Police referrals of domestic violence cases fall

Numbers down despite 11% increase in reports, and figures reveal significant disparities between police forces

The number of domestic violence cases being referred to prosecutors, and the conviction rate, have dropped despite an increase in reports to the police, parliamentary figures have shown.

Reports of domestic violence to police increased by 11% from 2010/11 to 2012/3, but the percentage of successful prosecutions has dropped by 14% in the same period.

Just around 90% of all reports of domestic violence to police forces in England and Wales are taken no further, the data shows, as police in 2009/10 referred 12.1% of cases to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and in 2012/13 that had dropped to 10.5%.

The publication of the most comprehensive data on domestic violence and rape since the coalition came to power, exposes significant differences between the performance of the police forces in tackling domestic violence across the country.

According to the figures, gathered by the office of Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, more than 838,000 reports of domestic violence were made to police forces across England and Wales in 2012/13, but only 6.3% resulted in a conviction, compared to 7.1% in 2009/10 according to house of commons library research, which draws on home office police recorded crime date, data from the CPS and parliamentary questions.

Cooper said Labour would commit to publishing domestic abuse and sexual violence league tables for every police force across England and Wales in a bid to expose poor performance and raise standards.

"The scale of domestic abuse is shocking, yet the government and the home secretary have turned their backs," she said. "This is not a fringe issue, it accounts for one in five violent crimes committed across the country with 2 million victims every year; it puts lives at risk, scars children and destroys families." Despite government commitments to tackle domestic violence, "the clock is being turned back on years of progress", she added. "On Theresa May's watch action against domestic violence in the criminal justice system is disintegrating before our eyes."

The figures reveal significant disparities between forces. In London last year 118,497 incidents of domestic violence – defined as any incidence of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse – were reported but only 5,424 resulted in a conviction, a 4.6% conviction rate. Manchester saw 57,622 reports of domestic violence, and referred 6,137 to the CPS – which secured 3,983 prosecutions, a 7% prosecution rate, while Cheshire police had 4,537 recorded incidents, and secured the prosecution of 985 – a 22% conviction rate. Some caution does have to be exercised: the prosecution rate in the data is calculated from the number of reports of domestic violence, for example, but some convictions and prosecutions listed may relate to offences reported in the previous year.

The released figures on rape (based on police recorded crime open data tables) also show a slight drop in the rape conviction rate which has dropped below 15% to 14.3% (as a percentage of recorded rapes) for the first time since 2008/9. Emily Thornberry, Shadow Attorney General said that thousands of cases were being dropped before being examined by a prosecutor, adding that in total, there were 19,494 fewer cases of rape, child abuse and domestic violence referred to the CPS than two years ago, resulting in a 14% fall in prosecutions across these offences. "Despite ministerial pledges to support victims and the reams of official guidance on how to tackle these offences, something is clearly going badly wrong. With more cases of violence against women and girls being reported to the police, prosecutions should be rising not falling." she said.

"There are also wide regional variations in how agencies handle these offences, with Warwickshire Police only referring five rape cases for charges in 2012-13 [out of a total of 137 reports of rape], while CPS Merseyside Cheshire took no further action on 73% of rape cases referred to it that year," said Thornberry.

The Centre for Social Justice, has said that domestic abuse "costs the taxpayer almost £4bn per year. When human and emotional costs and lost economic outputs are aggregated the cost to society climbs to £15.7bn per year" and according to the ONS crime survey, an estimated 1.2 million females and 700,000 males were victims of domestic abuse in the last year, with 30% of women and 16% having experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16.

As well as the routine publication of sexual offences and rape data league tables for all forces, Labour are calling for the introduction of a Violence Against Women and Girls (Vawg) commissioner – who would carry out a comparable role to the Cchildren's commissioner.

"We need a new commissioner – modelled on the children's commissioner – covering violence against women and domestic abuse, with the power to ensure standards are raised. And it means strengthening the law whenever it is appropriate, including on psychological abuse," said Cooper. "These figures reveal a national scandal and it's about time Theresa May woke up to tackle this deeply damaging crime that is increasing throughout the country."

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: "More victims are coming forward to talk about rape and domestic violence and I am determined to improve the response at every point in the criminal justice system to address these horrific and inexcusable acts.

"There have already been improvements – sentences for rapists are increasing and the latest data from the Crown Prosecution Service shows the highest ever conviction rate for violence against women and girls.

"The coalition government has commissioned Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to investigate how all police forces in England and Wales respond to domestic abuse. I have also held discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has agreed to establish a CPS-police scrutiny panel to look at how forces deal with rape."

On Friday the Home Office relaunched the Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls, and rolled out Claire's Law – which enables women to find out from police if their partners have an abusive past – across every police force across England and Wales. It also rolled our domestic violence protection orders nationally and committed to spending £40m on specialist domestic violence services and national helplines.

The home secretary, then said: "I am determined to see a society where violence against women and girls is not tolerated, where people speak out, and where no woman or girl has to suffer domestic abuse."


National DV conviction rate*

2012/13 – 6.3%

2011/12 – 7.1%

2010/11 – 7.8%

2009/10 – 7.1%

National DV referral rate (from police to CPS)*

2012/13 – 10.5%

2011/12 – 11.6%

2010/11 – 13.4%

2009/10 – 12.1%

*House of Commons Library Statistics


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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