further victimisation;
  • reducing the number of women who offend in the longer term; the Corston Report highlighted the longer term effect of abuse on women’s lives, leading to their own increased offending;
  • more efficient and effective community engagement;
  • linking into more preventative work to develop longer term solutions;
  • development of a more targeted approach; and
  • more consistent handling of VAW cases to promote greater public confidence in the CPS and wider criminal justice system.

6. Gathering the Evidence

6.1 Data Analysis for VAW Plans

6.1.1 2006-07 CPS Case Management System data is provided for those VAW strands where data is currently available. Data is provided on the volume of cases in each of those strands; their respective targets, where available; their proportion of unsuccessful outcomes; and key reasons for any unsuccessful outcomes. A breakdown of data from April to September 2006 has also been undertaken to identify any equality or diversity issues.

6.2 Volume and Outcome of Each VAW Strand, 2006-07

6.2.1 Defendant data from charge to outcome is obtained from the CPS Case Management System for cases flagged as domestic violence, rape and child abuse, cross referenced with principal offences. [Note 11] Prostitution and trafficking data from charge is only available by key offence and not by defendant or outcome. [Note 12] The Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment (EDIA) provides further data on the gender breakdown. The December 2006 domestic violence snapshot indicated that 89% of victims of domestic violence were women. This data has been consistent since 2002. Data recorded on the Witness Management System is at an early stage and is not yet robust enough to be able to draw meaningful conclusions. However, of those cases flagged and analysed in the EDIA for rape, 89% of victims were women; and for all types of child abuse, 67% of victims were girls. Table 1 overleaf provides more detailed data.

[Note 11. Principal offences are grouped offences covering: Homicide, Offences Against The Person, Sexual Offences, Burglary, Robbery, Theft And Handling, Fraud And Forgery, Criminal Damage, Drugs Offences, Public Order Offences, All Other Offences (excluding Motoring), Motoring Offences, Admin finalised.]

[Note 12. Data is purely numbers of offences that reached at least one hearing in the magistrates' courts and also counts on indictments.]

Table 1: Volume and outcomes in 2006 - 07 violence against women cases from charge to outcome.

Domestic Violence:

  • Number of defendants: 57,361 (95% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: 36%
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 34.8% (65.2% successful)


  • Number of defendants: 3,262 (99% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 45.5% (54.5% succ/ful)

Sexual offences (excluding rape):

  • Number of defendants: 8,165 (96% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 31.4% (68.6% succ/ful)

Child abuse Homicides:

  • Number of defendants: 30 (80% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 16.7% (83.3% succ/ful)

Child abuse Sexual offences:

  • Number of defendants: 3,801 (98% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 30.5% (69.5% succ/ful)

Child abuse offences against the person:

  • Number of defendants: 2,306 (76% men)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: 27.8% (72.2% succ/ful)


  • Number of defendants: 647 kerb crawling; 115, children; 214 gain/control,(gender not available)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: Not available as these are recorded as offences rather than as defendants


  • Number of defendants: 116 (sexual offences linked to trafficking; gender not available)
  • Targets to reduce unsuccessful prosecutions: No targets yet set
  • % unsuccessful outcomes achieved [Note 13]: Not available as these are recorded as offences rather than as defendants [Note 14]

[Note 13. Unsuccessful outcomes include dismissed, acquitted and discharged cases as well as all discontinued cases. Successful outcomes include guilty pleas, convictions after trials and proof in absence.]

[Note 14. Outcomes can only be recorded in relation to defendants rather than in relation to specific key offences, as they are in separate data universes.]


  • The targets set for hate crimes aim to reduce unsuccessful outcomes. In this context, the data above reflects improvements in prosecutions through reducing unsuccessful cases.
  • The data indicates the very high volume of domestic violence defendants out of all the recorded VAW cases. The unsuccessful outcomes for domestic violence in 2006-07 (34.8%) went beyond the target of 36%. Successful prosecutions reached 65.2% by April 2007, an increase from 46% in December 2003. By December 2007, successful prosecutions reached 69.3%.
  • For rape cases, unsuccessful outcomes fell from 50.8% in 2005-06 to 45.5% in 2006-07 and for sexual offences from 36.9% to 31.4%.
  • In child abuse cases, the greatest numbers of flagged cases were for sexual offences.
  • Unsuccessful prosecution outcomes for all flagged child abuse cases (homicides, sexual offences and offences against the person) fell from 30.9% in 2005-06 to 28.9% in 2006-07.

