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Domestic Abuse

Updated: 28 April 2020; Reviewed: 29 September 2021|Legal Guidance, Domestic abuse

This guidance has been updated to take into account the changes brought in by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and is subject to a comprehensive review. 


Domestic abuse (DA) cases are amongst the highest priority work being dealt with by the criminal justice system. They are regarded as particularly serious by the CPS.

There is no specific offence of 'domestic violence and domestic abuse'; however, the term can be applied to a number of offences committed in a domestic environment. The domestic nature of the offending behaviour is an aggravating factor because of the abuse of trust involved. Complainants will know and often live with, or have lived with, the offender. There may therefore be a continuing threat to the complainant's safety, and in the worst cases a threat to their life or the lives of others around them. 

Domestic abuse can inflict lasting trauma on victims and their extended families, especially children and young people who may not see the violence or abuse, but may be aware of it, or hear it occurring. Many individuals suffering domestic abuse whether in intimate relationships, or within familial situations, will not be always be aware that what they are experiencing is abusive behaviour.

Complainants of domestic abuse, particularly those who have suffered over considerable time, will have difficult decisions to make that will significantly impact on their lives, and the lives of those close to them. As a result, some complainants may not want to go through the criminal justice process, preferring to make use of civil remedies and other safety and support mechanisms.

Domestic abuse is likely to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it continues, and result in death in some circumstances. Cases involving domestic abuse can be very difficult to prosecute, and will require sensitive and careful handling, taking into account the nature of the offending behaviour, the relationship between the complainant and alleged offender, the complainant/victim's family circumstances, cultural or religious beliefs and other factors such as sexual orientation and/or gender identity, mental capacity or physical disability, or poor health.

Support and safety needs for complainants should be identified from the outset and continually considered throughout the life of a prosecution case. Improving a complainant's safety is key and also helps to raise their confidence in the criminal justice system, facilitates their participation in the prosecution and the overall criminal justice system.

Providing accurate and up to date information to the complainant throughout the case, and careful consideration of any special measures, or other support requirements are all important factors for prosecutors to consider. To ensure that this happens, close working with the police to properly understand the context of the offending and to gather and present the best evidence at court is therefore essential.

Regular liaison with Independent Domestic Violence Advisers [IDVAs] and their equivalent (where in place), Young People's Violence Advisers (YPVAs),or other support services (including from specialist organisations), Witness Care Units (WCUs), and voluntary sector support organisations, is recommended to ensure the complainant's safety and support needs are properly understood and addressed. This will also assist prosecutors with receiving regular updates about a complainant's situation to inform the prosecution's next steps; similarly, police and prosecutors should keep all linked support services updated with actions taken.


This guidance reflects the prosecution role in domestic abuse in criminal proceedings.

A range of terminology is used by different organisations within the criminal justice system to describe a person who has made a criminal allegation and to describe the person who is subject of that allegation.

Complainant, victim and survivor are communally used to describe the person who has made the allegation and suspect, defendant, offender or perpetrator are frequently used to describe the person against whom the allegation has been made. 

This guidance uses different terminology dependent on stage of proceedings reached, the type and the nature of the proceedings. The use of any wording does not confer any finding or judgement on the allegations that have been made. All allegations will be prosecuted impartially in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. 

It is also important to note that the terminology has been used to allow for the complexities which may occur with counter allegations, including allegations of reciprocal abuse, as well as incidences where there is uncertainty over the identity of the primary aggressor. It acknowledges that there may be situations where the primary victim may not want to or may not be in a position to make the allegation themselves; even though they have experienced harm. Furthermore, it includes situations within civil proceedings whereby additional terminology such as applicant and respondent may also be used.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (the ‘DA Act’)

The Domestic Abuse Act received royal assent 29 April 2021. It aims to raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families and to further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

The DA Act will be implemented in stages and this legal guidance will be updated to reflect when those changes take place. The following provisions have already been implemented

29 April 2021

  • Rough sex (Section 71) - which restates in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death. Further guidance can be found in the RASSO guidance at the section titled ‘consent to serious harm for sexual gratification’.

29 June 2021

  • Revenge Porn (Section 69) – this extends the offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress (known as the “revenge porn” offence) to cover threats to disclose such material.
  • Extraterritorial jurisdiction (sections 72, 74(1) & (2), and Parts 1 & 2 of Schedule 3 ): the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England, Wales, and Scotland has been extended so that, where appropriate, UK nationals and those habitually resident in England, Wales, or Scotland who commit certain violent and sexual offences outside the UK may be brought to trial here. Further guidance can be found in the Jurisdiction guidance.

1 October 2021

  • Definition of domestic abuse (sections 1-2): the new definition emphasises that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also take other forms such as emotional, controlling and coercive behaviour, and economic abuse between two people aged 16 or over who are personally connected.
  • Local Authority support (sections 57-61): Tier 1 Local Authorities in England will have new duties relating to the provision of support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation such as refuges.
  • Special Measures in the Family Court (section 63): Rules of court will put in place an assumption that the quality of a person’s evidence and/or their ability to participate in family proceedings will be diminished by reason of vulnerability where they are a victim of domestic abuse. This builds on a requirement already set out in rules of court requiring it to consider the use of special measures, such as giving evidence via video link or from behind a screen, where it considers a person vulnerable. However, the rules will also provide an exception for instances where a person does not wish to be deemed eligible for special measures.

Statutory definition of domestic abuse

The DA Act, introduces a cross-government statutory definition to ensure that domestic abuse is properly understood, considered unacceptable and actively challenged across statutory agencies and in public attitudes.

It builds and expands on the previous cross-government definition of domestic abuse and violence, which had been in place since 2012, but operated on a non-statutory basis. By placing the definition on a statutory footing, the DA Act seeks to recognise the impact of domestic abuse on children and will ensure that domestic abuse is properly understood by all public agencies and others using a common definition.

The DA Act does not create a specific criminal offence of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can fall under a range of offences, including but not limited to: murder, manslaughter, rape, common assault, stalking, harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour.

Statutory guidance is expected to be published later in 2021 and it will provide further details on the different types of abuse and the forms they can take.

The statutory definition does not create any new offences of domestic abuse instead it sets out who can be a victim of domestic abuse behaviours and establishes how victims need to be connected to the suspect. The DA Act also makes clear that children irrespective of whether they are injured or see the offending are deemed to be victims domestic abuse if they live in an abusive household. Therefore, when identifying and flagging DA cases prosecutors must apply the statutory definition to all cases irrespective of the age of the victim or the perpetrator.

The relationship between the victim and perpetrator under the statutory definition

The definition of domestic abuse is in two parts, which can be found at s1 DA Act. The first part deals with the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator.

There are two criteria governing the relationship between the abuser and the abused. The first criterion states that both the person who is carrying out the behaviour, the perpetrator, or “A”, and the person to whom the behaviour is directed, the victim, or “B”, must be aged 16 or over. The second criterion states that both persons must be “personally connected”.

In what circumstances can people be personally connected in the DA Act?

Section 2 of the DA Act sets out how people can be personally connected, and it ensures that different types of relationships are captured, including ex-partners and family members.

Section 2: Definition of “personally connected”

  1. Two people are “personally connected” if any of the following applies—
    (a) they are, or have been, married to each other;
    (b) they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;
    (c) they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
    (d) they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
    (e) they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
    (f) they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (see subsection (2));
    (g) they are relatives.
  2. For the purposes of subsection (1)(f) a person has a parental relationship in relation to a child if—
    (a) the person is a parent of the child, or
    (b) the person has parental responsibility for the child.

The DA Act uses the same definition of ‘relative’ as section 63 of the Family Law Act 1996. This is wider than the previous cross government definition and can include (a) the father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson or granddaughter of that person or of that person’s spouse, former spouse, civil partner or former civil partner‘ or ‘(b) the brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or first cousin (whether of the full blood or of the half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) of that person or of that person’s spouse, former spouse, civil partner or former civil partner.

There is no requirement in the DA Act for the victim and perpetrator to be co-habiting.

What is abusive behaviour in the DA Act?

The second part of the definition at s1(3) DA Act sets out what constitutes abusive behaviour, listing broad categories to capture the different types of abuse. These include
'(a) physical or sexual abuse;
(b) violent or threatening behaviour;
(c) controlling or coercive behaviour;
(d) economic abuse (see subsection (4));
(e) psychological, emotional or other abuse;'

The DA Act also clarifies that it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

In terms of economic abuse it also clarifies that this can include:
'any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to—
(a) acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or
(b) obtain goods or services.'

The CPS recognises that domestic abuse describes a range of controlling and coercive behaviours, used by one person to maintain control over another with whom they have, or have had, an intimate or family relationship. Domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and is the cumulative and interlinked physical, psychological, sexual, emotional or financial abuse that has a particularly damaging effect on the victim. Domestic abuse occurs amongst people of all ethnicities, sexualities, ages, disabilities, immigration status, religions or beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds. The CPS also recognises domestic abuse differs in severity between incidents, and more often than not, will increase in frequency and seriousness, having a cumulative impact on the victim/complainant.

The safety of complainants and children in addition to the defendant's accountability are important to the CPS when prosecuting cases of domestic abuse. Prosecutors should apply this guidance to all cases of current or former partner or family abuseirrespective of the age of the offender or the complainant.

Prosecutors should note that different considerations will apply to offenders under 18 years old; prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Youth Offenders for further advice in handling such cases. In addition, prosecutors should be alerted that where young victims under 18 years old are involved, child protection and safeguarding considerations are required and must be properly applied.

Avoiding assumptions

When dealing with members of groups that more commonly experience discrimination (for example, women, black and minority ethnic people, disabled people, older people, lesbians, gay men, transgender people, bisexuals and transsexuals), prosecutors should avoid making stereotypical assumptions.

Prosecutors should also be careful not to make assumptions with regard to a victim's age, or the nature of their relationship with their abuser, or physical stature/appearance or gender stereotypes. As much information as possible should be obtained from the police about the circumstances of the relationship to enable prosecutors to properly assess the specific requirements and needs of the complainant, and the level of support which is required and can be provided through relevant support services.

Where appropriate, expert advice should be sought on religious, cultural or other issues from relevant agencies, and particularly from specialist organisations (for example, minority ethnic women's groups) that deal with domestic abuse.

Prosecutors should always be sensitive to the needs of diverse communities; however, cultural sensitivity should not be used as an excuse to avoid taking appropriate action in domestic abuse cases.

The impact and dynamics of domestic abuse

The broad definition of domestic abuse means that the dynamics and forms of how abuse takes place will also be broad; and as such, prosecutors should focus on the specific facts of each case when reviewing the case and reaching their charging decision.

The CPS recognises that most incidents of domestic abuse will take place through person to person contact and, that increasingly some incidents will take place via telephone/mobile calls, through internet and communications technologies, such as mobile texts, emails, social networking sites and other web-enabled methods.

Some examples of such abuse may include controlling the use of a complainant's phone; seeking to control through text, mobile, email, social networking sites; posting of inappropriate material such as sexually explicit or nude images or defamatory or insulting comments; or, monitoring a victim through the use of GPS technology on a victim's mobile device. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and prosecutors will need to consider all forms of online abuse which is unwanted, offensive, has a serious effect or is used to harm or threaten individuals. This behaviour may occur between individuals during an ongoing relationship, and when a relationship has ended.

This type of abuse is not restricted to allegations made by complainants against their partners, or ex-partners. Online abuse can be equally applicable to individuals in family relationships.

It may not always be straightforward to identify the primary aggressor and true complainant in cases of domestic abuse. It is possible in some cases that a primary 'complainant' of the abuse or violence may have acted in a manner in which they are then seen as the perpetrator. For example, retaliation against the primary aggressor after years of abuse.

As such, the police and CPS should take great care to consider the full facts of the offending behaviour, relevant background and history before any action is taken in arresting and/or charging the suspected offender. During this consideration, to avoid stereotyping of the individuals involved, the primary complainant should be correctly identified - e.g. - the physical appearance of the purported offender, or the ethnicity of the complainant should not be used to make any assumptions. All complaints need to be assessed on their own facts and merits by the police and CPS.

Many offences fall under the definition of domestic abuse; due regard should be given to the scope of offending that falls within the breadth of the definition, particularly under the controlling or coercive elements, and psychological abuse which may not be immediately evident as there may not be any physical injury visible on the complainant.

Acts of control or coercion alone may not be seen or recognised immediately as obvious criminal behaviour by the victim or by criminal justice agencies; however, when reviewing cases, prosecutors should consider evidence of such conduct alongside determinable criminal offending, as well as any previous incidents where similar behaviour was reported but no further action was taken at the time. Controlling or coercive behaviour may be seen through the following examples:

  • intimidation (through threats to harm children; threats to have children taken into care through coercion/exploitation of family court proceedings, or otherwise; threatening abuse when the victim does not comply to conducting certain sexual acts; threatening abuse when the victim does not support/assist the suspect; threats of abuse if the victim does not terminate a pregnancy, as well as forcing a continued pregnancy; victims feeling too intimidated to continue pregnancies to full term; 'outing' a victim's sexuality or sexual orientation, HIV status or information about other sexually transmitted infections, immigration status);
  • deprivation (for example, from money, or having their own bank account; entitlements such as the victim's name on property deeds; not being allowed to attend school/college; being restricted from certain opportunities, such as learning to drive, or access to car use; from medical care); and/or,
  • isolation (for example, not being able to have their own friends; stopped from seeing family; not being allowed to leave the house; controlling the victim's use of the telephone to contact others; exploiting the victim's lack of understanding of English; using the victim's actual or perceived mental health status to restrict activities, or contact with others; using the victim's physical impairments or disability to maintain control over them and restrict activities or freedom to leave the home when desired).

These examples are not exhaustive but are provided for prosecutors to assist in understanding the manifestation of controlling and coercive behaviours. Consideration should also be given to behaviours linked to harassment and stalking offences as part of the offending that may occur.

Prosecutors will need to also take account of specific methods of control or coercion that are relevant to distinct groups of people and are not listed above. For example, coercive or controlling behaviours may include some of those listed above or may present in very different ways for different groups within black and minority ethnic (BME) communities; and, equally so for individuals in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships. Further still, these behaviours will be very specific to the nature of the relationship between the victim and perpetrator - as such, prosecutors should pay particular attention to the specific facts of the case and take care not to make assumptions, or stereotype individuals.

Ultimately, prosecutors should be alert to the fact that an offender will follow a course of conduct which is used to control, dominate or exploit a complainant.

Identification of the triggers for abuse will assist in understanding the context of the offending. These issues should be considered as risk factors, rather than as causal links to the offending behaviour, and will assist prosecutors in their consideration of the public interest. This will also assist when considering factors to be taken into account for bail applications and/or terms for restraining orders at later stages of the prosecution process. Some examples of risk factors may include (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • a new relationship,
  • the disclosure of an individual's sexual orientation;
  • changes in a relationship, such as a reconciliation, break-up or separation;
  • new surroundings, such as a move to a new area, school/college or job;
  • the introduction of new people in a social context, such as new friends or partners which may have changed an individual's perceived routine behaviour;
  • pregnancy or loss of pregnancy;
  • retirement from employment, or loss of employment - and subsequent impact on finances;
  • illness or mental/physical incapacitation;
  • initiation or termination of criminal proceedings;
  • custody proceedings in the family courts; or,
  • immigration issues.

Some of these factors could also lead to a cessation or reduction in abuse. This document does not focus on triggers that have caused abuse, but rather draws upon how those circumstances contribute to a pattern of abuse or violent behaviour against a complainant.

These particular dynamics of domestic abuse mean it is crucial that prosecutors proactively address the security and safety of the complainant, and any children, from the point of charge and throughout the prosecution. An incident of domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and will in most cases increase in frequency and severity. It is only after suffering abuse for some time that victims may come forward to report to the police. Prosecutors need to be aware that certain actions, such as the complainant supporting a prosecution, may place the complainant and/or any children, or other family members at increased risk. In addition, many complainants will often be in a situation where they are unable to effectively resist the abuse perpetrated or escape from the defendant.

In most cases, separation from a partner or escape from a relationship in cases of non-familial abuse is likely to lead to an increase of abuse a complainant will experience. This may take a different form of abuse (such as harassment, stalking or intimidation, committed either online, offline or by both methods)and may be of increased severity, and as a result prosecutors need to be sensitive to the changing risk to a complainant, as well as changing safety requirements.

Offenders in cases of domestic abuse could also have a lot to lose if the prosecution leads to a permanent separation; some defendants may embark on conduct to maintain a relationship, which may lead to witness intimidation, or further offences such as harassment or stalking the complainant. For example, harassing, threatening or exerting pressure on victims to reconcile a relationship or pressurising a victim to withdraw their support for a prosecution/retract an allegation.

In cases of familial abuse the dynamics can be very different. Complainants may escape abuse by leaving the home whether on a permanent or temporary basis - but for some complainants this escape may not be fully realised. For example, in some close-knit communities, family members may have contacts in other parts of the country that may know the complainant or inform the family of the complainant's whereabouts, or coerce or threaten them to return. In other situations, feelings of shame or duty to the family may force the complainant to return.

However, there will be many instances where a complainant will not be able to escape the abuse, or abuser they live with. They may be dependent on them for finances, care, provision of medication, or immigration security. Prosecutors should ensure that they have full background information from the police to understand these issues and be able to assist with any criminal justice remedy to support the safety requirements needed by complainants.

Some complainants risk losing a lot through supporting a prosecution, which may lead them to later disengage from a case on their own volition. Examples for these reasons are listed throughout this document, but should not be taken as an exhaustive list. Prosecutors need to be sensitive to this issue in particular, and must not engage in any conduct which supports the position that the complainant is complicit in perpetrating the abuse they are suffering. Complainants will be making a difficult choice in reporting the abuse to the police in the first place; it is therefore important that they are handled with appropriate care and support through the lifecycle of any criminal proceedings.

Identification and flagging

All domestic abuse cases should also be identified on the CPS Case Management System (CMS) and cases should be flagged as 'vulnerable/intimidated victim'.

For the purposes of CPS domestic abuse monitoring, cases involving victims under the age of 18 are flagged as domestic abuse andchild abuse (and any other appropriate flag).

Cases involving defendants under the age of 18, should be flagged as 'youth offender' (YO).

Prosecutors should also consider whether other flags apply from the following list:

  • rape;
  • honour crime (honour-based abuse);
  • human trafficking; or,
  • hate crime (for example, hate crimes committed in response to disability, age-related issues, race, religion and homophobic issues).

In addition to the information captured through the standard CMS options, all prosecutors should record the following data on the case file:

  • all outcomes for cases where there has been a victim retraction (both successful and unsuccessful outcomes should be recorded);
  • the gender of the victim and the defendant; and,
  • the nature of the relationship between them e.g. - intimate relationship (whether ongoing or previous) or inter-familial.

CPS Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy

The Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy provides an overarching framework for crimes identified as being primarily committed, but not exclusively, by men, against women, within a context of power and control.

Domestic abuse prosecutions should be addressed within an overall framework of violence against women and girls and human rights. Where appropriate, links with other VAWG topics such as rape and sexual offences, stalking and harassment, so-called honour crimes, forced marriage, child abuse, crimes against the older person, pornography, human trafficking, prostitution, and female genital mutilation should be identified on CMS.

