Archive for November, 2013

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.

November 9, 2013

Making the Links….DV and Safeguarding

I am slightly appalled that my ‘weekly’ blog has slipped to a ‘6 weekly’ event but won’t make excuses – rather just try and get started again.

Various things came together this week about our work which I just wanted to capture here.  In general, following a number of serious case reviews (Daniel Pelka, Baby T and others), it seems like we still can’t take for granted that the two issues of domestic abuse and risk to children will be systematically linked in practice.  We are really clear that whenever there is domestic abuse identified, we need to look for risk to children – whatever the level of risk to the mother.  Research by my former colleague Emma Howarth, showed that the risk of harm to children is not neatly correlated with the risk to the parent, and that children living with ‘standard’ risk domestic abuse can still be very vulnerable to physical and psychological harm.

So what were the things that I would like to highlight here:

1. It is all about the quality of implementation – 1: the Baby T Serious Case Review highlighted ‘poor implementation of the Hackney model’ and we frequently see variable implementation of the MARAC model, when agency representatives change or funding is cut.  If in doubt about what fidelity to the model looks like for the IDVA-MARAC approach, please do look at the resources on our website, talk to our team or contact our help desk.  We hope that everything we recommend is practical and do-able.

2. It is all about the quality of Implementation -2: a call to Commissioners: there are clear, independently verified, standards for risk led services through our Leading Lights programme and a robust outcomes measurement service that we provide through our Insights Programme.  These two tools can give you confidence that the funding you are making in this area is effective, and that the services provided meet the standards achieved in other regions.  Our MARAC team are working across all MARACs to support them in ensuring that local implementation stays faithful to the evaluated model.

3. The smallest possible thing to make the biggest possible difference: I was really struck by the simplicity and potential impact of Operation Encompass, where schools are notified in the morning when there has been a police call out for domestic abuse.  It would be great to hear from areas who are using this – it sounds a terrific idea.  Presumably this could extend to children’s centres too to cover younger children?

Lastly, I just hope – as I am sure all of you do too – that this is the ‘tipping point’ when DV and safeguarding stop being so siloed and that we do all make those links.