Police pledge action on abusers despite tenth of cases reaching court
PUBLISHED: 06:28 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:58 19 August 2019
Police have promised to pursue convictions for domestic abusers in light of figures suggesting about one in 10 arrests result in charges for coercive control.
Lawyers have advised victims to record incidents of abuse after statistics showed a drop in the rate of charges against people arrested for controlling behaviour.
The offence was written into the Serious Crime Act at the end of 2015 to close a gap the law around patterns of abusive behaviour in a relationship between intimate partners, family members and former partners living together.
But the rate of arrests leading to charges has fallen from 14.6% of 75 arrests in 2016 to 9.5% of 188 arrests in 2018.
Evidential difficulties were encountered in more than half of cases last year, despite there being an identified suspect.
Figures were obtained by Ridley & Hall Solicitors under the Freedom of Information Act.
Detective Superintendent David Giles said the offences often took place behind closed doors, with lack of witnesses and victim manipulation providing big challenges when investigations are considered for prosecution.
Many victims find the additional strain of court a challenge too far, added Det Supt Giles, who said police ensured the victim remained at the centre of decision making, while maintaining a consistent and robust stance of 'positive action' against perpetrators.
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He said: "Coercion and control are serious elements of domestic abuse as offences covered by the legislation relate to persistent acts by trusted individuals that cause significant harm to the victims of that abuse.
"While these are not necessarily physically violent acts, they can have long term effects on the mental health and confidence of the individuals affected.
"Our continuing investment in training staff to recognise the signs of domestic abuse, and coercive and controlling behaviour, ensures that offences are identified correctly and victims are given the appropriate support, which enables us to deal with perpetrators accordingly.
"The well-established Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) team cover the entire county and are key to supporting victims throughout investigations by giving advice and guidance."
"All allegations will be treated as a priority by agencies and fully investigated."
Family lawyer and domestic violence campaigner, Emma Pearmaine said mobile phone apps could help gather enough evidence for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring charge against violent spouses.
She added: "Coercive control is a subtle pattern of behaviours which are very hard for both victims and the police to prove.
"Although thousands of arrests are made for domestic violence and coercive control each year, cases are often dropped because of insufficient evidence.
"By keeping a record of domestic abuse, the police and CPS will be able to make a case to charge and prosecute the perpetrator. "Family lawyers will be able to use the evidence to secure orders necessary to protect and meet the practical needs of the victim and any children of the family, which include non-molestation orders, financial orders and child arrangements orders."
There are currently several apps available for victims of domestic violence to keep notes or store searchable records such as documents, pictures and videos. Many apps are disguised as something else and some allow victims and lawyers the option of downloading stored records in court-ready chronology.
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