Though the majority of reported complainants covered by VAWG offences are women, the CPS recognises that some offenders will be women, and some victims will be men. As a result, the individual legal guidances that sit within the VAWG framework, for example, for domestic abuse and rape, are gender neutral and are applied toall defendants and complainants of crime irrespective of gender, or sexual orientation, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Further advice on gender-specific offending is provided later in this document for prosecutors covering behaviours impacting specifically on women, men, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

This legal guidance also recognises the wider definition of familial abuse and that family members can be abused by siblings, children, parents, grandchildren and other relatives. Prosecutors should also consider whether the abuse relates to acts of honour-based violence, or any behaviour relating to forced marriage as set out within the Anti-Social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Further detail can be found in the legal guidance on Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage.

Assumptions should not be made that if a complainant and offender are from an ethnic minority background, the abuse will automatically be a form of honour-based abuse or forced marriage. Consideration must be given to the familial aspects of the domestic abuse definition to deliver the most appropriate and relevant response to complainants.

For some complainants personal circumstances may make them less likely to report the abuse experienced. For example, complainants in a relationship with their abuser for a significant period of time may blame themselves or feel they are wasting time by coming forward; they may also face wider issues such as disruption to the lives of their children or other dependants, or their financial circumstances may be significantly impacted upon (such as the loss of another salary or benefits); other complainants may fear that reporting will 'out' their sexual orientation, or put them at risk from others in their community. Complainants experiencing familial abuse will also face difficult decisions, as any report to the police may isolate them from their family, or wider community, or increase the risk of further harm to them. This may also lead to disengagement later in the prosecution process.

Understanding the dynamics of the abuse taking place, including particularly, the nature of the offending, the relationship between the complainant and offender, and whether there has been any specific history, is therefore very important.

Complainants' experiences of domestic abuse are undoubtedly affected by their ethnicity, age, sexuality or sexual orientation, disability, immigration status, and religion or belief. Each complainant's individual experiences will be different, and some complainants may encounter additional barriers to accessing justice, such as pressure from families, friends and communities. Prosecutors should refer to the section below on Issues relevant to particular groups of people for further guidance.

Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework

The CPS, together with the police and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) are leading efforts to implement a best practice framework for use in cases of DA across all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales. This is intended to ensure cases of DA are handled effectively, and victims and witnesses are supported appropriately.

The ‘framework’ was developed following a ‘deep dive’ exploration and analysis of the ability of local Criminal Justice Agencies to respond effectively to DA cases and effectively support victims. Following the testing of the framework in three test sites, all the sites improved their DA performance, moving from being low performing areas to being in line with or above national average DA performance.

Four common components of best practice which were identified as pivotal to improving the capacity and capability of the CJS to respond effectively to reports of DA offending, whilst providing a level of service to victims, which increases their safety and satisfaction in the CJS include:

  • A clear multiagency/community approach which addresses risk management and safeguarding procedures;
  • Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) support;
  • Trained and consistently deployed staff across all agencies (including robust judges); and
  • In court services: proactive witness services/pre-trial familiarisation visits/appropriate use of special measures.

Gathering of evidence and case building

It is important that efforts aimed at gathering evidence to build a robust prosecution case are not focused solely on the evidence of the complainants. The stronger the overall case, the less likely it is that it will be contested or, if it is, that the prosecution will need to call upon the complainant to give evidence. The starting point should be to build cases in which the prosecution does not need to rely on the victim. However, prosecutors should ensure that the views of the complainant are balanced with this approach, and the complainant is not overlooked during proceedings.

Evidence gathering - Joint Police-CPS Evidence Checklist

All cases should always be based on and constructed using evidence, other than that of the complainant. The Director's Guidance on Charging confirms that joint evidence checklist (see copy at Annex A) list is key evidence and it must be included in all domestic abuse cases that are referred by the police to the CPS for a charging decision. Police and prosecutors should actively use the Joint Evidence Checklist to gather evidence and build cases, maximising all opportunities to ensure that a full history of offending behaviour has been captured to assist in keeping the complainant safe from any further harm.

The Joint Evidence Checklist should not be seen as an exhaustive list of evidential opportunities to explore by the police. Police and prosecutors should consider how supporting evidence could be captured particularly in the prosecution of cases where controlling or coercive behaviour has been more prevalent (without the presence of any violent behaviour - such as online abuse), and equally where the complainant has indicated that they are not willing to support a prosecution. The investigation of this material should always be undertaken with the intention to assist in how best to keep a complainant safe.

As domestic abuse incidents often take place in private, the complainant may be the only witness. Giving evidence may be very difficult for them, or may cause additional difficulties (for example, fear of reprisals; safety of their children; increased family pressures or serious financial repercussions; fear of being 'outed'; fear of a lack of support by the criminal justice system, or specialist support organisations; or, an emotional attachment or loyalty towards the defendant), leading to uncertainty about the course of action they should take. The police and CPS understanding of the nature of the offending and the relationship between the complainant and offender is central to the delivery of the best response provided.

Joint working by police and prosecutors is required to build a case which could be brought without the complainant's active participation, by seeking out other evidence, where available, which does not focus solely on the complainant's statement. Such evidence might include 999 tapes, statements from third party witnesses (such as neighbours, other family members, colleagues, peers, teachers, specialist support organisations), CCTV footage or footage from police body-worn cameras, forensic evidence, photographs of any visible/immediate injuries and the scene, medical evidence and police observation at the scene (such as furniture overturned and any damage to property). Prosecutors should prompt the police where it is considered that further supporting evidence may be useful to build the file - such as photographs to be taken of the complainant a few days after the incident to enable the capture of images of bruising which may not be immediately seen on the police's arrival at the incident. 999 calls and the complainant's account is admissible under res gestae in a domestic violence case, see Barnaby v DPP [2015] 2 Cr. App. R. 4.

Practical and emotional support services should be identified to the complainant by the police; complainants should also be offered the assistance of an IDVA/YPVA where they are available, and other specialist support services where they are not available. It is important to recognise IDVA/YPVA services are not available in all parts of England and Wales, but also that the complainant may need specialist support, such as a sign language interpreter or lip-speaker, a language interpreter or intermediary, or a support service specialising in LGBT issues. Complainants receiving speedier attention and respect for their specific needs by the criminal justice system may feel more confident or encouraged to continue support for a prosecution.

To ensure complainants are kept as safe as possible, prosecutors should properly consider all tools at their disposal (for example - appropriate conditions for bail applications, restraining orders, and breaches of bail or civil orders.

Case building-Aide Memoire

When deciding whether, and how, to proceed, prosecutors should ensure use of the Domestic Abuse Aide Memoire at Annex B in conjunction with the Joint Evidence Checklist in all cases.

Where the initial background information is inadequate, prosecutors should proactively request further information from the police. In more complex cases, early consultations with the police are recommended and should take place in any case where the early involvement of a prosecutor would assist in the gathering of relevant evidence, the questions to be asked of suspects, any pre-charge court procedures and any strategy for a likely prosecution.

Where the CPS considers there is not enough evidence to proceed to charge but that further evidence could be obtained, prosecutors should provide investigative advice to the police using the prompts and avenues listed within the Joint Evidence Checklist. This does not preclude prosecutors from asking for information not listed within the Joint Evidence Checklist - and as such, prosecutors should ensure that they consider the specific facts and merits of the case, and request any additional information to assist them in informing their view of a potential charging decision. Examples of these avenues may include online sites and social networking spaces, local neighbourhood forums, health services, support organisations, schools and colleges.

Self defence and counter allegations

Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Self Defence and the Prevention of Crime for further detailed advice when reading this section.

Prosecutors may often be presented with conflicting accounts of the incident, with each party claiming to be the victim. The offender may make a counter-allegation of abuse, or argue that they have acted in self-defence, making it difficult to identify and distinguish between the primary victim and primary aggressor. The police should explore the nature of the relationship between the individuals; the context of the offending, including any previous call outs, allegations and/or convictions involving the individuals; and, whether there are any other factors at play which may impact on an allegation, such as civil or family proceedings.

The complainant in the reported incident may also have acted in retaliation, which may add to the complexity of the report; where there is uncertainty prosecutors should request further information from the police to help clarify the situation as soon as possible. This will help prosecutors assess circumstances where for example, a primary victim of abuse has retaliated against a perpetrator who has been abusing them for many years, as well as other scenarios, such as complaints of alleged reciprocal abuse.

Care needs to be taken to avoid stereotyping against both complainants and alleged perpetrators - both police and prosecutors should avoid making assumptions based on a complainant's physical appearance or stature, sexual orientation, mental or physical capacity, age, ethnicity and nature of relationship.

Police and prosecutors should understand the vulnerability of complainants and the particular impact that control, coercion and psychological abuse may have on the individual. There may be some circumstances in which the offender or primary aggressor will accuse the complainant of having mental health difficulties, and that the allegation reported did not occur, or that the offender used violence to control the person. Each case should be considered on its own facts and merits. Victims should not be subjected to any preconceptions of what a 'perfect' victim or complainant will look like. Further advice on this can be found later in this document in the Support and Safety of Complainants and Witnesses section.

In cases where a counter allegation has been made, police officers should conduct an immediate further investigation at the scene (or as soon as is practicable) to attempt to establish the primary aggressor and to assess whether the 'primary' victim may have been justified in using a reasonable level of force to defend themself or another person, such as a child. Police and prosecutors should be alert that some counter allegations may be made to further exploit the abuse perpetrated on the 'primary' complainant. A thorough investigation should be conducted into the background of the relationship between the complainant and alleged perpetrator to ensure that the full context of the incident is understood.

When there are counter allegations, police officers should record the following information:

  • the nature of the relationship between the complainant and alleged perpetrator;
  • whether either party, or both, are involved in other proceedings, such as civil proceedings/orders, or family proceedings;
  • the comparative severity of any injuries inflicted by the parties;
  • whether either party has made threats of future harm to others (including children, other family members, or others living in the same household);
  • any prior history of abuse by either party;
  • any previous counter allegations by either party and the results of those allegations; and,
  • whether either party acted defensively to protect themselves or a third party from injury.

First response officers will be able to record the behaviour of the parties or note any other information which may be of value. It is also possible that officers attending the scene may be wearing body-worn cameras which might capture vital evidence.

Counter allegations may give rise to difficulties in prosecutions, particularly as instances where the actual perpetrator alleges that the 'primary' victim is the abuser. This may result in a counter allegation being used as the basis of bad character applications against the victim (section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allows for the bad character of any witness to be admitted, subject to certain conditions). A thorough investigation of such claims should take place to ensure that factually incorrect or misleading information is not put before the courts.

In considering a primary aggressor's previous misconduct, prosecutors should consider whether any previous acts committed against the complainant in question, or other victims, can be adduced as bad character evidence. Prosecutors should consider whether these offence(s) have sufficient nexus to be joined with the latest indictment, or charge(s). Prosecutors may want to refer to the legal guidance on Bad Character Evidence for further advice.

Previous domestic abuse incidents and serial perpetrators

Many complainants will experience multiple attacks or incidents before coming forward to report an incident to the police. In some cases, complainants may have undertaken civil routes or remedies before contacting the police. Prosecutors should also be aware that some suspects will have perpetrated abusive or violent behaviour in other relationships. Where a suspect has committed an act of domestic abuse against two or more different victims they should be considered a 'serial perpetrator'.

Proactive enquires into the suspect's previous criminal behaviour, or intelligence reports relating to domestic abuse incidents (even if they concern a different complainant) should be obtained. This might include: police callouts, including those where no further action was taken; previous allegations and how they were concluded, including reasons why a case did not proceed; and, breaches of civil orders or previous bail conditions.

Additionally, prosecutors may find it useful to enquire of the police whether any information has been made available about the perpetrator's behaviour through the police-led Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme which enables the police to disclose information about previous abusive or violent offending by a current or former partner where this may protect a potential victim from harm. It was introduced following the case of Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Greater Manchester in 2009. DVDS, also known as “Clare’s Law” have been produced which include two routes for disclosing information:

  • “Right to Ask” is triggered by a member of the public applying to the police for a disclosure; and
  • “Right to Know” is triggered by the police making a proactive decision to disclose information to protect a potential victim.

Intelligence about similar previous behaviour should be sought so that information from complainants can be used to:

  • inform the risk to the safety of the most recent complainant and any children;
  • identify similar fact evidence;
  • form separate charges relating to previous victims;
  • support an application to adduce the defendant's 'bad character' or 'reprehensible behaviour' under section 101 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (prosecutors should refer to legal guidance on Bad Character Evidence for further information.

Where 'repeat victims' or 'serial perpetrators' are involved, there may be circumstances when, in the light of new evidence from a further case or cases, which previously failed to meet the evidential stage of the Full Code Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors may as a result, merit further review. This further review may lead to the conclusion that the evidential stage is now met and that the earlier case can be joined with the more recent case(s).

Each case will still need to satisfy the evidential and public interest stages of the Code, but evidence of other allegations may make the difference to whether a case passes the evidential stage of the test and may lead to reconsideration of an earlier decision under part 10 of the Code.

Where other victims or complainants are willing to give evidence, the prosecutor should assess whether different allegations 'form or are part of a series of offences of the same or a similar character' so that they can be tried together under the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR). If so, the prosecutor should consider whether a judge is likely to rule that fairness requires separate trials (severance).

Next, the prosecutor should assess the weight an objective, impartial and reasonable jury, properly directed and accordance with the law, is likely to attach to the evidence, in the context of the case. This will depend on a range of factors, including the issues in the case. For example, similar allegations may support each other, but that apparent support would be less valuable if the different allegations could be explained away by evidence of collusion or contamination. The approach that would be taken in a trial - and which should inform the prosecutor's review process - is set out in chapter 12 of the Judicial Studies Board Crown Court Benchbook, which gives guidance to judges on how juries should be directed.

By joining individual cases together in this way against a single suspect, other evidence available of the suspect's abusive or violent behaviour, could mutually strengthen each case to the point where there is sufficient evidence to afford a realistic prospect of conviction.

Where a summary only offence has been committed, such as common assault, any charge(s) or information must be laid within 6 months of the date of the alleged incident. This time limit may prevent some previous cases being joined with those involving later complainants. However, the earlier victim(s)/complainant(s) may still be able to support the more recent case through the use of bad character evidence.

In order to join cases and/or give bad character evidence, good information-sharing arrangements between investigators and prosecutors is crucial.

Risk assessments and risk indication checklists

Risk assessments are usually conducted by the police upon notification of an incident, and can provide invaluable background information to understand the circumstances the complainant may be experiencing. Risk assessments conducted by the police will vary between forces but the most commonly used are DASH (domestic abuse stalking and harassment) risk assessments. There are a number of other risk identification checklists and tools available for adults, and also Young People's risk assessment tools which help identify the risk of a complainant.

Other agencies which will conduct risk assessments which may be of vital significance (for example, Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences [MARACs], Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements [MAPPAs], or Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs [MASH]). These arrangements are not available in all parts of the country and should not be relied upon as an alternative to any police conducted risk assessment.

Prosecutors should request from the police a copy of the risk assessment for each case as a matter of routine. Where incidents of stalking or harassment are involved, prosecutors should ensure that police officers have conducted relevant risk assessments relating specifically to stalking and harassment behaviours (these are sometimes referred to as S-DASH assessments).

Given the varying nature of domestic abuse, victims and complainants will move in and out of risk categories; both police and prosecutors should be conscious of this at all stages of criminal proceedings. In fact, some complainants may be at a particularly heightened risk following a report to the police, confirmation of a charging decision or when there has been a discontinuance of proceedings or an acquittal of the suspect.

Complainants may disclose information relating to their level of risk to an IDVA,YPDVA, caseworker or outreach worker, or specialist support organisation. They may feel more confident and provide more personal or detailed information to a support specialist, rather than a police officer. It is good practice for prosecutors to regularly ask the police whether any further background or relevant information has been shared, which may reveal further detail identifying around the risk to the victim. Prosecutors should ensure that where the complainant has children, or if there are children regularly in contact with the complainant (for example, another family member),that the police conduct a risk assessment of them with a view to sharing the information at the earliest opportunity.

Prosecutors should gauge from police colleagues and Witness Care Units (WCUs), communication and support systems needed to help the complainant with their safety, and that of any children or family members in the household; this will also inform applications for bail conditions or Restraining Orders to address relevant safety issues for all concerned.

Safety of the complainant, children and other dependants or family members should be considered throughout a prosecution case; therefore, any further risk assessments conducted by the police should be joined with previous DASH/S-DASH assessments(and where available, MARAC, MAPPA or MASH assessments) to ensure no gaps arise in assessing the complainant's safety.

This is important as subsequent risk assessments may reveal a change in the complainant's circumstances, or that the perpetrator's offending may have increased in severity or frequency. For example, a complainant's separation from the perpetrator may change their level of risk significantly - there could be an increased risk to the complainant's safety or in some cases a cessation of abuse and risk. Prosecutors should always ensure they have the most up to date risk assessments from or via the police to inform victim management decisions and where necessary, further risk assessments can be requested to be conducted by the police.

Out of court disposals and diversionary tools

Restorative justice

Restorative justice is the process of bringing together those harmed by crime or conflict with those responsible for the harm to find a positive way forward. Prosecutors will be aware of the legal guidance on Restorative Justice, which highlights that the CPS is less likely to be involved in restorative justice considerations as the police are more likely to take this role. However, prosecutors should be aware of the role of restorative justice during sentencing (s7 Sentencing Act 2020, applicable to cases from 1 December 2020), it is possible that sentencing can be deferred or adjourned for pre-sentence restorative justice.

Under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, victims are entitled to take part in restorative justice techniques. Police policy does not support the use of restorative justice for domestic abuse in intimate (current or previous) partner cases; the use of restorative justice is not seen to be appropriate for cases of domestic abuse. However, officers are allowed to consider its use where a domestic abuse case not involving intimate (whether current or previous) partners arises, and where they have considered the specific criteria set out by the Police Service. These specific criteria have been set to recognise that in some cases, restorative justice may not be appropriate for incidents of familial abuse either. Therefore, restorative justice should only take place after cautious consideration and advice from supervisors or experts. Prosecutors should see Restorative Justice and for further information.

In the cases where restorative justice is seen to be appropriate, consideration of restorative justice or mediation must focus on a complainant's safety. Where a complainant requests restorative justice, care should be taken to ensure the complainant s a willing participant and there are no coercive influences; this is because of the nature of the relationship between the complainant and offender. A properly trained facilitator experienced in dealing with sensitive cases of this nature, should manage arrangements to ensure the complainant is not placed under pressure.

Simple Cautions

The police should consider cautions carefully in domestic abuse cases. This is because such cases involve a breach of trust and are unlikely to be the first offence.

Prosecutors should note guidance on Simple Cautions for Adult Offenders recommends 'positive action' is taken to ensure the safety and protection of complainant and children while allowing the offender to be held to account.

If the evidential stage of the Full Code Test is satisfied, it will rarely be appropriate to deal with a domestic abuse case by way of a simple caution. However, where a positive action policy has been adhered to, the complainant does not support a prosecution, and the available evidence (including any additional evidence adduced) would only disclose a very minor offence, the police will consider a simple caution in preference to a decision to take no further action.

Conditional Cautions

Part 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 makes provisions for offenders to be diverted from the courts by issuing them with a conditional caution. As stated clearly in the DPP's Guidance on Adult Conditional Cautions, offences involving domestic abuse, in particular those involving intimate partner abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour will rarely be suitable for a Conditional Caution.

