March 27, 2014

Still a Second Class Crime

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So the HMIC report is now landing on the desks of Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners across the land and it won’t make comfortable reading for most of them.  The failings that the Inspector has identified are in the basic elements of the police response.  One would assume that there would be a consistent approach to arrests when a crime is committed.  Apparently not.  Or gathering evidence.  Or showing empathy to victims.  Or correctly identifying the level of risk a victim faces.  Or defining a repeat incident.  The list goes on.

I hope we are not naïve in this that this is stuff that is not so hard to fix.  It doesn’t cost more to investigate properly, or show empathy.  Taking proper statements and referring to the local IDVA service or helpline should be the minimum we can expect.  Arguably, if the initial response was more effective, then it might save costs in terms of repeat callouts.

We are fortunate to be working with some Chief Constables and PCCs who really do take domestic abuse seriously – and the difference is striking.  We accept that there are a lot of competing priorities but a shift in attitudes of the leadership within the Police is essential for the report to have a real impact.  The report is crystal clear about what needs to change.  As an organisation, we will do everything we can to support them to make this a reality.

 

What a prize that would be…

March 23, 2014

HMIC – Again

In September 2013, I posted the following piece and I just thought it was worth re-posting ahead of the HMIC report being published this week.  It will be interesting to see what comes out….see below…

Just Imagine…

…That you are the Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

How would you respond to the Home Secretary’s announcement of an inspection by HMIC on standards of policing domestic violence in England and Wales?  In particular she has asked the Chief Inspector to focus on:

  • the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse, focusing on the outcomes for victims;
  • whether risks to victims of domestic violence and abuse are adequately managed;
  • identifying lessons learnt from how the police approach domestic violence and abuse;
  • making any necessary recommendations in relation to these findings when considered alongside current practice.

I will set out some thoughts over the coming weeks- but would love to hear yours first.

I think that the last thematic inspection by HMIC (someone is going to tell me I am wrong) was in 2004 together with the CPS inspectorate, the HMCPSI.  This inspection looked at the ‘care pathway’ from first police callout through to the end of a court case.  I quickly re-read parts of their report and a few things struck me.  Firstly, there are phrases which sadly still resonate with all of us today.  For me one big theme remains about the quality of leadership and implementation.  For example, “many police forces have appropriate policies…however, in practice implementation is far from universal.”  In a similar vein, “Inspectors came across considerable amounts of good practice and good work in the Areas visited….Overall, the priority given to domestic violence locally was variable and depended heavily upon local initiatives and commitment.” Plus ça change….

The report also called for local Chief Constables, Chief Crown Prosecutors and Local Criminal Justice Boards to develop effective performance management arrangements.  We have seen real progress in this regard from the CPS but perhaps less consistently from the police, perhaps in part reflecting the challenge of achieving this focus across so many forces.

Secondly, I was struck by what wasn’t mentioned in the 2004 report.  There is no mention of course of either the work of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) or Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences – since neither really existed other than in a very few local areas at that time.  The spirit of the 2004 report is one of the criminal justice system working much more in isolation than today, with only limited references to the need to liaise with support agencies such as Victim Support and local Women’s Aid services.  This looks very different today with MARACs operating in every area of England and Wales, IDVAs supporting victims through the court process and at MARAC, and now with the growing introduction of Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).  However, before we get too smug, we need to remember the conclusions of the HMIC team in Essex recently who wrote: “We found poor communication between those providing victim care, investigators and voluntary sector support workers.”  So no chance of retiring just yet.

Let me know what you think the answers to the Home Secretary’s questions might be.  I definitely believe that they should include a mix of practical recommendations around multi agency work and MARAC, in particular with links to specialist support for victims.  We also need a focus not only on consistency, quality, accountability and leadership, but also we should highlight the need for solid evidence.  This can be used not only to identify best practice, but also to keep learning.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was clear evidence for every Force of both safety and justice outcomes that was produced annually which allowed us, not to take a snapshot of practice once every 10 years, but rather drove a focus on constant, practical, realistic improvement?  Evidence which could be used by every PCC and Chief Constable to inform their response?  And most crucially, evidence that would start to bring down the rates of repeat victimisation, shorten the time that victims suffer before they call the police and reduce the risk that they, and their children, face.  Without this, the police response risks remaining too reactive when there is a real opportunity to take a much more positive approach.

