From today, local areas should undertake new action to tackle domestic homicide following any case where someone has been killed by their current or former partner, Home Secretary Theresa May announced.
Approximately two people are killed by their current or former partner each week in England and Wales. Domestic homicide reviews, which come into effect today include local partners such as the police, local authority, probation service, health service and voluntary partners and have been established under Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004).
Where a local area doesn’t undertake a review, the Secretary of State now has the power to direct a specific person or body to establish or participate in a review. This will ensure that lessons are learnt from each case and most importantly prevent future violence and deaths. It will also help improve local and national approaches to tackling domestic violence.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘From now on where someone has been killed by their current or former partner, a review takes place so that lessons can be learned to prevent future tragedies.’
‘Domestic violence is a dreadful form of abuse - with some victims suffering for years at the hands of an abusive partner - this is one of the many actions we are taking forwards to help end violence against women.’
Association of Chief Police Officers lead on domestic abuse, Chief Constable Carmel Napier, said:
‘The police service is acutely aware of the issue of protecting women from violence. Improving knowledge of serial perpetrators and strengthening our strategies and tactics against them will mean the police can be more effective in keeping victims safe. Our first duty is, and remains, the protection of victims.
‘It’s crucial that all agencies learn the lessons from the most serious cases and these reviews will help to ensure that police, health, social services and probation are best placed to learn critical lessons, plug gaps in service and work to prevent future victims from coming into harm.’
Frank Mullane, Co-ordinator, Action After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA) said:
‘AAFDA welcomes domestic violence homicide reviews becoming law this week. We have been campaigning for these reviews for some time and have been closely involved in developing the guidance and writing leaflets for use by families and friends and members of the community faced with these horrific tragedies.
‘These reviews will yield meaningful changes if professionals embrace them fearlessly and creatively. That includes inviting families, friends, domestic violence advocates and other community members to play a full role in the enquiry. It is by seeing these tragedies through the eyes of victims that we will begin to understand their lives and the choices and decisions they made often under great duress. Only then will we be likely to design the services that enable individuals, mostly women, to find ways out of abuse to long term safety.’
Deborah McIlveen, Policy and Services Manager, Women’s Aid said:
‘Women’s Aid welcomes the government commitment to review homicides in cases of domestic violence - it is vital that lessons are learned from domestic homicides and used to protect vulnerable women and children in the future. Women’s Aid also supports the continuing work by the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence and all forms of violence against women whilst prioritising the safety of victims and their children.’
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:
‘Refuge is delighted that all domestic violence homicides will now be subject to a thorough review. Two women a week are killed by current or former partners in England and Wales. Far too many of these deaths are predictable and preventable. These reviews will ensure that every single one of these cases receives the attention they deserve.
‘When a homicide case is reviewed, all agencies that the woman had contact with - for example, police, probation, health and social services - will have an opportunity to learn lessons about their handling of domestic violence cases and make changes that could save lives.
‘However, homicide reviews will only truly be effective if the lessons learned result in real change in practice on the ground level. And this will not happen without sufficient funding. But with every homicide costing the state £1million, reducing the domestic homicide rate not only makes moral sense, but clear financial sense too.’
Notes to editors
In 2009/10 there were 94 female and 21 male victims of homicide who had been killed by a current or former partner (source: Homicide Index; as published in Table 1.05 of ‘Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2009/10’.)
The expectation for local areas to undertake a multi-agency review following a domestic violence homicide, and the provision to allow a Secretary of State in particular cases to direct that a specified person or body establishes or participates in a review can be found in Section 9 of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act (2004).
The government recently launched an action plan for tackling violence against women and girls on International Women’s Day 2011. It includes detailed plans for tackling domestic violence including:
- a campaign to challenge attitudes of abuse within teenage relationships;
- more training for frontline professionals on identifying violence against women;
- and support for people on spousal visas who are forced to flee their relationship because of domestic abuse.
This follows the Home Office’s announcement of £28 million of funding on a stable basis until 2015 for tackling violence against women and girls and the Ministry of Justice announcement of more than £10.5 million of funding over three years for rape crisis services.
The British Crime Survey reports that every year more than one million women experience domestic abuse and one in four women will be affected by domestic abuse. More than 300,000 women are sexually assaulted and 60,000 women raped; and more than one in twenty women will be stalked.