The CPS has worked with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to agree a robust minimum standards framework for police forces participating in domestic abuse conditional cautioning pilots, to ensure that there is a consistent approach to eligibility and a high-quality intervention for perpetrators, as well as a robust evaluation and monitoring process. Only lower-level first reports of domestic abuse where there is no evidence of controlling or coercive behaviour are in scope of these pilots. Unless a police force area has received dispensation from the Director of Public Prosecutions (in which case the police can authorise the conditional caution without reference to the CPS so long as the pre-conditions are met) the conditional caution must be referred to a prosecutor.

If the prosecutor considers that a DA Conditional Caution is appropriate, then the prosecutor must refer the case to the HQ VAWG team for advice.

Youth Cautions and Youth Conditional Cautions

Youth Conditional Cautions (YCCs) and Youth Cautions (YCs) differ from the Adult Caution Scheme. The police can offer a YC for a domestic abuse incident without consulting the CPS (unless the offence is one that would be indictable only if perpetrated by an adult). The police can offer a YCC for an offence of domestic abuse that scores 3 or less on the gravity matrix, and are not required to consult the CPS. YCCs cannot be given for domestic abuse cases that score 4 or more on the Gravity Matrix. For further information, prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Youth Offenders and the Director's Guidance on Youth Conditional Cautions.

When a prosecutor is considering a YCC, they must consult with the Youth Offending Service and consider the case in accordance with the Code and the DPP's Guidance on Youth Conditional Cautions:

  • whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a youth offender with an offence;
  • where the evidential stage is met, whether the public interest is served by the offender complying with suitable conditions aimed at reparation, rehabilitation, or punishment taking into account the appropriate outcome for the complainant, community and offender;
  • the seriousness of the offence and the range of penalties available; and,
  • the totality of current offending and history of any previous convictions and out of court disposals, particularly those that are recent or of a similar nature. Where a youth has already been given two YCCs, and continues to offend, a further YCC is unlikely to be effective in preventing offending and should not be offered as an alternative to prosecution.

A number of practical arrangements need to be followed when deciding whether a YCC should be issued; prosecutors should refer to the Director's Guidance on Youth Conditional Cautions for further information.

Charging considerations

This section should be read in conjunction with the Director's Guidance on Charging.

Charging decisions in domestic abuse cases are made by the CPS and not the police. The police may make the decision to offer a simple caution for a domestic abuse case if it involves a summary or either way offence but they must refer any indictable only offence to the CPS for further advice. Prosecutors should see the section on Out of Court Disposals for further guidance.

Examples of offences categorised as domestic abuse can be found below at Annex C.

When considering DA cases prosecutors should ensure they have completed any appropriate domestic abuse training and that they understand the impacts and dynamics of how abuse may be perpetrated.

Particular attention should be paid to:

  • identification of the primary aggressor, including allegations of reciprocal abuse and self-defence
  • safety of the complainant, any children and/or other dependants,
  • ensuring complainant(s) vulnerabilities have been identified and special measures requirements addressed as early as possible, and
  • the complainant’s family circumstances and involvement of other parties.

Prosecutors should work closely with the police from the outset to ensure effective gathering and collation of evidence to build the strongest prosecution cases:

  • all cases should be built primarily using evidence other than that provided by the victim - however, in doing so, prosecutors should be careful to not undermine the victim
  • police and prosecutors should use the Joint Evidence Checklist as a matter of routine to ensure that all evidential opportunities have been taken
  • effective information sharing with other agencies and support organisations may assist prosecutors and police in case building
  • police and prosecutors need to work closely to ensure that a complainant’s safety needs are addressed through receipt of informed risk assessments and risk identification
  • bail and remand should be considered in respect of the specific facts of the case.

Retractions of allegations and withdrawal of support will require sensitive handling by prosecutors - compelling a complainant to attend court to give evidence should be a last resort option after all other avenues have been explored. The safety of the complainant and any children or other dependants should be the primary consideration.

Victim care for complainants attending court needs to be targeted effectively with complainants supported throughout the life cycle of criminal proceedings. Prosecutors should consult with support organisations wherever possible to ensure that victims care requirements are understood.

Prosecutors should be aware of issues affecting different groups of complainants and how group-specific issues will impact on the nature of offending and a complainant’s required support needs.

Prosecutors should be aware of and consider the full range of ancillary orders available (and their limitations) prior to making any application.

Is it in the public interest to prosecute?

In domestic abuse cases, if the evidential stage of the Code is passed and the complainant is willing to give evidence, it is more likely than not that the decision made will be to prosecute. The guidance in this document should be read in conjunction with the Code.

Where the evidential stage has been met, but the complainant is not willing to support the prosecution, prosecutors should carefully consider the public interest given the domestic nature and serious impacts of such offending. It will be rare for the public interest stage not to be met.

In circumstances where a complainant is not willing to support a prosecution, prosecutors will need to consider the public interest after consideration of other independent evidence which meets the evidential stage. Careful consideration should be given to public interest factors, including the interests and safety of the complainant, other family members and any children or other dependants.

To properly assess the public interest, prosecutors should be made aware of any children living in an abusive household. The impact on children must always be taken into consideration, as it may increase the seriousness of the offence, and the final charging decision. It is also possible that other agencies or organisations (such as support and voluntary organisations, Children's Services and schools) may have been made aware of the abuse, or other proceedings such as family proceedings may be taking place as a result. Where possible, prosecutors should ask the police to seek such information to help inform the final charging decision to be made. Further guidance on how information from family proceedings can assist in informing the prosecutor's decision making can be found below.

The following factors should be considered as part of the public interest stage of the Code review:

  • the seriousness of the offence:
    • the more serious the offence, the more likely it is that a prosecution is required;
    • whether the offence is likely to be repeated;
  • the culpability of the defendant:
    • the extent to which the offending was pre-meditated;
    • whether any threats were made before or after the attack;
    • whether the defendant has any previous convictions or out of court disposals, or record of any other offending whilst on bail or whilst subject to a court order;
    • whether the offending was or is likely to be continued, repeated or escalated;
    • the suspect's age or level of maturity;
    • whether the suspect was suffering from any mental or physical ill health before, or at the time of the offence taking place;
  • the circumstances of and the harm caused to the complainant:
    • complainant's injuries - whether physical or psychological;
    • whether a weapon was used(a weapon should be considered as anything which could inflict physical harm, or threats to harm, such as ordinary household items/objects, as well as knives and guns);
    • whether the offence was motivated by any form of discrimination against the complainant's ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, mental or physical capacity, age, religion, immigration status, employment status and social background;
    • if there were any children or other vulnerable dependants living in the household;
    • whether the offence took place in the presence of, or near a child;
    • whether the complainant is/was pregnant at the time of the offence;
    • any continuing threat to the health and safety of the complainant (irrespective of the relationship status), or anyone else who is, or may become involved;
    • the history of the relationship, particularly if there has been any abuse in the past;
  • whether the suspect was under the age of 18 at the time of the offence;
  • any other factors which may present as relevant to the public interest.

Prosecutors should also refer to the guidance on public interest issues for Youth Offenders, where the suspect is under 18 years old.

All available charges should be considered, including charges other than for assault or other offences under the Offences Against the persons Act 1861, such as, but not limited to: breach of non-molestation orders; harassment/stalking offences (under sections 2, 2a, 4 and 4a of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997); rape and other sexual offences; forced marriage; witness intimidation or perverting the course of justice; criminal damage; malicious communications etc. Prosecutors must ensure that all details of the relevant charges are properly recorded on CMS, and clear reference is made to the Joint Evidence Checklist where appropriate.

Complainants' safety needs will have usually been identified through risk assessments; any subsequent assessment will assist in determining whether further offending has taken place since the incident in question and/or whether the complainant needs further support. This information and continued liaison with the WCU will be invaluable in making applications for:

  • appropriate bail conditions and working with the police on dealing with any breaches;
  • restraining orders on conviction or on acquittal (including where there may be a case of no evidence to offer further into proceedings);
  • prosecution of any subsequent offending including, but not limited to, harassment and stalking offences; prosecution of breaches of non-molestation orders and restraining orders.

Case building - additional considerations

Prosecutors must ensure the MG2 (special measures assessment) and MG11 (witness statement) are completed to enable witness care issues to be comprehensively assessed. The detailed review of the case on CMS must refer to all relevant issues such as those from the following list in addition to the evidential criteria found in the Joint Evidence Checklist:

  • whether there was use of a weapon(to include objects/items that can be used to harm or threaten harm);
  • if in an intimate relationship, the status of the relationship and whether any separation is imminent;
  • if in a familial context, whether the complainant is estranged from their family and the further support they may need;
  • whether there has been any stalking/harassment of the complainant;
  • whether either the complainant or perpetrator are reliant on alcohol or other substances;
  • whether the complainant is pregnant;
  • whether there are any other vulnerabilities which could be aggravating factors (e.g. - physical disability, poor health, learning difficulties or intellectual maturity and age of the complainant);
  • whether the attack was premeditated; and,
  • whether the incident took place in the presence of children, or whether any children were abused/attacked during the incident.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and prosecutors should ensure as much information as possible is included in the MG3 about the circumstances and specific issues relevant to the case.

Avoiding charging delays - 'cooling off' periods'

All charging decisions should be made speedily and with specific attention to the complainant's, and any children's or other dependants', safety in mind. Delaying charging decisions to allow the incident to 'cool off' for the complainant to decide whether they want to support a prosecution, or for the complainant and/or defendant to 'calm down', should not be applied in any circumstance.

Complainants may be further harassed or abused, and may be at enhanced risk as a result of reporting the incident - it is therefore essential that the appropriate charging of a suspect takes place as soon as possible. The police will also have a part to play in ensuring that the safety needs of the complainant, any children or other dependants are met.

Acceptability of pleas

Prosecutors should also refer to the Attorney General's Guidelines on the Acceptance of Pleas and the Prosecutor's Role in the Sentencing Exercise when reading this section.

In some cases, the defendant may offer a guilty plea to a different charge, or plead guilty to some of the charges made against them, but not all.

When considering whether to accept a plea in these instances, prosecutors should discuss the situation with the complainant or the complainant's family where possible. The complainant's or family's views (either directly, or through any support organisation working on their behalf) should be taken into account to ensure prosecutors are informed of all information before making their decision.

For cases of familial abuse, prosecutors and the police will need to take great care when seeking views of the family; in some cases it may be entirely inappropriate to speak to some members of the family, or even affiliates of the family, given the context of the offending. Each case should be assessed on its own facts and specific circumstances.

Prosecutors should consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to accept a plea to a lesser offence or a plea to one or some of a number of offences in a domestic abuse case:

  • whether the defence offer a plea that is in accordance with the evidence available to the prosecution;
  • whether the defendant has any previous incidents recorded against them;
  • whether it would be advantageous to the complainant and any children or dependants not to have to give evidence;
  • the complainant's views on the pleas offered (some complainant would prefer to give evidence rather than accept a plea to a lesser offence);
  • whether the plea fetters the discretion of the court in relation to sentencing;
  • whether the difference between the prosecution and defence version of events is such that it would significantly affect the sentence that would be imposed (if it does, there should be a Newton Hearing to determine the facts); and,
  • the fact that perpetrators will often seek to minimise the offence or mitigate their offence.

Where there has been an agreed plan between prosecutors and the defence to a plea, the basis should be put into writing and signed by both parties.

Bail and Remand


Prosecutors should read this section in conjunction with legal guidance on Bail which includes further detail on remand in custody issues.

A prosecutor's primary concern should be the safety of the complainant and any children or other dependants. Prosecutors should approach the police (and through the police, IDVAs, YPVAs and other specialist support organisations) to gather information, including the complainant's views. This will help to inform conditions to be applied for when making bail applications, or when supporting applications to have a defendant remanded in custody. This will include the following:

  • the complainant's whereabouts or living arrangements - where the complainant is in a refuge or other safe location, the details should not be disclosed as part of the bail arrangements;
  • fears the complainant may have regarding the perpetrator's behaviour;
  • in familial abuse cases - the complainant may fear the perpetrator's contact with other family members and the subsequent repercussions this may have. Prosecutors may need to consider this, particularly in cases of honour-based violence;
  • the complainant's fear for further offences or repeat offending by the perpetrator;
  • information regarding any children or any other dependants (e.g. - care arrangements for children, other family members, and/or any risk of abuse);
  • areas/locations the complainant frequently visits or attends (the school attended by children, any social clubs that the child attends and social clubs the complainant may attend);
  • the impact on the complainant if the complainant and perpetrator are at school/college/university together, or work in the same organisation;
  • methods of contact between the complainant and perpetrator(including, but not limited to mobiles, emails or social media and networking sites, as well as face to face);
  • whether any civil orders are in force and details of those orders;
  • whether any civil or family proceedings are ongoing and the stage they have reached;
  • the proximity of any of the perpetrator's relatives, to the complainant and the likelihood the perpetrator may want to visit them;
  • the age of the complainant- consideration should be given to other contact methods such as social networking, local groups or social events, or school/college for younger complainants;
  • whether the perpetrator may already be on bail for another offence;
  • the defendant's history of complying with bail in the current case proceedings; and,
  • the perpetrator's history of complying with bail in other proceedings, especially where the offence in question, was one of domestic abuse.

Prosecutors will need to think carefully about applications for bail where the complainant and offender will be unable to avoid each other or it would be very difficult for them to do so - such as in smaller communities. Whilst it is for the court to consider how such an application is served, prosecutors will have a duty to consider how the complainant can be kept safe in the specific circumstances that apply to them in relation to the offender.

Discussions with the Youth Offending Team (YOT) may also be necessary to ensure that properly informed decisions are made with regard to offenders under 18 years. Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Youth Offenders for bail issues relating to youth defendants as well as legal guidance on Bail, particularly, the section on Youth Offender: Remands.

Bail conditions

Prosecutors should ensure that any conditions requested prioritise the safety of the complainant and any children or dependants. The complainant should retain as much freedom of movement as possible by curbing the ability of the defendant to approach or intimidate the complainant, such as at home, on the way to work, school or college, regular social venues, extended family homes, when taking children to school, or when socialising with friends. Due care will be required in relation to the different dynamics of the abuse, such as whether the abuse is familial, or between former or current intimate partners, and the nature of safety needs required by the complainant.

It is the offender who is subject to bail conditions, not the complainant. The court will make clear to offenders that any breaches will be taken very seriously. Arrangements regarding child contact will be managed by the family court and generally will not be a matter considered within a bail hearing.

Any changes to the bail conditions or custody status of a perpetrator must be communicated to complainants immediately, either by the police or by the CPS in accordance with local arrangements. Complainants and witnesses may also be updated by the WCU, or through the IDVA, YPVA or other relevant support organisation involved in supporting them. Local systems and protocols, specifically addressing communications processes or pathways between the CPS, WCU and support organisations should be kept up to date. All pathways should be set up to provide a two-fold function, with the ability to address safety, progress of a case and its outcomes in a speedy and efficient manner, as well as providing victims with accurate information on the criminal justice process and the roles of the relevant agencies.

If a perpetrator breaches their bail conditions, the police will arrest them and the court may remand them in custody, or may re-admit the defendant with the same, or slightly differing bail conditions. It is important the breach is carefully considered, as new offences may also have been committed in addition to the conditions being breached; prosecutors must review all new offences to assess whether a prosecution should follow.

Where a condition has been imposed for there to be no contact with the complainant, it does not matter whether the complainant has agreed contact, or if the complainant initiated contact with the perpetrator. It is the perpetrator who is subject to the bail conditions, and is responsible for compliance until those conditions have been lifted.

In some cases, the complainant may have purposefully contacted the defendant to reconcile the relationship, manage child contact, or manage other care arrangements with other dependants or family members. In such cases, prosecutors will need to consider how a breach should be effectively dealt with. It is therefore important that such matters are brought to attention at the outset to ensure that appropriate conditions are set out for the individuals concerned, which are specific and suitable for their circumstances, and to ensure safety requirements where needed.

Applications to vary bail

Prosecutors should insist the defence gives proper notice of any application to vary bail in order that enquiries can be made of the complainant to seek their views and check whether any court orders already exist or are pending.

Where the proposed variation concerns contact with a child, prosecutors should note that such contact might provide the perpetrator with opportunities to intimidate the child and/or complainant which, in the worst cases, could lead to murder or suicide. The same may also apply with regard to unborn foetuses - both issues will need to be properly highlighted to ensure that any variations avoid providing the perpetrator with an opportunity to exploit the circumstances of their relationship with the complainant.

Similarly, where cases involve non-intimate partner abuse, it is possible that perpetrators will exploit situations, or seize on opportunities, enabling them to perpetrate further abuse, such as through the involvement of other family members, or community contacts. Specific and thorough consideration should be given especially in cases involving coercive and controlling behaviour. Prosecutors should be alert to this, and ensure that they maintain the prioritisation of the complainant's safety.


This section should be read in conjunction with the guidance, Sentencing Overview which provides further detail on prosecutors' obligations regarding unduly lenient sentences and applications for ancillary orders.

Prosecutors' duty to actively assist the court should include reference to the abuse of trust in a domestic setting as an aggravating factor, as well as the vulnerability of complainants. Specific reference should be made to the nature of offending involved, and a particular emphasis on the nature of the relationship between the complainant and perpetrator to assist the court in reaching an informed decision about the most appropriate sentence.

All prosecutors should have in mind at the time of charge or review, whether a restraining order is appropriate in the event of a conviction or an acquittal. The view of the complainant should be sought, as Restraining Orders may be difficult to obtain and/or enforce if the complainant and perpetrator are in a continuing relationship and/or the complainant would like to continue contact with the perpetrator.

Further information can be found in the legal guidance on Restraining Orders. Prosecutors will need to give regard to the practicability of the terms of a Restraining Order when dealing with younger complainants and perpetrators who attend the same school or college. Prosecutors should work with the complainant, police and other relevant agencies to ensure that there is a comprehensive understanding of how such an order could be enforced practically, before making the application.

Restraining Orders for younger offenders should be considered in the same way.

Other ancillary orders such as Criminal Behaviour Orders may also be appropriate for application by prosecutors in some circumstances.

Applications for compensation should also be made where appropriate, bearing in mind that in some circumstances, it may not be appropriate for a compensation order to be made. Orders are often met from family money, and may be used as an opportunity to abuse, or control a complainant further.

Complainants may therefore want to forgo compensation to avoid this situation - it is important that prosecutors discuss this with the complainant or relevant support organisation to seek their view for an informed approach.

Preparing and managing the case

Prosecutors should refer to the Joint Evidence Checklist and Aide Memoire when preparing the case file and its progression. Prosecutors will also want to consider the following issues:

  • whether further consultation is required with the police and any further actions (and timescales) are required;
  • liaise with the Witness Care Unit over the outcome of any special measures application and pre-court familiarisation visit, and ensure that the complainant is updated on progress;
  • check via the police that with the assistance of support services, the complainant is as comfortable and confident as possible, addressing any concerns;
  • check that an updated Victim Personal Statement has been served on the defence and court; and,
  • ensure a balance between the implications of delaying the case (to obtain further evidence) with the need to deal with cases involving domestic abuse as expeditiously as possible.

