A few years ago, the National Probation Service was split into two. The existing service maintained its supervision of high-risk offenders, mainly those serving lengthy sentences or with complex rehabilitation needs. However, the remaining offenders, by far the vast majority, are supervised by companies which bid to carry out rehabilitation work, with payment mechanisms often linked to success.
These arrangements have been subject to intense scrutiny in recent months, and the findings are grim, to say the least.
This is of concern because many offenders commit crime due to underlying circumstances, which if not resolved will inevitably lead to subsequent offending. For example, drug, alcohol and mental health treatment programmes must work if the cycle of offending is to be broken.
A report this week looked at another group of offenders; those who commit offences of domestic violence or abuse.
Domestic abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.
The abuse can encompass psychological, physical, sexual, financial and/or emotional harm.
Domestic abuse is the context within which an offence takes place rather than an offence.
There is no single offence of domestic abuse. Rather, a range of offences feature the behaviours exhibited as part of the pattern of domestic abuse. These include:
- physical violence
- psychological or emotional harm
- sexual violence
- ‘honour-based’ violence (for example forced marriage)6
- gang violence
- sharing or distributing intimate private videos or photographs of another person without their permission (so-called ‘revenge porn’)
- coercive and controlling behaviour.
An estimated two million people experienced domestic abuse last year.
A good proportion of people in receipt of probation services are domestic abusers, and domestic abuse constitutes a sizeable proportion of the work of Community Rehabilitation Companies.
This group has been shown to have some of the most complex needs in terms of rehabilitation, rehabilitation that is vital to protect the public and set the offender on a path that allows them to move beyond their troubled past.
Regrettably, yet another report makes grim reading, these are some of its findings:
“Overall, practitioners were not empowered to deliver a good-quality domestic abuse service. They had unmanageable workloads and many needed more training and oversight. Inexperienced probation workers had full and complex caseloads and, because of the emphasis on remote working in some CRCs, they were unable to obtain support from their colleagues. The lack of knowledge, skill and time dedicated to managing domestic abuse led to considerable shortfalls in the quality of case management.
Many assessments were superficial. The tools that staff were using to complete assessments did not always help them to analyse and assess their cases thoroughly.
This left them without the necessary understanding of the context of the domestic abuse and the factors linked to the behaviours in the case. Some plans were helpful and included appropriately sequenced, individualised objectives, but this was not common practice.
Some of the CRCs’ work to protect victims (and especially children) was of grave concern. There was little correlation between the vision CRCs had for victims and the quality of practice.
Many probation workers did not fully understand the effect of domestic abuse on families or the relevance of an integrated approach to managing risk of harm. As such, they focused their work solely on the individual. Assessments and plans lacked depth: the voice and needs of victims, and information from partner agencies, were not analysed sufficiently and used to inform work to reduce risk of harm. Probation workers relied too much on the decisions of other agencies, such as children’s social care and the NPS, about levels of risk of harm and safeguarding, without checking their validity. As such, they were not always able to make effective decisions about how to protect victims and children. They often failed to see the monitoring of external controls, such as restraining orders, or undertaking home visits, as an integral part of their work.”
Why does this matter?
We see many clients who bitterly regret their offending behaviour and seek help in addressing the underlying causes. A society that does not assist offenders to rehabilitate bears a heavy cost, both financial and worse. All policymakers must address the concerns in recent reports as a matter of urgency.
Please contact John Howey on 0207 328 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with any criminal law related enquiry.Read More
In a major announcement, the government has signalled a busy year ahead with legislative changes affecting the criminal law. Following on from the recent announcement about the sentencing of domestic abuse offences, the government has announced further reforms.
There will be a new definition of domestic abuse making clear that it applies to all relationships and victims and encompasses economic abuse and controlling behaviour.
The new statutory definition of domestic abuse (subject to consultation) is:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
Controlling behaviour: Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour: Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
New Protective Order
The Government proposes to create a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN), which could be made by the police, and a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO), which could be made by the courts in a wide range of circumstances.
These measures would bring together the strongest elements from existing protective orders used in domestic abuse cases, creating a single, flexible pathway for victims, police and other practitioners.
While the existing domestic violence protection notice and order will be replaced by the new DAPN and DAPO regime, other existing orders, such as restraining orders, non-molestation orders and occupation orders, will continue to exist as these provide protection in situations other than domestic abuse.
The new order could be made by a court following a freestanding application, including by the victim and certain parties on the victim’s behalf (for example a family member or support service), and could also be made by a court during any ongoing proceedings, including on conviction or acquittal in any criminal proceedings.
The police would also have the power to apply for the new order, including after they had made a Domestic Abuse Protection Notice. In practice, this would mean that Domestic Abuse Protection Orders could be made in family, civil and criminal courts.
The new order would also be more flexible in terms of the conditions that could be attached to it, which could include both prohibitions (for example requirements not to contact the victim, including online, not to come within a certain distance of the victim, and not to drink alcohol or take drugs) and positive requirements. These positive requirements could include attendance at perpetrator programmes, alcohol and drug treatment programmes and parenting programmes. Electronic monitoring (for example location or alcohol monitoring) and notification requirements (for example the requirement for certain perpetrators to provide the police with personal information such as their address and details of relationship and family circumstances) could also be used as conditions attached to the new order.
There would be flexibility as to the length of time that the new order could be in place: it could be for a period to be specified by the court or until the court made further order, in contrast to the current maximum duration for the existing domestic violence protection order of 28 days.
It would be a criminal offence to breach a Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
How we can assist
We are experienced in defending all manner of domestic abuse accusations. Very often domestic incidents spiral out of control all too easily, and the first account made to a police officer may not reflect the full and detailed background, nor adequately explore the other side of the story. We take nothing at face value, preferring instead to step back and build our own accurate picture of the real prosecution and defence case.
In our experience, the protective order regime is often not applied correctly, and you can be assured that any orders sought will be no more onerous than properly prescribed by law, and subject to the most intense scrutiny.
To discuss any aspect of your case please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More