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Domestic abuse perpetrators need more than a criminal justice response
The Drive Partnership wants government to reach beyond the criminal justice system to better hold domestic abuse perpetrators to account.

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Shaping the domestic abuse strategy

This is a guest post by Sophie Wainwright, Senior Policy and Communications Officer at the Drive Project.

The Home Office is currently working on its Domestic Abuse Strategy, which is going to be released in the new year. We are pleased that the Home Office has announced that there will be a perpetrator pillar to the Domestic Abuse Strategy. We have previously set out our specific asks for the strategy in our report: “Building a robust response to perpetrators: recommendations for the new Domestic Abuse Strategy”. You can read the full report here.

To ensure that this strategy goes beyond a solely Criminal Justice approach, The Drive Partnership has come together with other leaders to call on the government to reach beyond the criminal justice system to better hold domestic abuse perpetrators to account and manage the risk they pose.  Every public service must take action.

Why all services must take action

Opportunities to engage with perpetrators and reduce the harm they pose is being missed.

“When fewer than a third of victims report abuse to the police, perpetrator policy based solely on criminal justice approaches will allow the vast majority of perpetrators to fly under the radar. We know there are 2 million adults in the UK affected by domestic each year. This means there are a large number of perpetrators in our society, most of whom will never come into contact with the criminal justice system. We therefore need to support a whole range of professionals to recognise abusive behaviour and take appropriate action.” Drive Partnership Director Kyla Kirkpatrick.

44% of domestic homicides and suspected domestic abuse victim suicides, the perpetrator was not known to the police but either the perpetrator or associated victim were known to other agencies– most commonly children’s social services, adult social services, or mental health services. With more support these services might have been able to contribute towards preventing the devastating death toll of domestic abuse.

Shana, survivor and advocate said:

“There’s so much that agencies like health and children’s social care can do to help hold perpetrators to account. Domestic abuse is an issue for our whole society, and we need key sectors to be supported in challenging it. It would have been a huge help if some of these services could have had the confidence to safely challenge what was happening to me.”

What we need to see in the Domestic Abuse Strategy

Signatories to the paper would like to see the following commitments in the new Home Office Domestic Abuse Strategy:

  • Training for NHS staff on how to identify and respond to the perpetrators. This has the potential to significantly contribute to government’s ambition to identify more perpetrators and hold them accountable.  
  • The Department of Education should commit to providing workforce development training on identifying and working with perpetrators for children’s social care professionals, and those that work in schools
  • MHCLG should support housing providers to improve systems to enable identification of DA Perpetrators. Housing professionals can help build a picture of risk and reduce it.
  • Responses from Children’s Social Care are key, as domestic abuse is the most common risk factor identified by social workers in assessments. There is a need for Children’s Social Care professionals to receive more training, delivered by specialist domestic abuse organisations, on responding to perpetrators.
  • Commissioners need to ensure that any perpetrator intervention – such as behaviour change work – should be accredited and have a victim-survivor support element, whether it is integrated or provided in partnership with an external provider. There should be no assumption that there is existing capacity in victim-survivor support services to provide this and funding will need to be built in for this.

Criminal Justice Specific Recommendations

For those cases that do come into the criminal justice system there also more that can be done to improve the response and make the most of every opportunity to protect victims and engage perpetrators in a way that minimises future risk. To make the most of this opportunity, we made the following recommendations:

  1. High quality policing, for those that do report to the police is crucial. The report recommends that the Police continue to invest in domestic abuse training at all levels to embed an understanding of coercive control and perpetrator behaviour and develop a stronger understanding of the various tools at their disposal to protect victims.
  2. We recommend the proposed joint inspection of MAPPA includes consideration of whether the current system has the potential and resource capacity to identify the right individuals effectively, stimulate multi-agency working and deliver the high level of scrutiny required.
  3. The Ministry of Justice must invest in National Probation Service (NPS) training and systems to improve professional recognition of domestic abuse in an offender’s history, and the appropriate sharing of that information.
  4. National Probation Service and the police must work together to improve pre-sentencing reports to help integrate responses at the stage of sentencing that recognise the abusive behaviour of the perpetrator.
  5. The Perpetrator Pillar of the new DA Strategy should set out a vision for behaviour change provision relevant to a range of referral routes, including probation. This vision should give clarity on quality standards and data gathering. Drive thanks all the survivors who took the time to respond to the Survivor survey and the organisations who have contributed to lobbying and policy work.


About The Drive Partnership

The Drive Partnership – Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance – advocates for changes to national systems so that perpetrators posing all levels of risk are held to account and can access the help they need to stop.

The Partnership also co-ordinates delivery of the Drive Project, which works with high-harm, high-risk and serial perpetrators of domestic abuse to prevent their abusive behaviour and protect victims. Drive challenges these perpetrators to change and works with partner agencies – like the police and social services – to disrupt any ongoing abuse.

To find out more about the work we do, watch our film Helen’s Story here.

To find out more about the Drive project find our website here, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Images are from The Drive Projects Film, Helen’s Story”. 

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