Briefing and instructing agents and Counsel

Agents and Counsel must familiarise themselves with all approaches outlined in this legal guidance, and understand their overall responsibility to ensure that victims and witnesses are appropriately informed during their time at court (

Individuals acting on behalf of the CPS should have the complainant's specific needs and concerns in relation to the case brought to their attention, as well as recognising the support services that may be assisting the complainant, such as the use of an IDVA, YPVA, interpreter or intermediary.

Agents and Counsel must be made aware that decisions on acceptability of pleas, issues affecting complainant and witness attendance at court (including compelling their attendance) must be referred to CPS prosecutors for discussion before a final decision is made.

Case review

Prosecutors should be kept informed of the complainant's views regarding he prosecution at all times through witness and victim personal statement(s), or through links with the police officer in the case or Witness Care Units, and any local specialist services (such as IDVAs, YVPAs, and/or other support organisations working with the complainant).

Delays to court proceedings

Following a charging decision, prosecutors should ensure that all subsequent hearing dates are effective. All CPS obligations should be met and completed in advance of the date. Defence applications for adjournments, should only be agreed in exceptional circumstances to avoid unnecessary delays. All actions must be considered with the safety of the complainant, children or other dependants, in mind as the highest priority.

Retractions and withdrawals by complainants

It is possible that a complainant may ask the police not to proceed any further with a prosecution case and say they no longer wish to give evidence.

There may be a number of reasons why a complainant will withdraw their support from a prosecution, or retract their allegation, but this does not mean that the case will be automatically stopped.

Prosecutors may see any of the following as possible reasons why a complainant may no longer support a case. This is not an exhaustive list:

  • fear of other offences being committed, or risk of further harm (both in person, but also through online technologies);
  • fear of coming face to face with the abuser in court;
  • pressure from the perpetrator, the perpetrator's family or associates;
  • fear of repercussions that may follow from peers of the perpetrator, or gang members where either the complainant, perpetrator or both are involved in a gang;
  • pressure from other family members, other members of the community or community 'elders', including being pressured to resolve 'differences' between parties through mediation, or arbitration tribunals conducted within the community;
  • fear of being publicly shamed, disowned or outcast from the community;
  • a wish to be reconciled with the perpetrator, if not already reconciled, or a wish to return to the family, if estranged;
  • the complainant is no longer in a relationship with the perpetrator or does not want to re-live the incident;
  • a fear that children will be removed and placed into care, or not wanting to be perceived as 'being difficult' if children or other dependants are involved;
  • a fear the of impact on children, or other dependants, or financial repercussions (such as the receipt of certain child maintenance, tax allowances or financial support through benefits) if the perpetrator were to receive a custodial sentence;
  • continuing with a prosecution may cause the complainant to feel they are responsible for the perpetrator receiving a criminal record and the impact on their job and family finances
  • the perpetrator may agree to drop other proceedings such as custody applications for children, if the complainant withdraws the complaint;
  • embarrassment at reporting the complaint (as a result of the complainant's or perpetrator's social background, or for example, in cases of child to parent violence);
  • fear they may not be believed and fears that the criminal justice system is biased towards the offender;
  • feelings of isolation or vulnerability, and fears they may not be believed as a result of those vulnerabilities;
  • fears that showing support for a prosecution may place them at further risk of harm;
  • fear of immigration status being made known to law enforcement authorities, or fear that a complaint may reveal the perpetrator's immigration status which may not be secure;
  • fear of being 'outed' about their sexual orientation, or gender identity if not already known about;
  • fear of HIV status or other very sensitive personal information being revealed if not already known;
  • where complainants are involved in prostitution, fears that any previous contact with the police will result in their complaint not being taken seriously;
  • lack of engagement or communication from criminal justice agencies, or a fear of not knowing what will happen if they do support a prosecution; or,
  • concerns that the criminal justice agencies are not aware of the issues they face or may not be sensitive to their specific situation(such as an understanding of why certain special measures are required).

There may also be some instances where a complainant will withdraw support or retract an allegation as a result of not accurately reporting what has actually happened. Such instances will be extremely rare and must be handled with careful consideration and sensitivity by prosecutors. If any such case is brought to the attention of a prosecutor by the police with an allegation of perverting the course of justice, or wasting police time, prosecutors should consult the legal guidance on Charging Perverting the Course of Justice and Wasting Police Time in Cases Involving False Allegations of Rape and/or Domestic Abuse which advises the case must be referred immediately to the Area Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit for handling.

However, with any case and any reason given, it is important prosecutors ascertain why a complainant has retracted their allegation or withdrawn their support from the case and the risks and impacts posed to the many children and/or any dependants, before deciding what action to take. Prosecutors should also refer to the section on Avoiding the criminalisation of a complainant for further advice.

Withdrawal statements (retraction of allegations)

The police should provide a statement for the prosecutor following contact with the complainant, to explain the reasons that a retraction of the allegation/withdrawal of support has been made. Without this there cannot be an informed decision about the next steps to be taken.

Where a complainant's account of the allegation in their withdrawal statement is not the same, or is not consistent with their earlier statement, there is a possibility that the complainant may have been pressurised into changing their account. In these circumstances, the police should be asked to investigate changes and, whether a further investigation into the circumstances is required.

Prosecutors should consider particularly:

  • the nature of the original allegation (if not fully covered in a previous statement);
  • the complainant's reasons for withdrawing support or retracting the allegation;
  • details of those with whom the complainant has discussed the case - particularly anyone who has advised them (for example: a solicitor, or community member or mediator) and obtain their details; and,
  • whether any civil or family proceedings have been, or are likely to be, commenced which may have impacted on the complainant's decision.

Withdrawal statements should be accompanied by a background report containing:

  • the officer's views on the case, including the veracity of the statement, any suspicions of witness intimidation or pressure (if not already included in the withdrawal statement), and a general assessment of the reasons given by the complainant;
  • the officer's views on how the case should be dealt with, including proceeding against the complainant's wishes;
  • how the complainant might react to being compelled to give evidence;
  • details of any identified risks to the safety of the complainant, children or any other person;
  • details of the support available to the complainant prior to the allegation being retracted or support withdrawn and whether this was a reason for the change in position(for example, access to an IDVA, YPVA, or other support organisation, or whether the offer of a special measures application was made);
  • whether any support organisation assisting the complainant has expressed a view; and,
  • the likely impact on the complainant and any children/dependants of proceeding or not proceeding with the case.

The police officer's report may reveal the need to consider whether further charges, for example, witness intimidation, harassment or stalking should be brought, or whether there has been a breach of the perpetrator's bail conditions.

Avoiding criminalisation of the complainant

It should be highlighted that in some cases, complainants may provide contradictory accounts of an incident or will assert that their original complaint was false to attempt to stop proceedings. The reasons why a complainant will assert they have 'lied' or that their allegation was false are numerous and have been covered above.

However, prosecutors should consider a complainant's vulnerability (including the pressure or coercion they may be experiencing, as well as any mental health, ill health, or disability issues)when determining whether the original allegation was false, or if there is any falsity in the second statement given when the complainant retracts their allegation. Prosecutors should avoid any preconceptions about the 'perfect' complainant in such instances - further advice can be found later in this document in the section dealing with Support and safety of complainants and witnesses.

Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Charging Perverting the Course of Justice and Wasting Police Time in cases Allegedly False Allegations of Rape and/or Domestic Abuse guidance to consider the steps needed to ensure that all facts are taken into consideration and appropriate procedures undertaken. Support organisations assisting the complainant may also be aware of relevant information which may be of use. Depending on the nature of these considerations and the circumstances of the case, it may still be possible to continue with proceedings against the perpetrator without the complainant's active support.

Prosecutors should note that some complainants may be advised to say they had 'lied' when making their original statement; this is more likely to be the case where the complainant and perpetrator are in a continuing relationship, or where there has been a reconciliation between the parties, such as between family members. Other examples may include family or cultural pressures to avoid publicising a family's private circumstances or avoiding bringing shame or dishonour to a family's reputation within the community and/or beyond. This illustrates how a complainant can be persuaded or in some instances, coerced into retracting their allegation.

Prosecutors should be wary of 'criminalising' the complainant in such circumstances and should carefully assess why they may have made the decision to say they had lied or made a false allegation.  There may be a variety of reasons and each should be considered on its own merit before the complainant is informed of the action to be taken.

Where it is decided that a prosecution should proceed, the safety of the complainant or any other potentially vulnerable person should be a prime consideration. The fact that a complainant withdraws their support does not mean that they can no longer engage with the police. The complainant is still entitled to have future complaints believed and taken seriously.

Complainants proceeding with additional support/assistance

This section should be read to apply to complaints of intimate partner abuse and familial abuse, unless otherwise stated.

Prosecutors should ask the police to consider exploring whether the complainant might change their position and be willing to proceed if special measures or other forms of support could be provided (for example, being screened from their abuser, giving evidence via remote video live link, or with a support representative being present whilst they give evidence). This will assist some way in helping the complainant not having to face the offender(s) in court. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 when implemented will create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts.

Police and prosecutors should work closely to explore which special measures are appropriate and support available and identify whether they would help the complainant to feel safe and confident when attending court.

Special measures should be explained to ensure complainants are fully informed of the options available if their reason for considering withdrawing support of retracting their allegation is due to a fear of giving evidence against their abuser(s).

A prosecutor with significant experience of domestic abuse issues should be consulted in any case where the complainant indicates a wish to withdraw support for the prosecution, before taking a final decision on how to proceed with the case.

Possibility of proceeding with a prosecution without the complainant's live evidence [evidence led prosecutions]

The prosecution strategy should, from the outset, consider the possibility of proceeding without the complainant's support. Prosecutors should rarely need to apply to the court for further time to investigate this possibility. Prosecutors should always consider whether there is any risk to the safety of the complainant in the case proceeding without their support; a complainant should not be placed at increased risk through this course of action. Prosecutors should consider the following in the order outlined:

  1. Using evidence other than that of the complainant - prosecutors should assess as soon as possible whether there is other sufficient evidence (for example, admissions in interview, CCTV and 999 Tapes) to proceed. Where there is sufficient evidence and a realistic prospect of conviction, prosecutors should consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest in the usual manner (prosecutors should refer to the section on Preparing and Managing a Case, and the Joint Evidence Checklist for further guidance);
  2. Res gestae - statements made by the complainant or a witness to a third party, or around the time that the offence was allegedly committed, that are so directly linked to the events occurring at the same time, so as to make it unlikely that they were distorted or concocted may be admissible other than as hearsay;
  3. Making an application under section 116(2)(e) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 - consideration should be given to applying to admit a complainant's statement as hearsay under section 116(e) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, if there is evidence that the victim is in fear; or,
  4. Making an application under section 114(1)(d) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 - where there is other evidence consideration should be given to applying to introduce hearsay if it would be in the interests of justice to do so (detailed guidance on this topic can be found in the legal guidance chapter on Hearsay). For example, any third party witness statements from neighbours or support representatives assisting the complainant.

Issuing of witness summons and compelling the complainant to give evidence

This is a last resort for complainants who disengage from a prosecution and should only be considered when the avenues above have been exhausted. Full consideration should be given to the specific facts of the case and impact on the complainant's safety and wellbeing.

The police and any support organisations involved should be asked for their views on how they perceive the complainant will react if called to give evidence at a court hearing against their wishes, where a prosecution goes ahead without their support. The police should identify and verify whether further risk assessments are needed or have been recently carried out, as well as seeking the latest position regarding any civil and/or family proceedings that are or may be concurrently taking place.

Discontinuing the case

It is possible that after considering a complainant's reasons for retracting their allegation or withdrawal of support, a prosecutor may discontinue the case as the complainant's input was the only evidence available, and a summons would not be appropriate.

Witness summonses - complainants

The decision to compel a complainant must not be taken lightly and should be based on the specific facts of the case, and in particular, the needs and requirements of the complainant.

Where a complainant is reluctant to attend court and it is decided the case can only continue with the complainant's evidence to prove the case, the application of a witness summons may be considered, but as a last resort.

Section 169 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 allows the court to issue a witness summons if it considers it to be in the interests of justice to do so.

Before the decision to apply for a witness summons is taken, prosecutors must make enquiries to satisfy themselves that the safety of the victim, any children and/or other dependants will not be endangered. This information could be sourced from the police, and other sources such as any support organisations involved with assisting the complainant, Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs), Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPAs) or Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).

In some cases of familial abuse, there may be no further information available from other sources relating to the risk of the complainant and other others in the household. In these circumstances, prosecutors should source from the police all relevant information about the family dynamics, and the wider community where relevant. This information may need to be collected from other sources, such as others in the community, medical practitioners, or schools. Where further information is unavailable, prosecutors must carefully examine the benefits in compelling the complainant to attend court to give evidence against a family member.

In some circumstances, a complainant may prefer a summons to be issued, to secure their attendance at court for a trial rather than attending voluntarily or being seen to be doing so by the perpetrator- this is not unusual. Some complainants feel the 'formality' of a summons may justify their attendance at court to the perpetrator where the abusive behaviour is continuing. Prosecutors may want to discuss any special measures or support the complainant may need in these circumstances.

Where the complainant may have a specific vulnerability or support requirement, prosecutors should assess whether it is appropriate to obtain a witness summons. Special consideration will need to be given to complainants with physical disabilities, or mental health issues to assess whether this may have been the reason they have taken the decision not to support a prosecution in the first place. Prosecutors should determine whether compelling the complainant would be in the public interest in such circumstances, or whether an alternative approach such as with additional support measures, or the use of a hearsay application could be taken instead. Prosecutors will need to consider relevant medical reports obtained to inform the decision to obtain a witness summons.

Prosecutors should also consider the impact on the complainant if they are to be compelled. In some instances, the compelling of a complainant will not guarantee their attendance at court; in other instances, compelling attendance at court, may cause the complainant further distress.

Witness summonses - children and young people

Under the provisions of section 97 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980, applications to witness summons a child are permissible; however, special regard must be given to their welfare and safeguarding in the criminal justice system, giving effect to Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. All courts must have regard to the welfare of children who appear as victims, witnesses and defendants (section 44 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933). Prosecutors may also find it useful to refer to R v Highbury Magistrates' Court ex. parte Deering [161 JP 138] DC where it was found that the magistrates' court had no jurisdiction to decline to issue a witness summons for a young child.

In the domestic abuse context, the issue of witness summonsing a child or young person should be considered only in very limited and exceptional cases, and prosecutors should discuss whether this is an appropriate course of action with their Chief Crown Prosecutor before making an application. Prosecutors should be aware of the distress that may be caused to a child or young person, especially where they are being compelled to give evidence in support of one parent, against the other. A decision to witness summons a child/young person should be very rare.

Where it is thought appropriate, prosecutors should consider:

  • the nature and seriousness of the case;
  • the usefulness of the material evidence the child can provide;
  • the age and maturity of the child - do they have a sufficient mental understanding to give evidence;
  • whether giving evidence would be detrimental to the child's welfare or safety; and,
  • the repercussions should the child fail to comply with the summons request.

This list of considerations is by no means exhaustive but provides a guide to the issues to be examined when deciding whether to make an application. Where an application is made, prosecutors should consider the special measures which will assist the child/young person's appearance at court as well as whether they need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or other appropriate adult, depending on the circumstances of the case (as set out in section 34A of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933). Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Special Measures and Safeguarding Children: Children as Victims and Witnesses for further advice.

Prosecutors should apply this approach equally to children/young people who are witnesses to domestic abuse taking place at home, for example between their parents, and young people who may themselves be victims of familial or partner abuse.

The table below sets out the factors that will tend to either support or not support the decision to issue a witness summons - prosecutors may find this helpful in assisting them with their decision. A combination of factors needs to be considered, with all options balanced; a seemingly minor incident may be serious in the context of escalating abuse.

Consideration - Seriousness of the offence:
  • serious offence(or escalation of severity from previous incidents)
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • minor offence and isolated event
    desirability of summons - LOW
Consideration - Complainant's injuries (including psychological):
  • serious injuries
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • no injuries or minor injuries
    desirability of summons - LOW
Consideration - History of relationship:
  • violent relationship and/or pattern of offending
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • high level of continued dependency/contact between perpetrator and complainant (eg - carer/patient or child/parent relationships)
    desirability of summons - HIGH
Consideration - Child of complainant under 18 years old:
  • insufficient understanding of giving evidence
    desirability of summons - LOW
Consideration - Complainant under 18 years old:
  • insufficient understanding of giving evidence
    desirability of summons - LOW
Consideration - Attack had been planned

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Incident witnessed seen or heard by children

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Offence was committed in the presence of or in close proximity to a child

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Offence(s) have been committed against a child/children

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Effect (including psychological) on any children or other dependant living in the household

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Likelihood of recurrence

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Threat to health and/or safety of complainant or any other person involved

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Pregnancy

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Current state of complainant's relationship with defendant:
  • further incidents
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • relationship assessed as 'unstable'
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • no separation or divorce proceedings
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • still lives within same household
    desirability of summons - HIGH
  • no further incidents
    desirability of summons - LOW
  • no further police call-out
    desirability of summons - LOW
  • no ongoing civil proceedings
    desirability of summons - LOW
  • no history of volatile relationship
    desirability of summons - LOW
Consideration - Defendant's criminal history (particularly if there has been any previous violence)

desirability of summons - HIGH

Consideration - Information from any other agencies supporting proceeding with a prosecution (e.g. Social Services, Housing, Health, Women's Aid, other voluntary sector [including perpetrator services])

desirability of summons - HIGH

Witness summonses - third party witnesses

In certain cases, it may be appropriate to apply for a witness summons for third parties who may have information integral to the prosecution case.

Third party evidence may provide vital background information about the abuse that has taken place, and may even in some circumstances, lessen the risk towards the complainant by the perpetrator.

Prosecutors should be aware that there may also be risks to a third party being witness summonsed. The perpetrator may also commit offences such as stalking or harassment or witness intimidation against the third party as a result of their involvement. The risk to a third party should therefore also be an important consideration when deliberating whether to apply for a witness summons.

Summonsing a third party witness may, as summonsing a complainant often does, give the perception to the perpetrator that the case is progressing without the complainant formally providing their support. Prosecutors should be mindful that a victim may encourage this rather than attending court themselves or being seen to be doing so by the perpetrator.

Witness warrants

If a complainant or witness refuses to attend court following the issue of a witness summons, prosecutors should consider whether a warrant application to the court is appropriate under section 97(3) of the Magistrates Court Act 1980.

The safety of the complainant and any children or dependant should be borne in mind throughout. The intention of obtaining the warrant should be to assist attendance at court and not to penalise or criminalise complainants. Applications for warrants should be made on a case by case basis after considering issues such as the nature of an incident (whether the attack was serious or prolonged); whether a weapon has been used; if the complainant is 'high risk'; or there is a pattern of escalating abuse.

In exceptional circumstances, a warrant can be applied for under section 97(2) of the Magistrates Court Act 1980 without having to apply for a witness summons. This approach may be considered in situations where it is likely that the witness summons would not procure the attendance of the complainant or witness in question. All applications should therefore be discussed in consultation with a prosecutor suitably experienced in domestic abuse issues before an application is made.

Seeking a witness warrant could deter the complainant rom seeking help in the future, thereby jeopardising their future safety and that of any children or other dependants. Arresting a complainant may also have the effect of 'criminalising' them and may have a detrimental effect on the quality of evidence given. Prosecutors should therefore use this approach as a last resort and only where necessary.