March 1, 2014

Thoughts from Michael Johnson’s work – Practical Implications

We had a terrific keynote speech from Professor Mike Johnson at our National Conference on Wednesday.  He explained his work around typologies of relationship in domestic abuse.  He highlighted three main types (see http://www.caada.org.uk/events/CAADA_conference_2014.htm for more info) – Intimate Partner Terrorism where one partner – usually a man in heterosexual relationships – ‘terrorises’ the other, Situational Couple Violence where there is typically an equal split between male and female victims and perpetrators (although not necessarily in terms of impact) and finally ‘Violent Resistance’, where the partner of an ‘intimate terrorist’ will try and defend themselves in a violent way.  The first category is much smaller in number than the second, but with a much higher percentage of high risk cases because of the persistent existence of coercive control.  The second is by far the largest in terms of number of cases but most of these never come to the attention of public or specialist agencies such as police, IDVAs, refuges etc because the level of severity is typically much lower – although a significant percentage (about a quarter) do involve severe violence albeit without coercion and control.  The last category is very small.

So what are the implications of his research?  Firstly, it gives us a clear way to unlock the prevalence debate around 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men.  Both figures are right.  But the bulk of the violence where men are victims fits into the Situational Couple Violence category and we need to treat it in a different way.  In Situational Couple Violence, Mike’s research shows that about one third of cases involve men being violent to women, one third involve women being violent to men and one third are bi-directional.  Most do not involve patterns of violence and none involve coercion.  These are typically arguments and conflict that get out of control and where there is a violent incident.  In many cases this is a one off.  This is borne out by the crime survey for England and Wales which shows that about a third (I quote from memory) of cases are resolved in a month.  This is not the sort of coercion, violence and control that we see in our work.

Secondly, it has clear implications for the family courts in particular in relation to children.  Mike describes the impact of Intimate Partner Terrorism as the ‘poison’ that infects a family and leaves children exposed to constant stress.  You will all be familiar with the literature about the impact of this on the neurological development of small children.  The courts and those arranging contact between children and their parents need to get real clarity around this.

Thirdly, at a time when the police and others are reviewing the use of risk assessment, does this have a message for front line officers?  My sense is no.  There is a level of sophistication in distinguishing between different types of relationship which probably won’t be done most effectively at 3 in the morning. Front line officers need to collect evidence, safeguard the parties involved in an incident and manage the immediate risk that they are faced with.

Does it have implications for the work of specialists in the field?  My sense is yes.  At its most basic, many people in our field still speak about high risk as if it didn’t include coercion and control.  I feel as if there can’t be anyone left who doesn’t understand that coercion is totally linked to risk – as well of course as significant physical violence.  However, apparently there are!  When I listen to people saying: “Half of the homicide reviews were of standard risk cases” I do want to say that they really were NOT!  But they might have been hidden to public agencies or we didn’t spot the coercion and control because there was little or no physical violence disclosed, or because the person doing the risk assessment didn’t understand its significance.  I really would commend to practitioners the severity of abuse grid that we have put in the IDVA version of the DASH checklist (http://www.caada.org.uk/dvservices/RIC_and_severity_of_abuse_grid_and_IDVA_practice_guidance.pdf  see pages 8 and 9).  Look at the examples of coercion and control included under sexual abuse, stalking and harassment and jealous and controlling behaviour.  As an aside, we are in favour of streamlining the DASH tool for police – but anxious not to confuse the tool itself from the training and supervision required to implement ANY tool effectively.  College of Policing please note!!

More broadly, I think that the options we offer those in Intimate Partner Terrorism relationships are broadly appropriate.  However, we offer the same interventions to those experiencing Situational Couple Violence – and Mike argued very convincingly that the dynamics are not the same.  Our data show that only about 15% of victims supported by IDVA services do not disclose jealous and controlling behaviour – perhaps they are in  situational couple violence relationships? Mike’s research shows that a significant percentage of these do not want to split up – but this is broadly the only option we are offering them today.  I say this with great caution – BUT – if someone is genuinely in a Situational Couple Violence relationship, surely we should be looking at work with the couple and even anger management?  These are all interventions that are traditionally seen as unsafe where Intimate Partner Terrorism is involved.

Mike was very clear that our starting point must be to assume Intimate Partner Terrorism and safety plan as if this was the case.  However, his analysis does give us a few more options if, and only if, a real risk expert, with a capital ‘E’, establishes that this is not the case.

