Tougher management of most dangerous abusers – will the new laws work??
On the 20th February 2023, the Home Office announced that new measures were being introduced for tougher management of the most dangerous abusers and also new protection for victims of domestic abuse. These new measures form part of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. In case, you weren’t aware of these new measures, here is a summary of what they are:
- Tougher management of the most dangerous domestic abuse offenders. The government will change the law to make sure that any offender who has a conviction for controlling or coercive behaviour and who have been sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment or a suspended sentence will automatically be managed by the police, prison and probation services under MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements).
- New civil protection orders. The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice will be piloting new domestic abuse protection notices, and orders in Gwent, Greater Manchester, and three London boroughs covered by the Metropolitan Police , British transport Police, and other criminal justice systems. The three boroughs will be Croydon, Bromley and Sutton.
- The Ask for Ani codeword scheme pilot, which will build on the existing scheme in pharmacies throughout the UK. Domestic abuse victims/survivors will be able to ‘Ask for Ani’ in 18 jobcentre and jobs and benefit offices and receive trained support from a trained staff member.
- Violence against women and girls will be added to the strategic policing requirement, which will categorise violence against women and girls as a national threat .
- Identifying dangerous perpetrators before conviction using a new digital tool which will be used by front line police officers to help them to identify who may be a high risk offender and likely to carry out domestic abuse offences.
- Strengthening Claire’s Law. Reduced timeframes which will make it quicker to access information on a partner’s or ex partner’s previous abusive or violent offending. The guidance for this will also be placed on a statutory footing from April 1st 2023.
- More funding for victim support programmes from 1st April 2023.
- Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to be given up to £36 million over the next two years for tackling perpetrators through intervention such as Perpetrator Programmes which address abuser’s behaviour.
This is all great isn’t it? Or is it? I was going to go through all the new measures and tell you what I personally think of them, whether I think they will work and if not, why not. But that would make for a very long blog. So I will tell you what I think of it generally! and it really comes down to this………
We know that 80% of domestic abuse incidents go unreported to anyone so the police will only ever catch up to 20% of perpetrators and these will not all have been convicted or received sentences of 12 months imprisonment or a suspended sentence. Moreover, of the 20% of incidents that are reported, not all will be reported to Police.
I have had sight of the new risk assessment tool which will be used by front line officers to identify who may be a high risk offender and likely to carry out domestic abuse offences. It is good. It focuses far more on coercive and controlling behaviour and should simplify the risk assessment for front line officers who do not necessarily have the expertise of a more specialist officer in matters in relation to domestic abuse. BUT – as above, we know that 80% of incidents are not reported so high risk offenders are still likely to go under the radar!
The new civil protection orders will rely heavily on the police to administer, manage and implement. This will involve copious amounts of paperwork and admin for police to complete, when the Police service is already stretched and police officers are struggling to keep up with demand and forces are reported as being under resourced.
Don’t get me wrong. I think any changes, new measures, legislation etc, should be welcomed with open arms. And all of these measures, on paper, look great at tackling domestic abuse and violence against women an girls in general. But in reality, on the ground level, these things often don’t work. And they don’t work because up to 80% of incidents are not reported!
There is no easy fix for this but perhaps more funding should be given to the education of children on unhealthy relationships. Perhaps it should be given to fund more specialist training of police officers and the judicial system in matters relating to domestic abuse. Perhaps more work and funding are needed to encourage victim/survivors to report these crimes. To give victim/survivors the reassurance and trust they are currently lacking in the judicial system and the police.
Because for all the work going into these new laws, nothing will change if we can’t find a way to encourage victim/survivors to trust the system in the first place and report the crime!!