Reluctant and 'hostile' complainants

Having secured the complainant's attendance, every attempt should be made to proceed with the case. However, having initially indicated a willingness to attend court, some complainants may not attend on the day of the trial. The full reasons for non-attendance should be explored, where practicable - many of these reasons may be the same or similar to the reasons why complainants withdraw support or retract allegations.

Complainants should not be automatically dismissed as reluctant or hostile - complainants may not understand what will happen to them when the day of attending court arrives, and may therefore choose to not attend for a number of reasons, for example, uncertainty over the support they may have access to if they have a specific disability. Whilst every effort should be made to identify such needs at the earliest opportunity, it is possible that such matters may only come to light on the day of the trial.

Prosecutors should establish in the first instance why a complainant has not attended, and consider whether the case can proceed without them, using either other evidence, or through making an application under section 116 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to have the complainant's statement admitted, as an exception to the hearsay rule, if any of the conditions in section 116(2) are met. Prosecutors may also want to consider whether it may be possible to adjourn the case to allow for any special measures applications to be made, to account for any late preferences made known by the complainant.

There will be instances where despite a complainant being willing to attend court, they may be unwilling to give evidence. In such instances, the complainant may be treated as a reluctant witness. In the first instance, prosecutors should firstly seek to establish the reasons why the witness does not wish to give evidence and should consider whether they would change their mind if an application for special measures were to be granted.

It is possible that a complainant is willing to give evidence, but once called may say they cannot recall the circumstances of the incident. In such cases, prosecutors may wish to refresh the complainant's memory through verifying their statement under section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Some complainants may have been put under duress (by the defendants, by the defendant's or their own family, or through community members) to say that they do not recall the facts of the incident, or they may fear the repercussions if they reveal their account at court, in which case prosecutors may want to consider whether an application should be made for their statement to be admitted under section 116 as above. However, there will be some cases where a complainant will claim they cannot recall the incident in an attempt to be deliberately uncooperative, rather than fearful of the defendant. The complainant may give evidence that directly contradicts what they have said previously in a manner that suggests the new account is fabricated. In these situations, prosecutors may want to consider applying to have other previous statements made by the complainant admitted as evidence under sections 119 and 120 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Prosecutors should refer to the Hearsay guidance for more detail.

Where the complainant remains resolute in not supporting the prosecution despite attending court, prosecutors should consider requesting leave from the court to treat the witness as 'hostile' under the Criminal Procedure Act 1865. Such applications should be made at the first signs of hostility, which may for example, be demonstrated through the making of deliberately inconsistent statements. It is possible, that through this approach, the complainant's account extracted under cross-examination could provide strong evidence in relation to the allegation, and subsequently secure a conviction.

Support and safety of complainants and witnesses

Complainants of domestic violence and/or abuse are entitled to receive an enhanced service under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. Prosecutors should refer to the Victims and Witnesses: CPS Public Policy Statement on the Delivery of Services to Victims - The Prosecutors' Pledge when reading this section.

Providing support and protection for complainants and witnesses is a crucial aspect of domestic abuse cases. Complainants need to be supported throughout the criminal justice process, from the point of charge, through the prosecution and after the case has been finalised.

Prosecutors need to understand the vulnerability of domestic abuse complainants, particularly the control, coercion, psychological abuse and intimidation experienced. Complainants will react differently and behave differently (current circumstances and/or past experiences will often influence how they behave or react), and prosecutors should be aware that this behaviour should not be used to determine their credibility. Cases where the complainant may have been arrested following a report by the primary aggressor, need to be handled very sensitively. It is for this reason that prosecutors should consider the complainant's needs based on the facts and merits of the case, including any history of previous abusive behaviour.

Complainants will often not realise that they are in an abusive relationship, as some abuse behaviours may not in fact be violent or immediately obvious; prosecutors therefore should handle cases effectively and without any preconceptions. Complainants may often adjust their behaviour to try and prevent any further abuse or violence, especially where children or other dependants are present in the household, or to simply have an 'easier time'; such behaviour may as a result be 'normalised', with the complainant showing no obvious or stereotypical behaviours. However, this should not be used against the complainant.

A number of factors have been previously stereotyped against some complainants, including:

  • the offence not being reported immediately;
  • the account given may have been inconsistent;
  • the complainant carrying on with their everyday life;
  • the complainant voluntarily returning to their abuser; or,
  • the complainant's reliance on alcohol or other substances.

These factors have in the past been seen as undermining the credibility of an account; however, they may in fact support the behaviours of complainants who have been, or continue to be, abused. Complainants of domestic abuse typically experience a number of abusive incidents before they feel able to report the matter. This should not be seen as a detriment.

CPS support for domestic abuse complainants and witnesses at court

The usual CPS policy for dealing with complainants and witnesses should always be applied (see CPS commitments to support victims and witnesses). Complainants and witnesses should be made aware from the outset of what is expected of them, particularly in terms of attending court and giving evidence, and being cross-examined. Complainants and witnesses should be offered support to help them through this process with support needs identified early and kept under review.

Locally commissioned witness support services or other support organisations, will identify whether the complainant has requested or identified a need for separate entrances, exits and waiting accommodation for victims and prosecution witnesses, so that they do not have to mix with the perpetrator or the complainant's family or friends, or with their own family members where the abuse is of a familial nature. Some support organisations may be able to accompany complainants during pre-trial visits to the court, if the complainant feels that they may benefit.

Victim Personal Statements

This section should be read alongside the legal guidance on Victim Personal Statements and the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime: CPS Legal Guidance.

A Victim Personal Statement (VPS) gives the complainant a voice in the criminal justice process, providing them with an opportunity to explain in their own words how a crime has affected them. For domestic abuse cases, a VPS may also usefully include a complainant's concerns about safety, intimidation and the perpetrator's bail status.

Prosecutors should take into account this information to inform the court about the effect on the complainant. The VPS can be an important way to empower the complainant, and project the impact of abuse and the effects on the complainant and family, or other vulnerable individuals within the household to the court. The VPS is useful in understanding the nature of the offending behaviour as well as the effects and consequences upon the complainant.

The Criminal Practice Direction VII F3 - Sentencing - VPS has been amended to take account the judgement in R v Perkins, Bennett and Hall (2013) EWCA Crim 323 and the victim’s entitlement to read out their VPS as set out in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

The judgment also emphasised:

  • it was for complainants to decide whether to make a statement;
  • the complainant's opinion about type and level of sentence should not be included;
  • a statement was evidence and should be treated as such and served in a timely manner instead of a 'haphazard' and slovenly way;
  • responsibility for presenting admissible evidence remained with the prosecution; and,
  • the statement could be challenged in cross-examination and could give rise to disclosure obligations and even used after conviction to question a complainant's credibility. (However, prosecutors should be mindful of a complainant's vulnerability when challenging questions of the credibility of the allegation).


Prosecutors should refer to the CPS Policy for Prosecuting Criminal Cases involving Children and Young People as Witnesses and the section on Children and Young People in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime for further guidance when considering the impact of children who have witnessed or heard the abusive behaviour, and/or where they may have been direct victims themselves.

Exposure to domestic abuse can have a devastating effect on children and young people. Due consideration must be given to cases where the child was present during an incident.

Children can also be victimised during criminal proceedings as a result of how they are treated, such as when they are being asked to support one parent's account over the others. A child's welfare and safety should be paramount, whether they are victims of abuse themselves, or have witnessed the abuse taking place in their home. The same considerations should also be made for any other dependants in the household, particularly if there are any safeguarding issues which need to be addressed.

It may be useful in certain circumstances for the child, or dependant to be given the opportunity to make a VPS to describe the effect the crime has had on them, where possible and where appropriate.

Enhanced witness services for children and young people at court are available and should be highlighted by the police.

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences and other multi-agency approaches

Multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) are meetings attended by agencies with a role in protecting a victim in a particular case, and are available in some parts of England and Wales, but not all; the police or probation service usually take the lead. The CPS is not represented at a MARAC, however there may be occasions where information discussed at the MARAC needs to be made known to the CPS to inform a prosecution case, which may be provided by the police.

There may be information owned by specific agencies and not immediately available to the police, which may be helpful in informing the charging decision and/or helping to build a prosecution case. In such circumstances, the prosecutor and police may want to discuss how to approach these agencies and how they can assist in criminal proceedings. Such actions will need to be considered on a case by case basis and must be handled sensitively to ensure that the agencies involved are not compromised by their sharing of information.

Domestic abuse cases may also be included in other local public protection arrangements such as Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) [which focus on convicted offenders assessed as posing the highest risk of serious harm] and local Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) [which focus on prevention, early intervention, awareness raising and support and protection for victims, with the aim of preventing abuse and trying to end repeat victimisation]. Again, agencies may individually hold relevant information which may not be immediately available to the police. Police and prosecutors should identify whether the information that is held can assist with criminal proceedings, and how it can be usefully shared to help supporting victims and complainants following a report of abuse.

Relevant information around risk to children and young people may be held by Local Child Safeguarding Boards (LCSBs) which seek to ensure the safety of children within families experiencing domestic abuse. Additionally, there may also be similar safeguarding information held with regard to vulnerable adults, by Social Services, Mental Health Services and/or safeguarding Adult Boards. Where it is known that these services are involved, prosecutors may want to request further information via the police to ensure that a holistic picture of the complainant's circumstances is known to ensure that appropriate charging decisions are made and the correct support requirements are identified.

Witness Care Units

Witness Care Units which are largely run by the police, provide a single point of contact and tailored support for each victim and witness to assist them in giving their best evidence. A Witness Care Officer will provide information and support from the point of charge until the conclusion of a case, for example, liaising with the Witness Service to arrange pre-trial visits to the court. In some police force areas, a police specialist domestic abuse unit may also provide a point of contact for a complainant.

Support for victims

Local policing areas, under the remit of Police and Crime Commissioners, will commission and manage enhanced services for victims and witnesses, and will by their nature vary from area to area. Complainants may want to consider additional support they require through contacting any of the organisations listed in Annex D, which may provide services specific to their circumstances.

Where a complainant or witness is concerned about giving evidence during proceedings, representatives from these support services, including IDVAs, ISVAs, YPVAs, may be allowed to accompany them into court.

Support and safety of victims - Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), Young Peoples' Violence Advisors (YPVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs)

In addition to support organisations, IDVAs, YPVAs and ISVAs can provide emotional and practical support and services to help victims suffering from domestic abuse. This external specialist support is independent of any agency, including agencies within the criminal justice system, and provides services to victims before, throughout the life of a prosecution, and beyond criminal proceedings being finalised. However, IDVAs, YPVAs and ISVAs are not available in all parts of England and Wales, but where they are in place, provide a valuable source of support to complainants, in conjunction with other support services and organisations.

IDVAs and YPVAs work in a multi-agency setting and can provide essential links for victims, such as contact with emergency services, housing needs, or signposting for legal or financial support. An IDVA will assist in ensuring victim safety is co-ordinated across all agencies, and will also co-ordinate their involvement in the civil and criminal courts to avoid a victim being left without protection (for example, assisting in the completion of relevant paperwork so that a civil order can be sought immediately after any bail conditions cease to apply).

Complainants' engagement with IDVAs has shown a reduction in abuse, and in some cases, a cessation in abuse, increasing their safety. Prosecutors should work closely with IDVAs and YPVAs where they are available to better understand a complainant's needs and concerns around the prosecution process.

Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) provide targeted professional support to victims of sexual violent crime. ISVAs are usually based in Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) or specialist sexual violence voluntary organisations and link in with essential services. Like IDVAs, ISVAs are unfortunately not available in all parts of England and Wales, but where they are in place, they will ensure safety is co-ordinated across all agencies.

Victims may visit a SARC if there has been any sexual abuse as part of the domestic abuse they have been suffering. SARCs provide a multi-agency response to sexual violence victims, including specialist clinical intervention and a range of assessment and support services to promote their recovery and health. SARCs will treat victims regardless of whether they are referred by the police or they refer themselves. Should the pattern of behaviour of domestic abuse include sexual abuse, prosecutors may want to consult rape specialist colleagues to ensure the victim and the prosecution cases are handled in the most suitable way.

Further information on general and specialist domestic abuse support organisations throughout the country can be found at Annex D.

Special measures

This section should be read in conjunction with the legal guidance on Special Measures and Special measures meetings between witnesses and the CPS.

Giving evidence can be a particularly traumatic experience for complainants of domestic abuse. Many complainants and witnesses of domestic abuse experience stress and fear during the police investigation of a crime and the process of attending and giving evidence to a court. Stress affects the quantity and quality of communication with witnesses of all ages. Such stress can be greatly increased or intensified as a result of facing their attacker. Where complainants and witnesses feel vulnerability or intimidation, special measures (such as giving evidence behind a screen, or by a remote video link) can help improve their experience by allowing them to give the 'best evidence' of which they are capable.

Prosecutors can apply for special measures to the court, and it is the court that will make the final decision to grant an application. Applications should be made at the charging decision, or as early as possible after that point, but not more than 28 days after the defendant has pleaded not guilty in the magistrates' court or 14 days in the Crown Court. The complainants should be notified of the outcome as soon as practicable.

A complainants' support needs may change during the course of proceedings, before attendance at court. It is therefore essential that all applications are made as early as possible, but where there are any late requests or variations on the support needs required, that such applications are made as expeditiously as possible.

Pre-trial witness interviews

The CPS has a scheme in place for prosecutors to meet with complainants, and other witnesses, to ensure they properly understand the complainant's evidence and to assist in understanding better any complex evidence. Further information can be found in the Pre Trial Witness Interviews legal guidance.

Local domestic abuse refuge, resettlement and outreach services

Services available to victims of domestic abuse across the country are different in the various areas and will be dependent on the local funding available. Victims can self-refer to local refuges or can be referred by other agencies, including police. There may be limited services available for certain complainants with specific support needs; however, other services and organisations may be able to assist by providing some enhanced support or useful information where possible. Further information on some services which may be of assistance can be found in Annex D.

The location of refuges or their telephone numbers should never be publicised or revealed to anyone other than the police. Most refuges have specific referral procedures to be followed, therefore the location should not even be given to complainants, nor should the location be written down in records. This can be an important consideration when looking at bail conditions. Prosecutors should be very careful that locations of refuges and safe houses are not revealed in applications for bail conditions, and where there may be applications to vary bail.

Information sharing

Responsible information sharing plays a key role in enabling organisations and professionals to protect complainants of domestic abuse and their children, and to save lives. The Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework model encourages local protocols to be set up to assist with information sharing across agencies, such as those mentioned above (for example from MARACs and Social Services).

Deceased victims

In some instances, it is possible that the prosecutor may be handling a case where the victim has been killed by the perpetrator, and charges of murder or manslaughter may apply. In preparing for trials in these circumstances, prosecutors will most certainly need to focus on the criteria within the Joint Evidence Checklist, and give due regard to arguments of self-defence, diminished responsibility and/or loss of control put forward by the perpetrator and their Counsel.

Prosecutors should pay particular attention to the unfair or distorted picture that can be given of the complainant, particularly with regard to their mental health or perceived 'bad' character. It is therefore important that the whole picture of a victim's relationship with the accused is identified, to ensure that the circumstances which led to the death can be properly determined. Prosecutors may find it helpful to consider information regarding the history of the relationship between the victim and defendant and whether any information can be adduced through applications under section 116 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, or through bad character applications.

Prosecutors may also wish to consider the desirability in calling any children of the victim/perpetrator to give evidence; where the decision is made that this would be of assistance to the prosecution case, prosecutors should as a matter of importance consider the use of special measures and the full range of measures available. Only in the most extreme of cases, should there be a decision to witness summons a child to give evidence - prosecutors should refer to the section above on witness summons - children and young people for further guidance.

For further guidance on defences in domestic homicides, prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter where they will find detailed advice on issues to consider.

Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs)

A Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) is a locally conducted multi-agency review of the death of a person aged 16 or over where it appears that the death resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by:

  • a person to whom they were related, or with whom they were or had been in an intimate personal relationship; or,
  • a member of the same household as them.

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,
  • contribute to a better understanding of the nature of domestic violence and abuse, and
  • highlight good practice.

More information about DHRs and the role that CPS may play in such reviews can be found at

As a result of the Covid pandemic the police introduced a system of Rapid Domestic Homicide Reviews. These are not intended to take the place of full DHRs but rather to obtain rapid learning in much shorter timeframes. These are police lead reviews and as such CPS involvement is not usual.

Any CPS Areas that are notified of DHRs or requested to provide information to assist in one should provide notification to the DLS team at

Issues relevant to particular groups of people

This section of the document identifies the different impacts of domestic abuse on people from a range of communities and groups, and the particular considerations that prosecutors will need to bear in mind. Some of the issues listed will be common to all complainant and perpetrator groups, such as many victims trivialising the abuse they suffer, or fearing they will not be taken seriously.

However, in all cases, prosecutors should ensure risk assessments take into account a complainant's individual and specific circumstances in context with the offending behaviour or course of conduct.

The following paragraphs provide some examples of issues, needs and barriers which may be relevant to individuals belonging to particular groups - prosecutors should note that this list is not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide as it is not possible to include every scenario. Complainants may fall into one or more of the categories listed below - therefore, each case will need to be assessed on its own facts and merits, and support needs identified accordingly.


The CPS recognises that domestic abuse victims and complainants are predominantly women, and experience abuse perpetrated largely by men. This section does not seek to minimise the abuse experienced by men, or abuse which has been perpetrated by women on female victims, but rather seeks to assist prosecutors in identifying the gender-biased abuse that a large majority of female victims will be subjected to. This section therefore focuses on female victims experiencing intimate partner abuse by male perpetrators, and familial abuse perpetrated by men, unless otherwise stated. Further guidance relating to same sex issues can be found in the section on same-sex, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Some male perpetrators may exploit the specific vulnerabilities of a female victim to perpetrate abuse or manipulate/control their behaviour. The full circumstances relating to a female victim or complainant should therefore be explored by police and prosecutors to fully understand how the abuse is being committed and identify appropriate support. Some of these issues are explored later in this section and prosecutors may find it useful to refer to those sections for further guidance.

Intimate partner violence and abuse

There is significant evidence available that women will be subjected to a greater level of, and more severe physical violence and control, and more likely to experience sexual violence where abuse has been perpetrated by a male. Women may therefore be more vulnerable as a result of this abuse.

The abuse suffered by women, will in most cases, involve a combination of physical violence and controlling and coercive behaviour; however, it is also recognised that physical violence does not always have to feature in all cases.

Often, threats of, or actual physical violence may occur where a male perpetrator wishes to exert control over a female victim. For example, some perpetrators may threaten harm where the victim does not agree to carry out certain preferences, such as the way the victim should dress or behave.

In other cases, coercion or controlling behaviour can be used by a male perpetrator to exert dominance over a female victim - such as depriving them of contact with friends or family.

Male perpetrators may have an additional method of perpetrating abuse through the control of the female's role and relationship with children. Examples of how children, and unborn foetuses can be used to manipulate and control victims has been covered above, but it is worth highlighting that females are usually the recipients of this type of abuse, as in the majority of familial settings the female will be the child's main carer.

Familial violence and abuse

Prosecutors will be aware that males may exert dominance of female family members through a number of different methods and scenarios. For example, a son may be violent or abusive towards his mother in order to acquire a benefit or gain (such as money, or theft of an item to secure financial gain). Other male/female relationships may be exploited in similar ways in order for the male to gain dominance over the female.