6.2.2 The national average for all defendants in 2006-07 was 16.4% unsuccessful or 83.6% successful outcomes. Where data for successful outcomes is available for VAW crimes (domestic violence, rape, sexual offences and child abuse), in 2006-07 there was a total of 74,925 VAW defendants with 49,093 successful outcomes. This is an average of 34% unsuccessful or 66% successful outcomes.

6.3 Key Reasons for Unsuccessful Prosecutions

6.3.1 Of all VAW crimes, in 2006-07, data was only available on reasons for unsuccessful prosecutions for cases flagged as domestic violence, rape and child abuse, cross referenced with principal offence categories. The table below provides key reasons for unsuccessful prosecutions as recorded on the Case Management System in 2006-07.

Table 2: Unsuccessful outcomes in violence against women cases, 2006-07

Description Domestic Violence Rape Sexual offences(excluding rape) Child abuse Homicides [Note 15] Child abuse Sexual offences Child abuse offences against the person
Total number of cases prosecuted
Total number of cases that were unsuccessful
Total % unsuccessful outcomes
Key reasons for unsuccessful outcomes were victim issues, cautions and bindovers as listed below. Each is given as a percentage of the total number of unsuccessful outcomes. Not all reasons are provided, therefore totals do not add up to 100%.
Victim Retraction
Victim Non-Attendance
Evidence of Victim does not support case
Caution [Note 16]

[Note 15. Homicide data in CPS includes murders, attempted murders, threats or conspiracy to murder, manslaughter and causing death by aggravated vehicle taking – the victim retractions must relate to non- murder/manslaughter cases]

[Note 16. This data relates to cases that have been charged and result in a caution.]

6.3.2 Table 2 shows the proportion of unsuccessful cases linked to victim issues, cautions and bindovers. It therefore illustrates some key difficulties in the prosecution of these cases.

6.4 Equality and Diversity Issues Based on April - September 2006 Data

6.4.1 As above, in April - September 2006, data is available only for domestic violence, rape, other sexual offences and child abuse (which is further broken down by homicides, sexual offences, and offences against the person). For April – September 2006, only gender and ethnicity data is available. From April 2007, disability and religion/belief is also being recorded and from November 2007 data on same sex relationships in domestic violence cases is being recorded. Data on age is being recorded from April 2008 and data on sexuality is being explored.

6.4.2 The main data available from the CPS Case Management System and the Witness Management System has been used to inform an Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment of the VAW strategy. The key data is summarised in Annex B.

6.4.3 The available ethnicity statistics of the population of England and Wales do not give enough detail to enable proper comparisons to be made. Combined with missing values for ethnicity, this means that the statistics on ethnicity cannot be taken as evidence of any particular behaviour on the part of the population as a whole, or as evidence of the CPS response to cases involving different communities. The statistics simply show a need for further investigation.

7. Challenges and Opportunities

7.1 We face a number of major challenges. These include:

  • the timescale for the development of the strategy has posed challenges because of the breadth and complexity of the issues covered;
  • existing views of the issues have led to a single-strand approach to the work and the challenge for the future will be to fully integrate work across the strands;
  • there may be challenges in ensuring full participation and support due to a lack of widespread understanding of a gendered approach to these crimes;
  • ensuring clarity of work with the overlapping Hate Crime work programme;
  • currently some of the VAW strands cannot be flagged on the CPS Case Management System, some have poor flagging and many have no targets or monitoring – this will be addressed in the 2008-09 action plans;
  • more work is needed to develop national monitoring system to assess the support, safety and satisfaction of victims of sensitive violent crimes such as those encompassed within the VAW work;
  • competing priorities within each strand; and
  • insufficient volume of voluntary sector service provision in some Areas.

7.2 There are also a range of opportunities:

  • CPS Board has identified VAW in its top priorities and to use this opportunity to improve prosecutions and outcomes in relation to all of these crimes;
  • VAW strands will be coordinated, improved and rationalised in a better way to provide more effective prosecutions and reduce duplication of information, advice or roles through:
    • provision of guidance and training on the overlap of issues;
    • consider rationalisation of coordinators across VAW strands;
    • using prosecutors who are trained and who develop specific expertise on these issues;
    • monitoring of the issues;
    • identification of agencies who can advise on this range of issues;
    • sharing of good practice.

8. What We Will Focus on in Next Three Years - Future Proposals

8.1 From 2008-2011, the time frame of the current PSAs, we will focus on the actions outlined in paragraphs 8.2 to 8.5. Each individual strand of work will link into corresponding cross-Government action plans, where these exist. For further details of the CPS work programme, see the national action plans, at Annex D.