March 1, 2014

Michael Johnson on different typologies of domestic violence

Brief excerpt of Michael Johnson’s speech for the CAADA National Conference 2014 including implications for children. See more on our website at http://www.caada.org.uk/events/CAADA_conference_2014.htm

February 9, 2014

Great new TED talk on Domestic Abuse

Lots of common sense here – importance of data, funding, prevention, involvement of men in the solution and more.

January 30, 2014

Scaling Good Ideas – The Family Nurse Partnership and Domestic Abuse

Following the research from the Early Intervention Foundation yesterday, with its recommendations regarding the Family Nurse Partnership as a means of intervening early in domestic abuse, I then received a blogpost from the wonderful Bridgespan series.  (http://www.bridgespan.org/Blogs/Transformative-Scale-Pathways-to-Greater-Impact/January-2014/Scale-That-Transforms-Society.aspx#.Uuq8sXmuL-A from @jeffbradach ) It highlights that even the FNP (or NFP as they call it in the US just so I can never remember which way around it is….) which is about the best evaluated model out there, only is available to 2% – yes 2% of people who are eligible for it.  They write:

“The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), launched in Denver in 1970, currently serves 26,000 low-income, first-time mothers in 43 states by partnering them with a registered nurse who provides ongoing home visits from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. The program has been shown to dramatically improve life outcomes for both the mother and child, and provides $5.70 in benefits to society for every dollar spent. Yet, even after successfully securing in 2010 a $1.5 billion federal funding stream that supports this type of work, NFP reaches less than 2 percent of the total number of mothers that qualify for its services, and all home visitation programs (which are of mixed quality) reach less than one in five of those that might benefit.”

How is that possible?

How much more evidence does one need?

January 29, 2014

The Early Intervention Foundation Review – Our First Thoughts – and a chance to discuss with the authors at our conference

The Early Intervention Foundation published its Domestic Violence and Abuse Review today with a number of interesting recommendations and some pretty strongly worded views – all based on really thorough research.  Early Intervention is such a crucial topic in our field and so we welcome their work very warmly.  It also referenced our Children’s Insights service which is gathering terrific data on the experience of domestic abuse for children (including a lot of direct feedback from children themselves) and the impact of the Children’s IDVA on their safety and well being.  

Anyway, there will be lots more information about the findings from Children’s Insights at our conference on the 26th February and the EIF are kindly leading a workshop to explore their findings in more detail.  (For more info about our conference go to http://www.caada.org.uk/events )

Thought 1: Thank you for being so blunt.  

In the opening section of the Recommendations (p 91), the authors write about domestic violence and abuse in the following terms: “Its scale is such that it is vital that concerted action is taken across a very wide range of agencies at national and local levels.” We can only agree.

Thought 2: Yes! Please do proper evaluation of new approaches.  

There is a clear call for new approaches to have robust evaluation whether this be in relation to perpetrator work, or the revised Family Nurse Partnership with the IPV (inter-personal violence) intervention. We are really interested in both – but especially drawn to the FNP + IPV (apart from the prospect of another acronym…) with the potential to work with both young parents and their child.  Having spent this morning looking at cases of domestic abuse involving teenagers aged 16 and 17, these sorts of interventions can’t come soon enough.

Thought 3: We welcome the challenge of working with the whole family.  

The report focuses on the need to include an awareness of DV within all support for families, couples and relationships.  As a sector, we often side-step the need to work with the whole family – leaving women and their children with little support if they decide to stay in a relationship.  If we can’t make this work – whether at an early intervention stage – or later on in an abusive relationship – we will be failing many women, men and children.  

Thought 4: The voluntary sector and grant making foundations have an important role to play.  

The report understandably focuses on the role of Government in leading change.  We would also highlight the potential for the charities in the field – both operational and funders – to do the same.  We are close to the experience of victims and children and perpetrators of domestic abuse and should use this to build on the evidence provided in the EIF report to lead the improvement in services.

Thought 5: We can overcome the barriers to professional confidence to act among Early Intervention practitioners.

I was very struck recently at a meeting where an Early Intervention practitioner stated: “we have the best training, and best procedures but no one has the confidence to act.”  The report confirms this, citing Brandon’s research on the implementation of the Common Assessment Framework and other interviews.  We firmly believe that training helps, procedures help but without a named and known person who you can refer on to, referrals won’t happen. Hence our focus on co-location of IDVAs in maternity and A&E wards, and now I hear in one or two places linked to schools.  This clear ‘care pathway’ is the difference between a sound response in theory and a sound response in practice.

November 30, 2013

The Stalking Legislation – One Year On….full of sound and fury but what does it signify?