However, it should also be recognised that some, but not all, instances of familial abuse will also be perpetrated under the guise of 'protecting' a female within the family, or to avoid the female bringing the family shame or dishonour. This type of abuse is not solely perpetrated by males against a female victim, other females may also be involved, but it is important that prosecutors note the role of males in such cases. Further guidance on these issues can be found in the section on Minority Ethnic Communities, and in the legal guidance on Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage.

Male victims

Men may also be victims of domestic abuse, perpetrated by females. Abuse may, as with female victims, be perpetrated as physical violence, and/or non-physical behaviours linked to psychological and emotional abuse. This section focuses on male victims experiencing intimate partner violence by female perpetrators, and familial violence perpetrated by both men and women, unless otherwise stated. Further guidance relating to same sex issues can be found in the section on same-sex, bisexual and transgender individuals.

A male victim's physical appearance or masculinity should not be used as a preconception to understanding why the abuse is occurring. In fact, some male victims may as a result of their physical stature feel less able to report the abuse they are experiencing for a fear that they will not be believed.

Prosecutors should be aware that there is a significant under-reporting of domestic abuse against male victims. Many victims will be reluctant to report offending in the fear that it may damage their reputation, or pride; others may be hesitant as they fear the consequences that may ensue in relation to their family settings. Prosecutors will need to deal with these issues with great care, to ensure that male victims do not feel undermined, or the credibility of their allegation not believed on the basis of their gender.

Prosecutors should also note that in some cases, female perpetrated abuse against male partners is a sensitive and complex area. Some women may use children within the relationship to manipulate a male victim, by for example threatening to take away contact rights. It is therefore essential that where such instances arise, prosecutors work very closely with the police to investigate and consider the whole picture before any charging decision is made.

In the same way that females can be victims of familial abuse, males can also experience similar issues. Male familial abuse may be perpetrated by other males in the family to exert dominance or control, but also by females. For example, male victims may be just as susceptible to abuse perpetrated in the name of forced marriage. This may occur despite the male victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence for further advice on these issues.

In some instances, familial abuse may take the form of physical violence or abuse as a result of a disability, or a dominance of one male over another, in the family. Again, prosecutors will need to work very closely with police colleagues to ensure that a holistic investigation has been conducted in order to prefer the correct and most appropriate charges in these circumstances.

Children of adult victims

The presence of children during a domestic abuse incident must be treated as an aggravating factor when applying the public interest stage of the Code Test. Exposure to domestic abuse can have a devastating effect on children and could influence a prosecutor's assessment of the seriousness of the offence.

Prosecutors should always seek information from the police regarding the presence of children in the household, the extent to which they have been exposed to the domestic abuse and whether the children are the subject of any orders (for example, whether they are under the attention of Children's Services, whether there are any contact orders in place, or whether they are included in non-molestation orders involving their parent(s)/guardian(s)).

Prosecutors may also want to explore whether the child(ren) should be considered a victim in their own right, and whether any child should or needs to give evidence.

Teenagers in abusive peer relationships

Prosecutors need to take into consideration a number of factors when dealing with cases of teenage victims who find themselves in abusive relationships with individuals of their own, or, similar age.

Whilst domestic abuse is likely to take place in private between teenagers, it is less likely that teenage victims will share a home with their abuser. This means that victims will be more likely to live away from direct or immediate physical abuse. However, this should not minimise the extent of abuse perpetrated. A teenage victim may also suffer physical abuse and patterns of coercive or controlling behaviour can be just as intense and damaging to a victim, but may manifest in a different way (for example, abuse through social media may be more prevalent in relationships between young people. Perpetrators may constantly call or contact victims through emails, text or social media). Abuse between teenagers may take place in an 'online space' and/or other places outside of their home. For example, certain behaviours may be perpetrated at school or college/university, at extra-curricular clubs, within social events/circles or in their own neighbourhoods.

Some teenagers may also live with the perpetrator's family. In some instances, this may prove to be an additional barrier, even in circumstances where the family are unaware of the abuse taking place.

Prosecutors should carefully consider the background of the relationship between teenagers. Some victims may not recognise they are in an abusive relationship, or that they may have 'normalised' the behaviour of the perpetrator in some way.

Prosecutors should be mindful that the parents of those involved may not know about the relationship (individuals may fear telling their parents about their own, and/or their partner's sexuality or race, or even the fact that they are in a relationship). They may fear their family's reactions to the offending or any subsequent proceedings. These factors may pose additional barriers to the reporting of any crime.

Prosecutors should be wary of the impact the family's reactions may have on the victim, and therefore need to be careful in their communications. Prosecutors are advised to find out about the victim's family life and dynamic, to establish who should receive any communications sent. The parents'/guardians' or family's lack of awareness of a relationship, or the nature of any abuse taking place, could in some circumstances place the young person at further risk - prosecutors should ask about family relationships and to whom, where and how communications should be sent.

Prosecutors should be aware that:

  • young victims will experience abuse and violence irrespective of their race, religion, class, culture;
  • young people may not be aware that the behaviour actually constitutes abuse, or may see it as a 'normal' part of a relationship;
  • victims may not be aware of the methods their abusers use to perpetrate abuse (e.g.- they may not be aware that abuse can be perpetrated through emails, texts or social networking or gaming sites; they may only consider physical violence as abuse);
  • victims may be abused by other older family members or relatives, and may again not realise their behaviour constitutes abuse;
  • the victim's relationship with their family may prevent them from coming forward to report a crime. Where a victim has no family support as a result of being estranged or homeless, prosecutors may find victims less willing to report a crime;
  • victims may feel they cannot trust some adults or authority figures;
  • teenage victims are unlikely to be financially independent and may fear their family's reactions or how they can access services without their family's knowledge;
  • teenage victims may have children of their own, and may fear the removal of their children;
  • victims may not know of the services offered by the criminal justice system such as the use of special measures and pre-trial witness interviews;
  • teenagers may have a fear of 'getting into trouble' for their own behaviour being revealed (e.g. being sexually active, drinking alcohol or abusing substances which may not be known to the parent);
  • victims may feel unable to report abuse, fearing the impact it might have on their lifestyle (e.g.- bullying from peers in the same social group, either in person or through social media);
  • victims may think that reporting abuse might restrict their social activities (e.g. - visiting the same places as the perpetrator, such as shopping malls or clubs, or their own neighbourhood;
  • victims may not want to report a crime as they fear any abuse might continue, or even increase, despite the relationship ending;
  • victims may see their abuser at school or college/university which may prove very difficult for them - they may not want to endure any repercussions from friends of the abuser or others following the reporting of a crime;
  • reporting may make the victim more vulnerable to other types of abuse (e.g. cyber bullying by peers); or,
  • diversity issues such as the victim's cultural background may make them reluctant to come forward for fear of embarrassing or shaming their community, or the victim may fear being 'outed' about their sexuality.

The ages of the victim and of the defendant are very important, and different handling will be required, if the victim is under 16 years old, and of the defendant where under 18 years old:

  • if the perpetrator and victim are under 16 years old and a sexual relationship was taking place, prosecutors will need to examine whether the sexual relations are/were, consensual;
  • where the perpetrator is over 16 years of age, prosecutors will need to consider the nature of the relationship - was there any coercive control or manipulation present in any sexual activity that has been taking place? Could there be an element of grooming or exploitation by the defendant that needs to be considered, especially where the perpetrator is over 18 years old? In such circumstances, prosecutors will also need to consider child safeguarding and protection issues;
  • and the nature of the relationship taking place; and,
  • whether the victim is subject to any involvement with other statutory agencies (for example, are Children's or Social Services involved or aware of the young person)?

This is not an exhaustive list, but one which should assist prosecutors in considering the key aspects of a teenage case.

For further information on youth matters and consent matters, prosecutors may want to refer to the legal guidance on Youth Offenders and Rape and Sexual Offences respectively.

Teenagers and young people involved in gangs

Prosecutors should also be aware of the linked issue of abusive relationships with regard to gang-related activity. Abuse may take place in the confines of gangs and be part of members' initiation or part of a particular gang's behaviour. Prosecutors should be conscious that gang environments are largely male-dominated and abuse taking place is largely against female victims; that is not to say that females in gangs will not also perpetrate domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse in gangs can be seen through various forms, including:

  • 'perceived' relationships - a victim's understanding of a relationship with a gang member, may in fact be a relationship of exploitation or coercion to undertake criminal activity (e.g. - exploited to hold weapons or drugs under duress);
  • victims may be coerced into sexual activity in return for status or protection, or to even join a gang;
  • some victims may be taken advantage of after being given alcohol or drugs, or may be abused whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • victims may often be used to 'set up' and attract males from rival gangs who may then be assaulted;
  • victims may be given 'trophy' statuses or 'passed around' where they may then be abused by multiple defendants; or,
  • gang behaviour may impact on more than one victim and could be used as a coercion tool to force other types of offending for intimate partners, and other victims.

This list illustrates only a small example of the type of abuse falling under the domestic abuse definition which may take place between young people and should not be seen as an exhaustive list.

Where gang members have developed established intimate relationships, abuse may still be present as a result of the gang-related nature and violence that is perpetrated in other activities. That is, violence or abuse perpetrated through other offending behaviour (for example, violence against rivals gangs), may also transfer to the gang-members intimate relationships. Whilst it is possible that being the partner, or 'baby-mother', of a gang member might lend towards a potential victim being protected from violence, the dynamics of the relationship may still expose victims to domestic abuse and other forms of coercive victimisation.

Prosecutors will need to be mindful that some gang members perpetrating violence or abuse may also be victims of abuse themselves.

The use of social media in gang-related activity is very common. Victimisation can take place through mobile communication and also through social media networks. Further information on abuse through social media can be found in the legal guidance on Guidance on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media, on Cybercrime - Prosecution Guidance and in the Stalking and harassment legal guidance.

Child to parent violence and familial abuse

Violence or abuse perpetrated on parents by their children also falls under the definition of domestic abuse. This section should be read in conjunction with the earlier sections on familial abuse for female victims and male victims. Prosecutors should take care not to make preconceptions about the offending behaviour as a result of the victim or perpetrator's ethnicity - prosecutors should note that considerations in relation to familial violence in minority ethnic communities is covered later in this document.

Violence and abuse may also be taking place on elderly relatives such as grandparents, by children or other family members.

Victims do not usually report abuse as a result of a number of barriers. Such barriers may include:

  • shame or embarrassment that they are being subjected to abuse by a younger family member;
  • disagreement between family members on how the abuse should be handled;
  • a possible lack of awareness that the behaviour actually constitutes abuse;
  • little understanding of the issues which may contribute to the abuse perpetrated (e.g. - a new baby in the family; break down of family relationships; new partners of family members; substance or alcohol misuse, mental health issues);
  • parents/other victims may feel that there are no support services available to them in these scenarios;
  • parents/other victims may not want the defendant to end up with a criminal record and may fear that by reporting they would be impacting on the future of the defendant; or,
  • victims may be unaware of the support and services available for the young person.

Prosecutors and police colleagues should attempt to draw out from the victim the nature of the abuse, and how the perpetrator can be effectively handled. The Joint Evidence Checklist will be extremely useful in these cases to ensure that evidence collation can be maximised. Prosecutors should pay particular attention to gathering and/or sharing information with other agencies, such as Social Services and Children's Services, as well as from other support organisations where appropriate, such as mental heal services.

It should be noted that it is possible in some familial settings that victims may not support a prosecution or may withdraw from a prosecution soon after charges are brought. The dynamic between a parent and child may be a determining factor in whether support for the prosecution can be secured and should be taken into account by prosecutors when considering the charging decision.

Same sex, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals

The dynamics of violence within relationships involving same-sex, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)individuals may be similar to those within heterosexual relationships, but there may be additional issues, dynamics and barriers that will require careful consideration by prosecutors.(Prosecutors should note that the term 'transgender' has been used to include gender identity, the full spectrum of trans-statuses and gender reassignment.) For example, there may be some pre-existing isolation from the complainant's family as a result of the individual's sexual orientation or gender identity which may be exploited by an intimate partner.

Exploitation and abuse by the perpetrator could manifest in a variety of ways, as explored above through the use of physical or sexual violence, or through controlling or coercive behaviours. A complainant may fear their preferences or relationship choices may be 'outed' by an intimate partner or there may be threats of removal of children by Social Services.

Additionally, where complainants' families are aware of sexual orientation or gender identity, there may be coercive or controlling behaviours used by those family members to deny or hide an individual's sexual or gender identity, such as being forced into marriage, or even being physically abused. Some LGBT complainants may even be physically abused or forced into marriage by family in the belief that this may 'rectify' their sexual orientation or gender identity. Prosecutors should in such cases consider the legal guidance on Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence to assist them where these issues arise.

There may be some complex dynamics involving bisexual and transgender individuals where abuse is taking place in a relationship between members of the same sex, and/or also where the individuals are of different sexes; this may apply to current and previous intimate partners. Careful and sensitive handling will be required to ensure that complainants' needs are fully recognised and appropriate support services involved to assist the complainant through the criminal justice process.

Prosecutors will be aware that some perpetrators may pose as victims of abuse. In such circumstances, prosecutors will need to work very closely with the police to identify the primary aggressor, without making any assumptions or applying any preconceptions based on the individuals involved. Where appropriate, prosecutors may find it helpful to work with the police and support services to understand some of these issues and ensure that a complainant's needs and requirements can be met.

Prosecutors should consider the use of reporting restrictions (under section 46 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999) to alleviate worries about the publicity of any court proceedings; this may be particularly helpful where the complainant is fearful of repercussions of their sexual orientation or gender identity being revealed to the wider community, especially where such a disclosure may place them at risk or harm. This may be a more pertinent requirement for LGBT individuals who also fall into one or more of the other groups identified in this section; for example, if the individual is also from a minority ethnic community where sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not openly discussed or shared. To ensure complainants' safety and support requirements are properly met, prosecutors should consider such applications carefully and in the context of the case and the complainant's specific requirements.

Some complainants may fear homophobic or transphobic reactions from the statutory services when reporting incidents, or feel less confident in accessing services they perceive to be more readily available for heterosexual individuals. These fears or previous experiences of negative reactions by the individuals themselves, or others they know, can make it more difficult to report the abuse they may be experiencing. Complainants should be assured they will be treated fairly, in the same way as everyone else and without judgement, and with specialist support to their specific circumstances if further support is required.

Prosecutors should be aware that LGBT victims may not have the same range of access to places of safety as do heterosexual victims. There are few refuges for men, and whilst women may access refuges, lesbians may be subjected to homophobia within the refuge and the abusive partner may be able to gain access to the refuge themselves by posing as the victim. Where victims are able to access safe accommodation, staff are specially trained to recognise their needs and support services required to provide appropriate protection.

Older people

Some older people may be vulnerable to domestic abuse as a result of their mental or physical frailty, and/or mental capacity or physical disabilities; however, these are not the only factors which could lead to an older person being abused. Other factors prosecutors may want to consider include:

  • events occurring in later life such as the development of health problems or the retirement of their abuser from work may lead to a victim experiencing abuse or violence, or an increase in such behaviour;
  • changes in life circumstances leading to a shift in the balance of power between intimate partners, or family members - where one individual may wish to retaliate against another, or 'get their own back' after suffering from abuse previously;
  • where the victim is physically impaired or experiencing ill health, abuse may begin as a result of 'care-giver' stress or anxiety;
  • the victim's mental health may also lead to them being more vulnerable and at increased risk of abuse; or,
  • older age can lead to societal or geographical exclusion or isolation which may make a victim more vulnerable to abuse.

This is not an exhaustive list, and prosecutors should be mindful that some of these factors may also relate to inter-familial or age-related abuse, and not just abuse between intimate partners.

Abuse may be perpetrated on older victims for a number of reasons, and does not necessarily cease or reduce as the victim or abuser gets older. In fact, an older victim may experience more frequent or increased intensity of abuse as they feel they are less able to 'escape' the abuse; additionally, some older people may only start to experience abuse at this stage in their life. Older victims may:

  • have grown up in a generation where domestic abuse was acceptable and not 'talked about', or expected to be tolerated as a part of a 'normal' relationship;
  • find themselves in a mutually dependent relationship with their abuser, and as a result may fear that by reporting the abuse and supporting a prosecution, they will be left without a carer or companion, or without any financial support;
  • feel unable to cope leaving their family home and everything they had built up with their partner over the years;
  • have less knowledge of support services available to them as some may not know how to access the information to find out more, or may be unaware of the services and the support that may be available to them. Some victims may also believe that services are not available to them because of their age;
  • have no financial independence (such as not owning their own bank account or not having their name appear on the mortgage deed to their family home). This financial issue may also escalate to a wider issue, where the victim may not easily be able to prove they have a separate identity to their abuser and fear that they may not be able to support themselves as a result;
  • fear negative reactions they may receive from their family or children and the thought that they may be 'making a fuss at their age'. Victims may also fear reactions from their wider community or ethnic group;
  • want to protect the 'sanctity of marriage' and the privacy of their home life, and not wanting to involve 'outside' parties in their domestic life;
  • have concerns over additional health needs as a result of a disability or impairment, the onset of mental health conditions, or deteriorating ill health; and,
  • sometimes simply fear the unknown.

The forms of abuse an older victim might experience may also take the form of neglect of care or medication, not just by a partner, but also by a family member.

Prosecutors should be alert to the range of issues within this section which may assist with understanding the dynamics of the abuse being experienced by an older victim. For example, older victims with mental health difficulties may experience very different abuse and require very distinct support needs to older victims with full mental and physical capacity, who are a member of particular ethnic community and being abused by a family member. Each case will need to be examined on its own facts and merits to ensure the most appropriate support requirements are identified.

Prosecutors and police officers should ensure there are no perceptions or assumptions made about a complainant. More often, older victims fear they will not be believed or fear that criminal justice agencies might think they have fabricated an allegation for attention. Complaints should be investigated thoroughly to ensure that all aspects of a victim's circumstances are taken into consideration before a charging decision is made.

Prosecutors may also wish to refer to the legal guidance on Prosecuting Crimes Against Older People for further information.

Disability issues - mental and physical

Many disabled people face problems of negative attitudes towards either their mental or physical impairment and may often feel or be made to feel isolated. In fact, some victims may be specifically targeted as a result of their mental health condition or physical impairment by the abuser, to exert control and dominance, whether through physical violence, or through less obvious controlling and coercive behaviours.

Care should be taken not to victimise a disabled individual further. It is important to recognise the disability-related abuse experienced and how the disability is used to further exploit, manipulate and control the victim.

It is well documented that disabled women are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than male disabled victims. Other issues such as immigration status and ethnic background may also may a victim more vulnerable to abusers.

Prosecutors should note disabled victims will experience some of the same physical violence/abuse and coercive control that non-disabled victims experience; however, disabled victims may experience other types of abuse as a result of their specific disability.

Prosecutors should be aware that some victims may be unwilling to report abuse due to limited access to services, a lack of confidence with managing everyday tasks, low self-esteem, or an enforced dependence on others to carry out those tasks. This social and physical dependence can lead to an increase in a victim's vulnerability to domestic abuse, leaving them with few or no alternatives to escape the abuse. These circumstances may be exacerbated further by the possibility that the abuser may also be the victim's carer.

