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The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

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Proposed guidance to help prosecutors spot signs of domestic violence against teenagers and pensioners


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has today proposed changes to the way the CPS considers domestic violence cases that would instruct prosecutors to consider the use of social media, gang culture and peer pressure when looking at cases involving teenagers.

Under the new proposals prosecutors looking at alleged domestic violence against an older person would also consider the specific context in which the abuse is occurring, for example following retirement, as a result of social isolation or 'care-giver' stress or anxiety. Older people may also enter into abusive relationships later in life.

New draft guidance, which opens for public consultation today, but has not yet come into force, explains the potential impact of domestic abuse on different groups to help prosecutors adopt a tailored approach taking into account their particular support needs.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: "The destructive impact of domestic violence is felt throughout society and can be inflicted in many different ways. The guidance we are now consulting on recognises this, and makes clear that teenagers' experiences of domestic violence will often be completely different to those experienced by adults and older generations.

"Some teenagers may not consider themselves victims of domestic violence, especially if they are not being physically abused but are being targeted on social media for example. Similarly, abuse in gang environments, for example young girls being forced into sexual activity as part of gang initiation or used as 'honey traps' to set up rival gang members is often not reported. Understandably, a lot of my prosecutors will not be familiar with the workings of gang culture or gang slang so I have included it in the proposed guidance so that they know what to look for when considering such cases.

"Young people can also be reluctant to report abuse for fear of getting into trouble with their parents, being bullied at school or because they are scared of their abuser. We must make sure that we address these concerns properly and put specific measures in place to ensure their safety is paramount."

Measures included in the proposed guidance that prosecutors would need to consider when handling teenage domestic abuse cases include:

  • Prosecutors making enquiries with police about a victim's family life to assess whether telling their parents about any potential prosecution might have an impact on their safety.
  • Consideration of relevant bail restrictions and restraining orders taking into account areas the victim frequently visits, such as school or social clubs, and methods of contact, such as social media.

The DPP added: "Abuse often takes place online in cases involving teenagers and young people. It is vital that this type of evidence is considered as part of any case and that both prosecutors and investigators adopt the full definition of domestic violence that includes non-physical abuse such as this."

The proposed guidance also sets out the ways in which domestic violence can impact elderly people. Alison Saunders said: "We know from research conducted by others that there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age, and it is important we also recognise the factors that may contribute to and impact upon domestic abuse between older people."

The proposed guidance highlights the following common factors in domestic violence cases involving elderly people that prosecutors should be aware of:

  • Abuse may be triggered or intensify as a result of events occurring later in life, such as retirement. Previous research has shown that abusive relationships often intensify at retirement, as partners spend more time at home together
  • Another common example of a change in dynamics that might result in partner abuse is the ill-health of the victim, whether physical or mental, and abuse may begin as a result of 'care-giver' stress or anxiety.
  • Older people may also have different reasons for not reporting abuse committed against them, for example lack of financial independence or health concerns. They may also be more concerned about protecting the sanctity of marriage and not wanting to involve outside parties in their private affairs.

Alison Saunders said: "We must recognise that domestic violence is not just about physical violence, but includes psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse experienced by victims from all walks of life, at different stages in their lives.

"This guidance was prepared with input from a number of agencies with specialist knowledge in this area, including Women's Aid and Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, and I would now welcome the views of others in response to the consultation."

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said: "We welcome this draft guidance and the consultation from the CPS, especially the recognition that domestic violence is, at its core, about power and control. We are pleased that the guidance would require prosecutors to take account of coercion and controlling behaviour alongside criminal offences. The CPS has a vital role to play in making sure women and children are not put at further risk as victims and witnesses, and ensuring that perpetrators can be prosecuted appropriately. We will be consulting our member organisations and survivors in our response to this consultation, and we encourage everyone who works with women experiencing domestic violence to comment."

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of CAADA, commented: "The CPS has played an important role in leading the way to improving the victims' safety by making Violence Against Women and Girls one of its key strategic priorities. We warmly welcome this new guidance, which seeks to refine the response to address the needs of different groups of victims and recognises that a 'one size fits all' approach does not work. Prosecutors must balance criminal justice with protecting the victim, and this guidance will help them achieve this. It also encourages prosecutors to work closely with Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to give victims professional support and prioritise their safety, which we also welcome.

Other specific sections in the guidance include:

  • Child to parent violence
  • Same sex or transgender relationship abuse
  • Minority ethnic community issues
  • Disability issues
  • Cases involving immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers

The draft guidance is published on the CPS website and the consultation closes on 9 July 2014. The draft guidance is not currently in operation, but the final version will replace existing CPS guidance following the consultation.

Separately, the CPS has revised its homicide guidance to strengthen the conduct of domestic violence cases in which defendants seek to establish that they are not guilty of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility or loss of control and should be convicted of manslaughter instead. These partial defences to murder often lead to attacks on the character of the victim and the DPP has made clear that prosecutors should ensure that the jury is not presented with a distorted picture. The revised guidance can also be found on the CPS website.


Notes to Editors

  1. Helpline numbers:
                 National domestic violence helpline: 0808 2000 247
                 Men's advice line: 0808 801 0327
                 Broken Rainbow: 0300 999 5428
                 National stalking helpline: 0808 802 0300
                 Childline: 0800 1111
                 England 24-hour helpline 0808 200 0247
                 Wales 24-hour helpline 08457 023 468
                 Scotland 24-hour helpline 0800 027 1234
                 Northern Ireland 24-hour free-phone helpline 0800 917 1414
                 Republic of Ireland helpline 1800 341900
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are four national casework divisions: Central Fraud, Welfare Rural & Health, Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. A 'virtual' 14th Area is CPS Direct which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  4. At 31 March 2013 we employed a workforce of approximately 6840 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2350 prosecutors and 4110 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:
  5. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.