8.2 Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the CJS through bringing more offenders of VAW crimes to justice:

  • Reducing unsuccessful prosecutions of VAW crimes:
    • Area Performance Reviews – a VAW indicator has been included in the Area Performance Review system from April 2008, with targets for VAW strands;
    • linking into mainstream work streams – Charging, Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary (CJSSS), Victim and Witness Care & Delivery, Hate Crimes and Community Engagement;
    • developing VAW Guidance – retaining each separate policy strand, with overall VAW guidance to inform prosecutors of the links between existing policies and guidance, and gender implications;
    • specialist prosecutors – exploring the feasibility of rationalising existing specialist prosecutors across the VAW strands to improve VAW prosecutions; and
    • training – linking VAW into future training plans.
  • Better coordination and rationalisation of the work across VAW strands:
    • Area coordinators –rationalising current coordinators across the VAW strands and developing specific VAW coordinator posts;
    • sharing good practice – through Area coordinators, VAW Team and Project Assurance Group;
    • increasing knowledge and evidence base of service – through training of prosecutors and better performance data and analysis.

8.3 Improving public and stakeholder confidence:

  • involving community and stakeholder representatives in the VAW governance structure;
  • linking across Government, specifically with the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Ministry of Justice to address public and stakeholder confidence;
  • developing community engagement and consultation at national and Area levels;
  • working with Local Criminal Justice Boards and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships at an Area level;
  • working in multi-agency partnerships and local forums to address the gender implications of these crimes;
  • working with specialist support agencies and Witness Care Units providing support for the victims of these crimes; and
  • developing methods to measure views of stakeholders.

8.4 Improving victim and witness support, safety and satisfaction:

  • providing and improving appropriate support for VAW victims and witnesses through the specialist VAW sector;
  • working across Government on the further expansion of IDVAs, ISVAs and MARACs. Specialist support and risk assessments for all VAW crimes will also be considered;
  • linking across Government on all individual VAW strands;
  • considering systems for WCUs to support victims of VAW and ensuring monitoring of outcomes;
  • considering mainstreaming the selection of further SDVCs;
  • considering SDVC options to deal with a range of VAW cases including cases dealt with at the Crown Court;
  • involving a range of agencies to advise on this aspect of the programme;
  • developing a system to measure victim access to support, safety and satisfaction;
  • addressing any implications for staff policies and practice; and
  • considering briefing Human Resources advisors on dealing with VAW issues in relation to staff.

8.5 Improving our understanding of the equality and diversity issues within VAW crimes and addressing any disproportionality:

  • identifying the issues faced by a range of communities;
  • consulting and engaging with support agencies working with victims of VAW crimes to provide specialist support appropriate by gender, ethnicity and other diversity profiles; and
  • monitoring VAW strands by gender, ethnicity, disability, religion/belief, age and, where possible, sexuality.

9. Managing Risk

9.1 A risk register has been produced in consultation with external and internal advisors on the VAW Project Assurance Group, as well as the CPS Strategy, Policy and Diversity Committee.

9.2 The major risks that we have identified and are planning to manage are:

  • the timescales for the project are very short and there is limited time for slippage;
  • existing views on the issues may lead to a single-strand approach to the project;
  • limited buy-in to the strategy, due to a lack of widespread understanding of the gender context for the VAW agenda;
  • limited resources and personnel available for the development and implementation of the strategy; and
  • competing priorities between all of the strands of VAW work being rationalised and co-ordinated under this strategy.

10. How We Will Measure Progress and Success

10.1 Currently the only indicator related to VAW is for hate crimes, covering domestic violence, racially and religiously aggravated crimes, homophobic crimes and disability aggravated crimes. [Note 17] There is a target for 2007-08 of 72% successful outcomes for all hate crimes, with a specific target of 70% successful outcomes for domestic violence cases. For further details of monitoring, see the national action plan on Annex D.

[Note 17. Work is underway to develop a VAW indicator. In future, domestic violence will be monitored as part of that indicator instead of the hate crime indicator.]

