Potential risk to life has been highlighted by new research that shows contrary to official guidance, in many cases of domestic abuse, the use of ‘out of court’ resolutions is widespread across the UK.
Theresa May recently highlighted the need to treat domestic abuse with the urgency it demands and rejected the use of restorative approaches in relation to partner abuse. Yet still, this study which investigated the nature and extent of UK police use of ‘out of court resolutions’ showed that in fact all UK police forces (not Scotland) are doing so in response to cases of domestic abuse.
Some cases recorded involved serious offences such as actual bodily harm, harassment and threat to kill. Perhaps surprisingly given that some of these offences could carry tariffs of up to life imprisonment, in almost half of the cases the resolution identified was an apology to the victim.
The research team from Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA) have called for an immediate stop to street level resolutions in these types of crimes. Professor Clare McGylnn said,
“First and foremost, the police must stop using these street-level resolutions in cases of domestic abuse and College of Policing and National Police Chief Council guidance needs to be strengthened. We need an open and informed public debate about the role of restorative justice and other alternatives to the criminal justice system for cases domestic abuse”.
While the last 20 years has seen huge improvements in the way that domestic abuse is policed this report recognises there may be a long way yet to go, Professor Nicole Westmarland, lead author commented,
“This study is the latest in a long line to show that there still exists fundamental problems about how domestic violence and abuse is policed … Gaps between policy and practice and resources and demands are ever increasing and action needs to be taken to hold perpetrators to account.“
The report has immediate research implications as this commonplace practice has until now existed largely ‘under the radar’, the team stress that given these findings that research now must shift its focus to ‘interrogating actual current practice’ to ensure appropriate use and robust safeguards.
Read the full report here