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Children classed as domestic abuse victims under new guidance

|News, Domestic abuse

Children affected by domestic abuse will be automatically treated as victims regardless of whether they were present during violent incidents, the CPS announced today.

In line with new domestic abuse legislation which mean young people will get automatic access to support like mental health and safeguarding services, we've updated our guidance, asking prosecutors to consider the powers available to them regarding Special Measures. 

Updated legal guidance released by the Crown Prosecution Service today specifically asks prosecutors to consider the impact domestic abuse has on young people when making a charging decision. This includes speaking to schools or Child Services to support evidence of long-standing abuse.

Kate Brown, CPS Domestic Abuse lead, said: “Growing up in a violent and toxic home has a hugely damaging and long-lasting impact on children.

"Today’s guidance, which recognises them as victims, not only offers them automatic support but means the effect on them is considered as part of the justice process.

"There’s no doubt that having a clear understanding of the family dynamic and how a young victim may respond to the criminal justice process, will help us bring more abusers to court.”

Given the complexities of these offences, the guidance highlights the importance of challenging assumptions and recognising the vulnerability of a victim who may not realise they are in a relationship with a suspect of abuse or who may disengage with the criminal justice process.

Prosecutors are asked to work with Independent Domestic Violence Advisors and other support groups to best support victims, and to consider further evidence such as CCTV, witness statements or medical records – in an evidence-led prosecution – to help build a robust case.

The new Domestic Abuse guidance was first published in April and a consultation was launched to seek feedback on proposed changes. As a result, the following sections have been refreshed:

1. A new section on assumptions and misconceptions: The guidance sought to knock down damaging misconceptions about the characteristics of a ‘typical’ domestic abuse victim. Fresh insights following responses from experts and support groups have been reflected in this section of the legal guidance.

2. Taking a suspect-centric approach: Prosecutors and police are advised when building the strongest possible case to consider the context of the incidents by looking at the behaviour of the suspect before, during and after. This scrutiny will help to establish the emergence of potential patterns of abuse and ensure all lines of enquiry are explored.

The CPS has also amended its policy statement which sets out the work being done on domestic abuse and is revising training for prosecutors on the effects of trauma and needs of victims from different groups.

Kate Brown added: “We want to see justice in every domestic abuse case, irrespective of the victim’s gender, sexuality, or background.

“Domestic abuse represents a third of all crime referred to the CPS and working with police and partners, we are dedicated to improving every aspect of how these cases are handled so victims can come forward with confidence.”

Notes to editors

  • The updated Domestic Abuse Legal Guidance can be found on the CPS website
  • Section 3 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 came into force on 31 January 2022 and specifically provides that a child (under 18 years old) who sees, hears, or experiences the effects of domestic abuse and is related to the victim or the suspect is also to be regarded as a victim.
  • The guidance also includes links to the non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation guidance following the introduction of new legislation in June which created stand-alone offences.
  • The CPS has also amended its Domestic Abuse Policy statement which sets out the work being done on domestic abuse, including delivering on the Domestic Abuse delivery programme, committed to prioritising referrals and joint working to increase the volume of domestic abuse prosecutions.
  • CPS and a Children's Independent Sexual Violence Advocate discuss how working together can improve victim experience through the criminal justice system. Watch here

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