Behind Closed Doors – reaction from a Flag DV trustee

Here at FLAG DV we have been reflecting upon the fascinating documentary Behind Closed Doors shown on ITV on 14th  February and shown again yesterday (available on ITV player).

The programme makers had unprecedented access to the Thames Valley Police Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit and the victims / survivors they work alongside. Filmed over a 12 month period, and starting from the moment a 999 call is received, the film followed three brave women, who shared their experiences to help the wider public gain an understanding of the issue of domestic abuse.

Personally, the documentary evoked in me a number of emotions, and I must admit many of them were negative. Continue reading

Legal Aid in the News Again

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As the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill 2010-11 reaches the committee stage in the House of Lords, Welsh Women’s Aid and Right of Women have published research on the potential impact of the legislation. Just under 1000 … Continue reading

Stalking – Does the Law need Changing?

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Here are some of the headlines in the press and media this week as the Home Office launches its consultation on stalking: Stalking may become criminal offence – Telegraph Stalking must be a crime, Labour’s Yvette Cooper says – BBC … Continue reading

Will victims of domestic abuse be worse off with the proposed Legal Aid changes?

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Introduction Today, 31 October 2001 sees the Report Stage of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the House of Commons. This Bill fundamentally alters the way in which the state funds legal advice and representation (legal … Continue reading

The trouble with an iceberg is that you only see the tip – a domestic abuse blog

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Two stories this week have set me thinking that western criminal justice systems might still be failing to see the full story of domestic abuse.

The first is the tragic story of Casey Brittle who was murdered by her estranged partner on 3rd October 2010 leaving behind her daughter. The Independent Police Complaint’s Commission (IPCC) investigation published this week found that police officer’s approaches were lacking in several of incidents reported to the police.

On one occasion officers took the word of the aggressor. On other occasions officers failed to refer the incident to the domestic abuse unit or investigate independent evidence due to Casey insisting that she did not want further action.

It seems that officers were unaware that victims often fail to support prosecutions because of the very coercion which breeds violence and through fear of reprisals.

Nottingham Police had not, one might suppose, taken on board the message that by the time a call is made to them, in most cases there will have been lots of prior incidents.

No incident of domestic violence should ever been considered in isolation as in the vast majority of cases it will be the tip of the iceberg. 

The second story comes from the US where on 8th September 2011 District Attorney for Shawnee County stopped prosecuting misdemeanour cases in the city of Topeka (including those relating to domestic abuse and battery). The DA passed responsibility over to the Topeka City Prosecutors Office. Then, on 11 October 2011 the City of Topeka repealed the law which permitted it to prosecute domestic battery misdemeanours.

A misdemeanour crime is often described as a “lesser” criminal act and is punishable much less severely than a felony. More severe cases of domestic violence will be prosecuted and punished as felonies.

Let’s be clear though, misdemeanour acts crimes are still punishable by up to 1 year in prison. If you are the victim of a domestic battery, a year is a heck of a long time to be free from the risk of further crimes!

The circumstances in Topeka led to public outcry and rightly so. There currently no final solution to the stand off but thankfully, interim measures mean that cases will continue to be prosecuted whilst the budgetary issues which led to the remarkable situation are discussed.

In the words of Washington Attorney General:

“Repeat felony domestic violence offenders often begin their behavior as misdemeanor domestic violence offenders. These misdemeanor domestic violence convictions are not just important in sentencing repeat offenders, but are often just as meaningful to a victim and the victim’s children as a felony.”

What conclusions can I draw from these stories?

  • Any incident of domestic abuse which results in a criminal justice intervention (whether that is the police attending or a prosecution) is significant. 
  • That message is not getting through to some criminal justice agencies both here and in the States. 
  • Outcomes for victims will only improve sustainably if criminal justice agencies consistently see the iceberg as a whole

Domestic Homicide Reviews : Is there any learning from Serious Case Reviews Pt II?

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Introduction

The Department for Education has published the latest in its series of biennial reviews of the Serious Case Review (SCR) Process. I have examined the research looking at reviews notified April – March 2009 in a previous blog.

This most recent research looks at notifications of SCRs 2009-2010 cases which pre-date the statutory guidance contained in Chapter 8 of Working Together to Safeguard Children. The research is nevertheless strongly founded in the context of that guidance.

A word on the research methods – a framework for Overview Report recommendations?

The researchers have conducted a thematic analysis of recommendations in 33 SCR notified in 2009/10. They have constructed a framework of analysis of recommendations represented in the following diagram: 

“Reviews vary in their breadth and complexity but, in all cases, where possible lessons should be acted upon quickly without necessarily waiting for the SCR to be completed.”

The multi-agency statutory guidance for the conduct of domestic homicide reviews provides a template for an overview report in Appendix 4. The above structure would provide a comprehensive framework for any recommendations.

Research Findings – Pitfalls to Avoid?

  • The average number of recommendations in 20 cases which were examined in depth was 47 (range 10 – 94)
  • Recommendations which featured most revolved around training, managing the case and interagency working few recommendations considered improved supervision and support as a means to promote professional judgment and reflective practice

Most recommendations were based on learning from the single case and did not consider a wider research evidence base

  • Recommendations that were made were relevant to the case and matched the themes of the review
  • Action plans tended not to address complex issues of professional judgment but were based on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) principles
  • Societal issues such as deprivation or maltreatment rarely featured  in recommendations or action plans
  • There has been a proliferation of recommendations, actions and tasks there may be other ways of learning from SCRs which may be more difficult to track and measure

“Carrying through these, often repetitive, recommendations consumes considerable time, effort and resources – but there appears to be growing evidence that the type of recommendations which are the easiest to translate into actions and implement may not be the ones which are most likely to foster safer, reflective practice. Having a fully staffed, well supported workforce where regular and challenging supervision is an expectation, is not a simple recommendation to write or follow through.

A number of studies, like this analysis of recommendations, have found that action plans which are easy to implement tend to be ones that address the more superficial aspects of procedures and concrete tasks.”

Statutory Guidance

The statutory guidance for SCRs has a template for Individual Management Reviews which contains a much more detailed framework for the analysis of involvement than the multi-agency statutory guidance for the conduct of domestic homicide reviews.

Domestic Abuse: Early Intervention

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Introduction If you are designing or delivering an intervention in the criminal justice system you must consider not only what the offer is but also when the best time to offer it to your intended audience is. If an intervention … Continue reading

Domestic Abuse: abusers who want to stay in relationships they find unsatisfactory

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Abstract This week’s blog examines factors which might predict levels of relationship satisfaction amongst abusive men who remaining in abusive relationships and also likelihood of continuity of an abusive relationship. Perpetrator perspectives have “implications for risk assessment and safety planning … Continue reading

Domestic Homicide Reviews : Is there any learning from Serious Case Reviews?

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Abstract This blog will look at some of the lessons learned from Serious Case Reviews much of which could be transferrable learning for the individuals and agencies who may find themselves organising and participating in Domestic Homicide Reviews.  “Serious case reviews … Continue reading

Domestic Abuse – is it all about economics?

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Introduction Can domestic abuse be improved by tackling macro level issues like the gender based wage gap? Domestic Abuse and Macro Level Risk : An Economist’s Perspective  Anna Aizer considers two gender based issues in her 2010 paper “The Gender … Continue reading