10.2 Monitoring VAW crimes, setting targets and addressing any data gaps:

  • Indicator, flagging and targets – setting-up a VAW indicator with flags and sub targets for the range of VAW strands and address how this would fit with the current Hate Crime Indicator. This would be a public service outcome focused target in line with the Capability Review recommendations.
  • Monitoring – continuing to record and monitor domestic violence and rape cases; in addition monitoring sexual offences in 2008-09 and consider recording and monitoring of further VAW strands from 2009.
  • Analysis – evaluating monitored data with further analysis by defendant and victim profile and cross-analysing with other crimes, especially hate crimes. [Note 18]
  • VAW Report – producing a VAW performance report in 2008-09, linked to a new Hate Crime Report, based on 2007-08 data.
  • Hate Scrutiny Panels – considering how VAW will fit with the Hate Scrutiny Panels framework.

[Note 18. For April - September 2006, only gender and ethnicity data is available. From April 2007, disability and religion/belief has been recorded and from November 2007 data on same sex relationships in domestic violence cases has also been recorded.]

10.3 Monitoring victim support, safety and satisfaction:

  • Reviewing service provision for VAW victims and witnesses.
  • Developing a system to measure victim safety and satisfaction. The national WAVES survey measures the satisfaction of the majority of victims and witnesses but excludes victims of rape, sexual assaults and domestic violence because of safety issues in contacting them. In relation to rape, the CPS Rape Delivery Unit is currently linking into the Home Office Violent Crime Unit, which is undertaking a feasibility study to measure the satisfaction of victims of serious sexual offences. The VAW action plans for 2008-09 will build on the Home Office experience of measuring views of victims who are currently excluded from the national WAVES survey.

10.4 Monitoring stakeholder confidence:

  • Developing methods to measure views of stakeholders. The VAW Team will first scope this project, will present options to the Project Assurance Group involving key stakeholders, and will then draw up detailed proposals.

11. Schedule for Strategy Development

11.1 The Governance structure is outlined in Annex C.

Schedule for Strategy Development
Project assurance group and VAW Board set up
July 2007
First Board meeting of VAW Board
July 2007
Draft VAW strategy and action plans
August 2007
Draft to Strategy, Policy and Diversity Committee
August 2007
Impact assessment
end of August 2007
First meeting of PAG
first week September 2007
Second Board meeting
September 2007
Clearance by DPP, SG and AG of draft copy for consultation
October 2007
Broader consultation on VAW report (November – January)
January 2008
PAG meeting to sign off final document
February 2008
Board meeting to sign off final document
March 2008
Clearance by DPP, SG and AG of final documents
March 2008
Finalisation of VAW strategy and action plans
April 2008

12. Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment

12.1 An Equality and Diversity Impact Assessment (EDIA) has been undertaken to identify the issues faced by different communities. National data has been used on all strands of VAW. CPS data has also been used, but currently this is only disaggregated by gender and ethnicity in relation to domestic violence, rape and child abuse.

12.2 The EDIA consists of an analysis of the above mentioned data, together with the results of the formal consultation process undertaken between November 2007 and January 2008.

12.3 A final EDIA will be published alongside the VAW strategy in April 2008.

12.4 The equality and diversity issues identified in the EDIA will be regularly monitored and addressed through the VAW Project Assurance Group.

13. Action Plans

13.1 The national overarching Violence against Women (VAW) action plan is set out in Annex D. This is organised under the PSA targets and demonstrates the links between the various individual strands of VAW. It will be expanded by themes in quarter one of 2008-09.

13.2 There are also eight strand-specific operational plans, which will be used for monitoring work across the individual strands. These cover the main VAW strands – domestic violence, forced marriage and honour crimes, female genital mutilation, rape and sexual offences, human trafficking, prostitution, crimes against the older person, pornography and child abuse. They were developed in conjunction with relevant lead officials in CPS Policy Directorate, Business Development Directorate (BDD) and Equality and Diversity Unit (EDU). These are available on request.

13.3 It is clear from the content of the strand-specific action plans that work to address each of the VAW strands will start at very different stages (for example, CPS work on honour-based violence and forced marriage is still in its infancy, whereas work on domestic violence has progressed significantly over the past five years). Consequently, whilst we accept that the work on each strand will progress at different rates, the desired outcome is for each strand to reach its own national targets by 2011.

13.4 All of the action plans run from 2008 until 2011, but they will be subject to continuous review. As outlined in paragraph 3.1.1, 2008-09 will focus on the rationalisation and coordination of the VAW strands, identifying cost implications alongside setting up systems to implement the strategy, such as the performance management system and systems to monitor victim, witness and stakeholder satisfaction.
In 2009-11 the strategy will be embedded into the core CPS business with implementation of the VAW guidance, training, reporting on VAW prosecution performance. Monitoring of victim safety and support and monitoring of victim and stakeholder satisfaction will also be undertaken.