ImageThis week saw the anniversary of the introduction of new offences of stalking – which we believe are really important in protecting victims of domestic abuse and many others who suffer from stalking – both on and offline.  The anniversary was accompanied by a letter from the new DPP, Alison Saunders and ACC Garry Shewan about their plans to ensure that the criminal justice system addresses stalking effectively.

According to press reports this week, figures obtained under a freedom of information request showed that between November 2012, when stalking became a crime, and the end of June this year, 320 people were arrested across 30 police forces. Of those 189 were charged – so far six of those have been jailed and 27 given community disposals.

Compare that to the data that we collect directly from thousands of victims of domestic abuse which shows that 35% of those who disclosed harassment or stalking were suffering severe levels.  What do we mean by severe?  Our definition includes;

  • Constant/obsessive phone calls, texts or emails;
  • uninvited visits to home, workplace etc or loitering;
  • destroys or vandalises property;
  • pursues victim after separation, stalking;
  • threats of suicide/homicide to victim and other family members;
  • threats of sexual violence;
  • involvement of others in the stalking behaviour.

Imagine this happening to you – pretty scary and dangerous stuff.

So, we really welcome the call from both the police and the CPS to:

  Improve the awareness of frontline officers about how to risk assess stalking victims.
  Prosecute whenever possible rather than use of police information notices (otherwise known as harassment warnings)
  Ensure Victim Personal Statements are always taken and used in accordance with the Victim’s Code.
  Ensure that further evidence is secured if a charging decision has been taken on the threshold test, so that further evidence supports a charge on the Full Code Test that properly reflects the full criminality.
  Ensure that the charging decision is right first time. Stalking should be charged as a stalking offence rather than harassment.
  Proceed with the charge of stalking in court whenever possible rather than accept a plea to harassment. Acceptance of a plea of harassment rather than stalking by the defendant should only happen in particular circumstances and we should always seek the view of the victim before doing so.
  Ensure that when restraining orders are made in court, the victim’s circumstances are properly taken into account (e.g. all relevant addresses are included).
 
As practitioners, any feedback on how the stalking legislation is working in your area would be really helpful and we can pass it on to the CPS and to ACPO.  
 
These things can change a lot.  When we started CAADA in 2005, restraining orders (also part of the Protection from Harassment Act) were used in about 5% of cases.  They are now used in about 50% of cases and make a real difference to victim safety.  We see similar room for change in relation to stalking as an offence in its own right.  We are delighted to be working with Protection Against Stalking to deliver a one day training course on stalking – how to recognise it, how to respond and how to use this legislation to best effect.  Let’s hope that this time next year, we have added at least one or two noughts to the number of convictions.
 
(For more info about our training on stalking, go to http://www.caada.org.uk/learning_development/CPD-Stalking-Intro.htm )
November 25, 2013

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

In 1999 the UN General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The date of 25 November was chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters, three political activists Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961) ordered brutally assassinated in 1960.

Every year it is a moment to reflect. We often feel fortunate in the UK compared to other countries – and rightly so. However, we still see two women a week killed by a partner or ex partner and domestic abuse seems as prevalent among our young people as it is for their mothers.

Our sense remains that it will be the combination of all our efforts which will eventually end violence against women. Some organisations like CAADA work on to change how we respond locally and nationally in a practical sense. Others focus on changing attitudes through campaigning. Crucially in every town and village there are individual men and women who are making a stand against violence in the home. Let’s hope that the energy created by different events around the world today gives us all the impetus to build and lead more change in the coming year.

November 9, 2013

Blog Posts….like buses, they come in pairs…please read this one!

I wrote in July about our first MARAC Scrutiny Panel, where we looked at how to improve our response to perpetrators at MARAC.  At the time I promised to flag when we produced our guidance on this.  Somehow this managed to slip off the list…but never too late.

We have produced a 2 page summary on MARAC and Perpetrators which you can access at  http://www.caada.org.uk/documents/Managing_Perpetrators.pdf

Obviously I am biassed, but I do think that this is really practical and really important.  Somewhere, in our desire to ensure that victims of abuse are supported at MARAC, we have sometimes lost sight of the importance of managing the perpetrators’ behaviour.  Without this we won’t be successful in safeguarding either the adult or children who are suffering the impacts of domestic abuse.  So if you are part of your local MARAC and there is one thing that you read this week, please make it this briefing.  And if this is not your area of responsibility, please highlight it to your local MARAC team – especially the Chair.  Thank you.

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