Some victims may feel they cannot leave, because, for example, they have limited economic or financial means; they may lack transport; they feel they are responsible for financial and social tensions within the relationship/family; they fear loneliness and think no-one else would want them; they fear losing their independence and having to move into residential care; or, they fear losing their children.

The early identification of specific support needs is critical. Certain disabilities such as deafness, will require specialist care and attention to ensure that the victim has been properly understood when providing their account of the offending behaviour, and that they are comfortably supported with special measures and other support requirements if attending court. In such cases, it will be important to appoint appropriate an independent sign language supporter who can assist the victim, and facilitate communications with criminal justice agencies. The nominated person should have no connections to the perpetrator, as the deaf community are seen as a very close-knit, small community. In addition, the signer may also need to attend court - it is known that in some cases, perpetrators are able to intimidate or harass the victim in court through signing where others may not understand what they are communicating; the presence of an independent signer may alert the court and others to such further offences if they do take place.

Victims with mental health conditions should also be given special care and attention by prosecutors. Victims will require more tailored approaches depending on the level of their mental capacity and/or learning difficulty; this should not be taken to undermine competency as victim or as a witness in court. Further guidance for prosecutors can be found in the legal guidance on Victims with mental health conditions and/or learning difficulties.

Prosecutors should also be wary of the distinction between crimes committed against disabled people, and disability hate crime - for further information prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Disability Hate Crime.

Prosecutors should also consider the use of intermediaries for some victims.  Further advice can be found in the legal guidance on Special Measures.

Assisting disabled and vulnerable victims through prosecutions will need to be conducted as a multi-agency approach, to ensure a holistic approach handling such cases of abuse. MASH, Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Safeguarding Adult Boards will all have a role to play. Prosecutors should consult with the police to assess what information may be available and can be shared to inform prosecution proceedings.

Minority ethnic communities

Each offence, perpetrator and victim will be very different, and care should be taken to avoid stereotyping the type of abuse that may be suffered by victims from specific ethnic communities.

Perceptions or experiences of racism in the criminal justice system and throughout other aspects of society may make it difficult for victims of domestic abuse in minority ethnic communities to report an offence or support a prosecution. Many victims may worry that they may not be believed or that they may not be treated fairly. Additional considerations, such as pressure from within the immediate and extended family and the wider community, together with cultural traditions, may also prevent or delay victims from reporting offences of domestic abuse.

Prosecutors should be aware that domestic abuse may take different forms within minority ethnic communities and may not be demonstrated explicitly through physical violence, but rather through controlling or coercive behaviours. Some examples are:

  • honour based violence and forced marriage (as distinct from an arranged marriage, where the marriage is based on free consent);
  • dowry-related violence;
  • enforcement of cultural/traditional roles at a young age (e.g. - female genital mutilation (FGM) [prosecutors should see separate guidance on FGM for further information]; shaving of the head or acid attacks to minimise the female's physical appearance; preventing the victim from finishing education or pursuing a career);and,
  • violence and disowning of the victim by the family or community (for 'shameful behaviour').

Such behaviours may be perpetrated by intimate partners and also by family members and/or wider community members. Further advice and information on these issues can be found in the legal guidance on Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage.

Prosecutors should be very careful not to make assumptions that all domestic abuse within minority ethnic communities takes these forms. Some abuse will be similar to that perpetrated in non-minority communities (for example, prejudices towards inter-racial relationships; pregnancy outside of marriage). As such, prosecutors should proceed with caution when communicating with the victim about a case. It is highly likely that the victim and perpetrator will be living in the same household. Some cases will be very clearly honour-based, and some will not; others, may also be a combination of both.

In some cases of domestic abuse, some offences may be perpetrated by multiple offenders and that despite the conviction of one offender the abusive behaviour may still continue by others who still have access to the victim. It is therefore essential that prosecutors and police work closely to understand the nature of the abuse and identify whether there are single or multiple perpetrators involved.

The forms of domestic abuse experienced by ethnic minority victims can be triggered by a number of issues, including, but not limited to:

  • loss of virginity;
  • being in a 'secret' or what the family perceive as 'unsuitable' relationship;
  • disclosure of rape or sexual abuse;
  • pregnancy (particularly where pregnancy occurs outside marriage, or from a 'secret' or 'unsuitable' relationship) and/or forced abortion or termination of pregnancy; or,
  • lifestyle (alcohol or sexual activity) being revealed.

Early consultation with the police to identify whether any such triggers are involved in such cases is important to understand the dynamics of the offending behaviour, as well as the risk posed to a victim. This will assist with how communications need to be managed and also the specific support needs a victim may require.

In some minority groups, women may become more vulnerable and fear leaving their abuser because they may be unable to speak or understand English to a confident level and may therefore feel unable to access the support that is needed. This lack of confidence may be exploited by abusers, especially in scenarios between intimate partners where threats may be made to have children taken into care. The same methods of manipulation may be used to suggest that the victim is suffering from mental health issues, where they may not be.

Additionally, some women with little understating or confidence of English language may be left in difficult situations where they have participated in religious (but not legally binding) ceremonies to marry British national men. Some victims in these circumstances will experience castigation by their husband where they do not conform to family expectations, and may be as a result left without any family or friends, community support, financial means, and in some extreme cases even made homeless. These are only some examples of the barriers and difficulties faced by women from ethnic minority communities and should not be seen as an exhaustive list.

It is therefore important that prosecutors obtain as much information from the police, and with the assistance of specialist groups where available, to understand the nature of abuse experienced by the victim, and to enable identification of the support needs required by them.

There are specific support organisations available for some ethnic minority groups - victims should be put in contact with these support organisations by the police, wherever possible.

Cultural or religious beliefs may also be a deterrent for victims coming forward; victims may be made to feel ashamed by their community, or may fear isolation by the community. Additionally, community leaders or faith leaders in some cultures or ethnic groups may play the role of a mediator and discourage the victim from reporting. Prosecutors should be sensitive to cultural issues which may take the form of mediation, as well as certain practices which some cultures exercise. Cultural and religious practices should be respected to a point; however, they should not be seen as an 'excuse' to cover domestic abuse between partners or family members.

Prosecutors should be aware of community courts/arbitration forums in some Jewish and Muslim communities by victims and perpetrators. Prosecutors will be aware that they should not be used as an alternative to criminal proceedings. Some perpetrators may use these mechanisms to make a case for staying with their partner, thereby enabling the abuse to be continued. Prosecutors should refer to specialist support services and organisations where required to ensure that a proper understanding of such practices is obtained, and that any risks to victims are properly identified.

Prosecutors should ensure that family members do not act as interpreters for those who do not have a competent or confident understanding of English. Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Interpreters and ensure that through the police or support agencies, checks are made with the victim that the interpreter does not have any connection with them or their family. Victims may request an interpreter of the same sex - this should be arranged so far as is possible. Prosecutors should also bear in mind that written communication may also be difficult for a victim to understand, and translators may be required in these circumstances.

Interpreters from within the victim's or perpetrator's community group should also be avoided as this may place victims at further risk of abuse. Community members may discover the victim's recourse through the criminal justice system and may put the victim at further risk in an attempt not to bring shame on the family or community. The element of shame may also result in increased pressure for the victim to withdraw from a prosecution.

Individuals involved in prostitution

Individuals involved in prostitution can also fall into the category of those who experience domestic abuse. In some cases, these individuals may be more vulnerable as a result of their immigration status, age, mental health vulnerabilities, ethnic background or addiction/substance misuse. Victims may be at risk of domestic abuse, particularly if, as in many instances, their partner is also their 'pimp'. Additionally, victims may be forced or coerced to become involved in prostitution by their spouse or partner, which is also seen as a way of perpetrating domestic abuse.

When dealing with cases where the victim is involved in prostitution, it is essential that prosecutors work proactively with the police to ensure as far as possible, that the victim is fully supported during any proceedings. It should be recognised that some victims may fear coming forward as a result of their circumstances and the possibility of already being known to the police. Continuing with a prosecution may place a victim at further risk from their 'pimp' or partner. As a result, victims may be more likely to support a prosecution if there are arrangements made to ensure their safety.

Regardless of safety measures put in place, victims involved in prostitution may decide to withdraw their support for a prosecution; it is essential that if a prosecution continues that these safety considerations remain in place - the safety of the victim is paramount. Prosecutors should request that police colleagues conduct risk assessments around the risks to the victim and what further risks may be revealed if for example, the victim is compelled to give evidence by witness summons.

Further information and considerations specific to their circumstances can be found in the legal guidance on Prostitution and Exploitation of Prostitution.

Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers

There will be a number of victims with insecure immigration status, and they may as a result have 'no recourse to public funds' despite having valid leave to stay in the country. This restriction has made it difficult for victims of domestic abuse to leave abusive situations, often leaving them with no option but to stay in the abusive relationship or leave with little support thereafter.

Immigrants will experience many barriers to reporting domestic abuse; in fact, an individual's immigration status may be used as a vulnerability to perpetrate abuse by the defendant through fear that insecure immigration status of the victim may be 'outed'. The perpetrator's immigration status may also be used as a way to commit offences and exploit a victim - for example, the perpetrator may use the insecure status to prevent the victim from reporting the offending behaviour to the police, by telling the victim they may be penalised by the authorities in some way. Some victims may have entered the country through forced marriage and be kept isolated from other people or services or social freedom and may find themselves being unable to leave their situation for fear of lack of support or knowledge of services available. Prosecutors may find it helpful to also refer to the legal guidance on Human Trafficking to support case handling which exemplify such issues.

Victims may also suffer abuse by multiple defendants, such as a main offender, and their family members. It is possible that in such circumstances, victims may be forced into domestic servitude as part of the control and manipulation exerted by some perpetrators.

Prosecutors may want to refer to the legal guidance on UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) provides the criteria required to apply for leave to remain to victims of domestic abuse. To settle permanently in the UK as a victim of domestic abuse, individuals will need to prove:

  • permission to enter or remain in the UK as the husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK (even if that permission is no longer valid);
  • the relationship was existing and genuine and not a 'marriage of convenience', when the permission to enter or remain was last given (to enable access to public funds whilst indefinite leave was applied for on the basis of domestic abuse); and,
  • the individual is a victim of domestic abuse and this has caused the relationship to break down before the end of the permission to enter or remain.

Often, applications may not be easily approved as eligibility criteria can be difficult to meet for some immigrants. As a result, defendants can use these vulnerabilities as a further lever for abuse.

Where a prosecution is pending against a partner who is a British citizen or where they are a settled in the UK, the victim may be granted further periods of limited leave to remain (usually 6 months) until the outcome of the prosecution is known.

Destitute asylum seekers and refugees can apply for asylum support (accommodation and/or financial assistance) from the Home Office. Immigration Rules for domestic abuse allow an applicant granted leave, as a partner of a person present and settled in the UK, to qualify for indefinite leave to remain, if they are a victim of domestic abuse

Prosecutors should be minded that victims of domestic abuse may find it difficult to produce the documentary evidence of the abuse being perpetrated, and there may as a result, be an unwillingness or insufficient evidence to take the matter to court. Where it is not possible to obtain police or court evidence confirming the violence, the Home Office will accept certain forms of evidence - these include, but are not limited to:

  • a medical report from a hospital or GP who has examined the victim and confirms the injuries are consistent with those seen in a large majority of cases of domestic abuse;
  • an undertaking given to the court that the defendant will not approach the victim;
  • a police report confirming attendance at the victim's home in relation to a domestic abuse incident; a letter from Social Services confirming its involvement in connection with the domestic abuse; and/or,
  • a letter of support from a specified domestic abuse support organisation.

Prosecutors may find it useful to consider these cases with experienced immigration advisers who will be able to assist with understanding the complexities and nuances of these cases.

When reviewing a domestic abuse case in which the victim is a member of the refugee community or an asylum seeker, prosecutors should take into account the combination of social and cultural factors, communication difficulties, lack of information in their own language and lack of access to informal and formal support, which may make it difficult for the victim to support or take part in a prosecution. Some asylum seekers and refugees may have been victims of abuse in the countries they have escaped from; they also be suffering from experiences related to that abuse, such as mental health problems. Also, some victims may not present with behaviours which may not be seen as 'normal' for victims of abuse - again, prosecutors should be mindful to avoid assumption and have make no presumptions about being a 'perfect victim'.

Where asylum seekers inform the immigration authorities of any domestic abuse that has taken place previously, the authorities will in turn inform the police. The immigration authorities have facilities in place to assist asylum seekers in protecting their identity and that of any children, as well as moving the victim and children to safe accommodation if required. The immigration authorities may also be present to assist victims who do report abuse to the police. Informing the immigration authorities may also assist victims in obtaining access to public funds - further information can be found at:

Prosecutors should include in the review note the potential problems and possible solutions of such circumstances and set out what steps need to be taken if the victim is to give evidence (for example, special measures, use of an interpreter, support from a specialist support organisation or Victim Support, is needed for the victim to give their best evidence).

Civil and family proceedings

Prosecutors should routinely make enquiries to check whether there are any concurrent civil proceedings. The police should be asked to provide details of any civil proceedings, past, current or pending. Civil proceedings do not mean that criminal proceedings cannot be commenced or continued. Prosecutors should alert the court to any proposed orders that may conflict with existing civil orders - e.g. - a bail condition imposed in the criminal court prohibiting contact between the perpetrator and victim may conflict with an order the perpetrator has obtained allowing contact with their children.

Prosecutors should be aware of the options open to victims and other agencies under civil procedures so that a comprehensive approach may be taken in safeguarding and supporting victims, and more so, when proceedings are concurrent in the civil and criminal jurisdictions. Where prosecutors are aware that civil and criminal proceedings are taking place at the same time, prosecutors should ensure that the courts have the appropriate information to enable them to make orders that prioritise the safety of victims, children and young people.

Civil orders commonly used in cases of domestic abuse

A number of civil orders may be used by complainants in the civil or family courts prior to any report being made to the police. These are as follows:

Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Sections 24-33 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 introduced Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs), and were rolled out nationally across all police forces from 8 March 2014. A DVPN provides the police with the power to provide immediate protection to victims against alleged domestic abuse perpetrators in circumstances where the police consider there are no enforceable restrictions that can be placed on the defendant (e.g. - where the police 'no further action' or where the suspect has received a simple caution, or has been bailed without conditions). DVPNs only have effect for 48 hours after which an application has to be made by the police to a magistrates' court to apply for a DVPO.

DVPOs provide the police and magistrates with the power to:

  • enforce non-molestation of the victim;
  • stop a defendant from contacting the victim;
  • prevent a defendant from evicting/excluding the victim from a premises (their household);
  • remove a defendant from a premises (their household); and/or,
  • prevent a defendant from returning to a premises (their household) for a period of up to 28 days.

All these actions can be taken with or without a victim's consent.

Prosecutors should note that a breach of a DVPN or DVPO is a civil contempt of court and is punishable by a fine, or up to 2 months' imprisonment. Where prosecutors are requested to deal with the breach of a DVPN or DVPO, this request must be declined - the CPS has no legal locus to handle such matters.


Section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 enables harassment to be defined as a tort for which a victim can bring civil legal proceedings. Proceedings under section 3 may be founded on the basis of one act and anticipated further breaches of section 1 (in contrast to criminal proceedings under sections 2 or 4 that require at least two actual incidents in order to constitute a course of conduct). For further information, prosecutors should refer to legal guidance on Stalking and Harassment.

Non-molestation Orders

Non-molestation orders are civil orders which cannot be applied for by the CPS. Orders are made on application by the victim or a representative to the Family Court under section 42(2) or section 45(1) (for ex parte applications) of the Family Law Act 1996.

Following amendments to the Family Law Act, by section 12 of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, the breach of a non-molestation order was made a criminal offence, prosecutable by the CPS. CPS guidance makes clear that prosecutors should prosecute breaches of a non-molestation order, where particularly, the safety of a victim, and/or any children is at risk. Prosecutors should refer to the legal guidance on Breaches of Non-Molestation Orders for further advice and information.

Restraining Orders

Prosecutors should also refer to the legal guidance on Restraining Orders when reading this section.

Whilst Restraining Orders are civil behaviour orders, CPS prosecutors can make an application to the court on either the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. It is not possible to make application for a Restraining Order on acquittal after a matter has been discontinued even where the suspect agrees. Therefore, very careful consideration has to be taken in such cases. Careful consideration should be made with such applications and where possible, the wishes of the victim need to be taken into account.

Whilst the application of a restraining order may not be appropriate in all cases, prosecutors are advised to consider whether an application would be suitable for each case, on a case by case basis, and in particular to ensure that a victim is kept safe. This will be particularly important where the victim and perpetrator are in a continuing relationship, or where they attend the same workplace, school/college/university, and where child contact arrangements need to be taken into account. It is also important that prosecutors obtain the views of any support services or organisations that have been assisting the complainant to understand risk issues and the practicalities of such an order.

Prosecutors should ensure that appropriate terms are considered that cover abuse that may be perpetrated in ways other than by direct personal contact between the complainant and offender. For example, it is important to recognise the effect that the offender's family or friends or peers may have on the victim. Abuse perpetrated through social media should also be considered. Whilst not every scenario can be accounted for it is important that prosecutors consider the best ways to keep the victim away from further abuse and further risk of harm, for example, behaviours such as intimidation, stalking and harassment.

Stalking Protection Orders

The Stalking Protection Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 15 March 2019. The Act introduces a new Stalking Protection Order (SPO). A SPO is made on application to the magistrate’s court by the police. It is a civil order. Applications for interim or full orders can be made.

Within an application for a SPO or an interim order, police can request both prohibitions and/or requirements to protect the victim from the risk of stalking. 

Breach of either the interim order or the full order is a criminal offence and more information on prosecuting these breaches can be found at

Criminal Behaviour Orders

Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) replace Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) on conviction, and are available where a defendant is convicted for any criminal offence in any criminal court.

Unlike an ASBO, a CBO does not require that the alleged offending behaviour be directed only towards persons "not of the same household" as the accused.

This means that a CBO can be made available to prevent further incidents of domestic abuse; however these orders are primarily intended to protect the wider community. Other orders are more appropriate for where there is a named victim and the offence is one which falls within the broad definition of being a domestic incident, such as restraining orders which can be made on acquittal as well as conviction.

Further information can be found in the Ancillary Orders guidance and the legal guidance on Criminal Behaviour Orders.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 allows civil courts to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders to protect people from forced marriages or to pre-empt forced marriages from occurring. The courts have a wide discretion in the type of injunctions they are able to make allowing them to respond effectively to the individual circumstances of the case.  Further information can be found in the legal guidance on Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage.

Obtaining and using documents and information from family proceedings

Prosecutors may need to obtain information or documents that pertain to family proceedings. This information may be crucial to the decision to charge; the nature of the charge; bail conditions; applications in respect to witnesses; and the admissibility or otherwise of bad character and hearsay evidence. The CPS may be made aware of the existence of relevant material by:

  • the police who may have obtained the material from the local authority or elsewhere in line with their child protection duties. The police cannot share this material with the CPS without the permission of the Family Court, but can make prosecutors aware that material exists; or,
  • the local authority may contact the prosecutor to make them aware of relevant material.

Prosecutors should obtain the permission of the Family Court to use such material in prosecution proceedings, via the police; not seeking permission may result in contempt of court in the Family Court proceedings.

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 allow for a summary of judgement in Family Court proceedings to be disclosed to the police and CPS without the permission of the court.

Prosecutors should be aware that there may be local protocols set up to manage linked direction hearings where the directions in concurrent criminal and Family Court proceedings can be made jointly by the same judge. Directions may include disclosure of the material between the two jurisdictions, timings of the respective proceedings and the co-ordination of the use of expert witnesses.

Annex A - Joint Police / CPS Evidence Checklist

The Joint Evidence Checklist can be accessed here: Joint Evidence Checklist

Annex B - Aide-memoire on charging in domestic abuse cases

This 'aide-memoire' has been prepared to assist prosecutors with charging advice in domestic abuse cases.

Relationship between the Code for Crown Prosecutors and Domestic Abuse Policy

The domestic abuse guidelines for prosecutors should always be read in conjunction with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Joint NPCC-CPS Domestic Abuse Evidence Checklist. Together, the guidelines and Checklist support and underpin the Code, and should not be interpreted in such a way that the Code test is diluted or supplanted.

Points to consider


  • Make sure the prosecutor understand the context of the abuse taking place - whether between intimate partners, or within familial relationships - and where required that all contexts of the dynamics within the relationship are considered (such as whether the complainant in the case in question is the primary aggressor). Stereotypes and assumptions must be avoided.
  • Make sure all available evidence has been gathered; including all information that either undermines or supports the Crown's case (refer to the Attorney General's Guidelines on Disclosure and the Code for further detail). Refer to the Joint Evidence Checklist for further evidential avenues which could be explored to gather relevant background information, and ensure timely engagement with the police during collation of further evidence for effective case building.
  • Don't assume that a complainant giving evidence in court is the only way to prove the matter; consider whether any other evidence supports the prosecution case, independently of the complainant.
  • Each case must be considered on its merits, but it will also be helpful to routinely refer to the Joint Evidence Checklist to ensure all evidential opportunities are taken.
  • Other witnesses' accounts should be considered as information to inform the charging decision. Are there any other sources of information immediately available to also inform the decision?
  • Consideration should be given as to whether expert evidence is required and whether the expert has been properly briefed.
  • Careful consideration should be given as to whether children should give evidence (for example, through discussions with the police and special measures meetings)? Consideration should also be given to public interest factors when making this decision.
  • All available charges should be considered and full reasons for the decisions for each recorded on CMS.
  • Prosecutors and police should remember the safety of the complainant, and any children or other dependants is key. Thorough consideration should be given as to how bail applications can be undertaken effectively and within the context of the specific case.
  • Ensure all agents or Counsel are appropriately briefed with the key facts of the case, and any other information which may be pertinent around risk to the complainant, children or dependants.
  • Ensure all appropriate flags are applied on CMS.


  • Seek details of the defendant's previous misconduct, if any, at the earliest opportunity as in the Joint Evidence Checklist to assess whether this evidence could be used as part of the case.
  • Explore the credibility of the defendant's account:
    • 1. How plausible is the defendant's account? What counter allegations, if any, have been made?
    • 2. Were there any signs of injury to the defendant upon arrest (see domestic violence guidance on dealing with self-defence and/or counter-allegations)?Were there any allegations made of any other non-violent behaviour that fall within the definition of domestic abuse?
    • 3. Are there any contradictions in the defendant's account?
    • 4. Has the defendant made no comment during interview from which an adverse inference can be drawn?


  • Consider the nature of the complainant's evidence:
    • 1. Would a pre-trial witness interview be appropriate and useful to test the evidence (not to ascertain whether the complainant will attend court)?
    • 2. Does the complainant have any previous convictions or cautions? Consider whether the complainant in the reported incident is the primary aggressor within the relationship.
  • Ensure the complainant is assisted appropriately according to their specific needs (age, maturity, disability, minority ethnic background, gender/gender identity etc), including whether any involvement is required from specialist support organisations.
  • Make sure the complainant's statement includes information about whether s/he supports the prosecution. If the complainant indicates that they wish to retract the complaint or withdraw their support for the prosecution,  consider whether:
    • 1. there is any reason to believe that the complainant might have been pressured or frightened/threatened into retracting or withdrawing? Some complainants may be particularly vulnerable, for example, complainants with mental health issues or learning difficulties. Some complainant may be pressured by their family or cultural circumstances (These are not exhaustive reasons, and prosecutors should refer to the full guidelines for more detailed information).
    • 2. the complainant has previously retracted a complaint or failed to give evidence in proceedings? If so, why? What was the nature of the previous allegation?
    • 3. Whether a risk assessment has been conducted by the police or other agency and whether this has been made available.
    • 4. whether an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA), Young Person Violence Advisor (YPVA) or other support representative is working with the complainant? What risks have been identified? What are the support organisations' views?
    • 5. If the victim resolutely refuses to proceed, the following should be considered:
      • continuing the case without the victim, using other evidence, including other witnesses' evidence at court
      • use of res gestae statements or evidence
      • using the hearsay provisions to include the complainant's evidence
      • compelling them to attend by use of a witness summons and, only where appropriate, a warrant
      • what the effect would be of proceeding or not proceeding with the case without the complainant
      • whether discontinuing the case is the most appropriate way to finalise the case
  • Previous retractions are common in domestic abuse cases - try to obtain an explanation from the complainant of previous retractions.
  • All efforts should be made to support the complainant through the criminal justice process and to encourage them to participate in the prosecution and give their best evidence:
    • Has the complainant indicated what support s/he needs through the prosecution process (for example, special measures, reporting restrictions)? Has this been reflected on the case file?
    • Have the complainant's specific circumstances and vulnerabilities been identified and addressed to assist them (for example, in cases of familial abuse, or where the complainant has a disability)?
    • Is there enough information available to ensure that complainant care issues and needs can be comprehensively assessed (for example, on the MG2 and MG11 forms)?
    • Has an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) or specialist domestic violence support agency made contact with the complainant?
    • Have you considered all measures to address safety: appropriate bail conditions; taking appropriate action on any further offending such as stalking or harassment, or witness intimidation offences; applications for retraining orders on conviction or acquittal and any prosecutions of breaches or orders. Check via the police/WCU/and/or support organisations on the views and needs of the complainant.
    • Does the complainant have any individual needs requiring specialist support (for example, cultural or language barriers, alcohol or drug dependency, disability, physical or mental illness)?
    • Can the case be progressed expeditiously through a specialist domestic violence court (SDVC)where available?
    • How would the complainant feel if forced to face the defendant during trial? What special measures may need consideration? Consider whether a special measures meeting is required.
    • Has a victim personal statement been taken? Is it up-to-date? If a case is discontinued, consider requirements needed to explain the situation to the complainant, and whether any enhanced arrangements are required for high risk victims.

Annex C - Examples of domestic violence offences

EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Neglecting, abandoning or ill-treating a child
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Child cruelty
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Children and Young Persons Act 1933
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Forcing entry into a house
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Using violence to secure entry
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s6(1) Criminal Law Act 1977
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Pressuring a victim/witness to "drop the case" or not to give evidence
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Witness intimidation
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s51 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Obstructing the course of justice
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: obstructing the course of justice
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: perverting the course of justice
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Physical violence, with or without weapons (eg: punching, slapping, pushing, kicking, headbutting, and hair pulling)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Grievous bodily harm, wounding
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s20/18 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Neglecting, abusing or ill-treating an individual whereupon the act has caused serious physical harm or death
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Serious physical harm, or death
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s5 Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Violence resulting in death
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: murder
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Manslaughter
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: manslaughter
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Offensive/obscene/menacing telephone calls, text messages, letters, emails, social media/online messages
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Improper use of public telecommunication systems
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s127 Communications Act 2003
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Malicious communications
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Grievous bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s20/18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment/stalking
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2A, 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Posting of intimate images, messages, or defamatory/insulting material
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Improper use of public telecommunication systems
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s127 Communications Act 2003
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Malicious communications
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment/stalking
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2A, 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Excessive contact (eg: numerous phone calls to check someone's whereabouts, leaving unexpected/unwanted gifts, defamation of character to friends/family employers etc)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment/stalking
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2A, 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Following an individual physically, or using online methods such as checking online media activity, or tracking an individual through GPS applications
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: 2A, 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Constantly visiting an individual (or their friends'/family') home, workplace or regularly known location
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: 2A, 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Threatening with an article used as a weapon (eg: a knife, tool, telephone, chair)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threats to kill
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s16 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threatening behaviour
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s5 Public Order Act 1986
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Throwing articles (eg: crockery, even if they miss their target)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Grievous bodily harm, wounding
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s20/18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Criminal damage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threatening behaviour
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s5 Public Order Act 1986
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Tying someone up
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: False imprisonment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: false imprisonment
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Threatening to kill someone
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threats to kill
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s16 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Threats to cause injury
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threatening behaviour
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s5 Public Order Act 1986
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Threats seriously to damage or undermine social status
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s21(1) Theft Act 1968
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Damaging or destroying property or threatening to damage or destroy property
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Criminal damage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threatening to cause criminal damage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s2 Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Harming or threatening to harm a pet
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Criminal damage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Threatening to cause criminal damage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s2 Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Cruelty to animals
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: various sections - Animal Welfare Act 2006
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Locking someone in a room or house or preventing him or her from leaving
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: False imprisonment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: false imprisonment
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Preventing someone from visiting relatives or friends
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: False imprisonment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: false imprisonment
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Preventing someone from seeking aid (eg - medical attention)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: False imprisonment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: Common law offence: false imprisonment
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Being forced to enter a marriage without expressing valid consent
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Forced Marriage
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s121 - Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Intention or reckless transmission of sexually transmitted infection
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Grievous bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s20/18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Using violence or threatening violence to prevent someone from dressing as they choose or forcing them to wear a particular make-up, jewellery and hairstyles
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Racially aggravated threatening behaviour
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s31 Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: "Outing" (eg: sexual orientation or HIV status)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s21(1) Theft Act 1968
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Enforced financial dependence or unreasonably depriving someone of money
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Enforced sexual activity
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1 Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Sexual assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: various sections Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Causing/controlling prostitution for gain
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s52-53 Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Using intimate relationship to force someone into prostitution for gain
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s59A Sexual Offences Act 2003
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Removal or mutilation of whole or any part of a girl's external genitalia for non-medical reasons
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Female Genital Mutilation
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-4 Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Persistent verbal abuse (eg: constant unreasonable criticism)
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Harassment
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s1-2 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Breaching the conditions of a non-molestation order
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Breach of non-molestation order
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s42 Family Law Act 1996
EXAMPLE OF BEHAVIOUR: Secret or enforced administration of drugs
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Common assault
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Actual bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Grievous bodily harm
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s20/18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • POSSIBLE OFFENCE: Administering poison
    CHARGE/LEGISLATION: s23 Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Annex D - National Support organisations

24 hr Domestic Violence Helpline

The confidential 24 hour national domestic violence freephone helpline is run in partnership by Refuge and Women's Aid. The helpline provides support, information and a listening ear to women experiencing (or who have experiences) domestic abuse and to those seeking help on a woman's behalf and, if appropriate, refer callers on to refuges and other sources of help and information.
The 24-hour free phone number is: 0808 2000 247

Action on Elder Abuse

Action on Elder Abuse works to protect and prevent the abuse of vulnerable older adults.
Address: PO Box 60001, Streatham, SW16 9BY.
Tel:   0808 808 8141


BAWSO provide generic and specialist services for minority ethnic communities, including the provision of temporary accommodation in Wales for those suffering from domestic abuse and all forms of violence; including Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence and Human Trafficking.
Address: 9 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA
Helpline: 0800 731 8147

Broken Rainbow 

Broken Rainbow provides assistance to lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Britain who are affected by homophobic, transphobic and same sex domestic violence. 
Address: PO Box 68947,  London, E1W 9JJ
Broken Rainbow Freephone Number: 0800 999 5428
Helpline Number: 0300 999 5428

CAADA (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse)

CAADA is working to create a consistent, professional and effective response for all victims of domestic violence in particular those at high risk.  They deliver accredited training for IDVAs and MARACs nationally and have developed accredited IDVA standards for IDVA services. They offer ongoing support for those they have trained.  Address: 3rd Floor, Maxet House, 28 Baldwin Street,  Bristol, BS1 1NG
Tel: 0117 3178750


ChildLine is the free 24-hour helpline for children and young people in the UK about any problem, day or night. 
Tel: 0800 1111

Deaf Hope

Deaf Hope is the only sign-language based service designed to help deaf women and children who suffer domestic violence.
Address for SignHealth: 5 Baring Road, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, HP9 2NB
Text 07970 350366
Voice/minicom 020 8772 3241


Eaves work to expose and address the overlapping issues of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and exploitation of women in the UK.
Eaves Poppy Project was set up in 2003 to provide high-quality support, advocacy and accommodation to trafficked women (women brought into England or Wales to be exploited in some way). This could include but is not limited to sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced illicit activities and organ harvesting.
Address: Unit CC01 Canterbury Court, Kennington Business Park, 1-3 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6DE.
Tel: 020 7735 2062

The Everyman Project

The Everyman Project aims to help men to change their angry, violent or abusive behaviour with respect and dignity for every man, every woman and every child.
Address: Everyman Project, 1A Waterlow Rd, London, N19 5NJ
Advice line: 0207 263 8884

Get Connected

Get Connected is the UK's free, confidential helpline for young people under 25 who need help and don't know where to turn.
Address: PO BOX 7777, London W1A 5PD
Office Phone: 020 7009 2500
Helpline: 0808 808 4994
Text: 80849
Office email:

GALOP - National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline

Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse.
Phone: 0800 999 5428

The Hideout

Website to help children and young people understand domestic abuse, and how to take positive action.


Imkaan is a black feminist organisation dedicated to addressing violenceagainst women and girls. lmkaan supports  a network of specialist  women's  services run by and for black and minority ethnic women. 
Address: Tindlemanor, 52 - 54 Featherstone Street, London EC1Y 8RT
Tel: 020 7842 8525

Jewish Women's Aid

Jewish Women's Aid is the only specialist organisation in the UK supporting Jewish women affected by domestic violence.
Address: PO Box 2670, London, N12 9ZE
Helpline: 0808 801 0500

Mankind Initiative

Mankind Initiative directly, and indirectly help others to, support male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence across the UK and within their local communities.
Address: Flook House, Belvedere Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 1BT
Phone: 01823 334244

MALE (Men's Advice Line) 

A confidential helpline for men who experience violence from their partners or ex-partners or from other family members.
Tel: 0808 801 0327

Muslim Youth Helpline

MYH is a charity that provides free and confidential faith and culturally sensitive support services targeted at vulnerable young people in the UK.
Helpline: 0808 808 2008
Office telephone: 0207 435 8171
Office email:

Muslim Women's Network UK

The Muslim Women's Network (MWN-UK) is an independent national network of individual Muslim women and Muslim women's organisations across the UK.
Address: The Warehouse, 54-57 Allison Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5TH
Tel: 0121 236 9000
Email :

NSPCC National Child Protection Helpline 

Helpline for people concerned about a child at risk of abuse, including children themselves. Offers counselling, information and advice about the care of children, legal issues, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, neglect etc. The helpline is a free and confidential service that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
Tel: 0808 800 5000

National Association of Gypsy Women 

Support group for Gypsy women and travellers experiencing domestic violence. Meadow View, Goldsmith Drive, Rayleigh, Essex SS6 9R5
Tel: 01268 782 792

National Stalking Helpline

The National Stalking Helpline provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by harassment or stalking.
Helpline: 0808 802 0300

National Youth Advocacy Service

NYAS is a UK charity providing socio-legal services that offer information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults through a network of dedicated paid workers and volunteers throughout England and Wales.
Address: NYAS, Egerton House, Tower Road, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 1FN
Telephone: 0151 649 8700
Helpline: 0808 808 1001


Paladin provide advice and support to high risk victims of stalking, raise awareness of dangers and risks of stalking, provide training to professionals,  scrutinise the new stalking laws, campaign on behalf of victims and develop a victim's network of support.
Address: PO Box 64640, London, SW8 9DJ
Tel: 0207 840 8960

Rape Crisis

Rape Crisis England & Wales is a national charity and the umbrella body for their network of independent member Rape Crisis organisations.
Address: Rape Crisis England & Wales,  BCM Box 4444, London,  WC1N 3XX
Freephone helpline: 0808 802 9999


Refuge is a national charity for women and children experiencing domestic violence and other forms of violence and abuse, including sexual violence, trafficking, FGM, 'honour'-based violence, forced marriage, stalking and prostitution.  Refuge runs a national network of specialist services, including emergency refuge accommodation; community-based outreach services; culturally specific services.
Address: 4th Floor, International House, 1 St Katharine's Way, London E1W 1UN
Tel:  020 7395 7700
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247


Respect is a UK-wide membership organisation for practitioners and organisations working with perpetrators of domestic violence and associated work with women partners and ex-partners. Respect's key focus is on increasing the safety of those experiencing domestic violence through promoting intervention with perpetrators. 
Address: 4th Floor, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4LT
Tel: 020 7549 0578

Rights of Women

Rights of Women works to attain justice and equality by informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights.
Address: Rights of Women, 52-54 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8RT.
Administration: 020 7251 6575
Textphone: 020 7490 2562


Shelter help millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness - and campaign to prevent it in the first place.
Address: Shelter Head Office,  88 Old Street,  London,  EC1V 9HU
Main Switchboard 0344 515 2000
Helpline on 0808 800 4444

Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters provide a range of advice and support services to enable black and minority women to gain the knowledge and confidence they need to assert their human rights. They provide general and specialist advice on gender-related issues such as domestic violence, sexual violence, forced marriage, honour killings and their intersection with the criminal justice, immigration and asylum systems, health, welfare rights, homelessness and poverty.
Address: Southall Black Sisters, 21 Avenue Road, Southall, Middlesex,  UB1 3BL
Helpline: 0208 571 0800
General Enquiries: 0208 571 9595

Stay Safe East

Stay Safe East works to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and deaf individuals including: domestic violence by partners, family members, or by paid or unpaid carers, disability and other hate crime, bullying, anti-social behaviour and harassment, sexual violence, financial abuse and human rights abuses in residential care or supported housing.
Address: 90 Crownfield Road, London, E15 2BG
Tel: 0208 519 7241


Stonewall works to achieve equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people.
Address: Tower Building, York Road, London, SE1 7NX
Info Line: 0800 050 20 20
Office (admin): 020 7593 1850

Victim Support 

Victim Support is the independent national charity that helps people to cope with the effects of crime. It provides free and confidential support and information to help victims deal with their experiences. 
Victim Support line: 0845 30 30 900

Women's Aid

Women's Aid is a key national charity working in England to end domestic violence of women and children.  It supports a network of over 300 domestic and sexual violence services across the UK.
Address: PO Box Bristol 391, BS99 7WS
Tel: 0117 944 4411
Fax: 0117 924 1703
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Welsh Women's Aid

Welsh Women's Aid is the national umbrella organisation representing local Women's Aid Groups situated throughout Wales.  Member groups provide direct services for women and children who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse.
Address: Welsh Womens Aid, Pendragon House, Caxton Place, Pentwyn, Cardiff, CF23 8XE
Tel: 02920 541 551
Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 801 0800

Youth Access

Youth Access is the largest provider of young people's advice and counselling services in the UK.
Address: Youth Access, 1-2 Taylors Yard, 67 Alderbrook Road, London SW12 8AD
Tel: 020 8772 9900 (from 9.30 to 1, and 2 to 5.30)

CPS Employees Guide on VAWG issues

Further reading

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