Published: 28 July 2014
New figures have revealed that thousands of domestic abusers have managed to avoid a criminal record after committing acts of domestic violence. This has been achieved simply by agreeing to apologise.
The number of times "community resolutions" have been employed in cases of domestic violence rather than criminal prosecutions has risen sharply in recent years. The figure is now more than twice as high as it was four years ago, according to data provided by 15 of the UK's police forces.
"Community resolutions" were designed to lower case volumes for the criminal justice system and reduce strain. According to guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers, it can be used in "less serious" cases such as assaults that do not result in injury. It is an informal process, by which perpetrators of domestic violence can avoid prosecution by apologising to their victims personally or in writing, or else by paying compensation. This not only allows them to evade punishment, but also to avoid a criminal record – effectively allowing them to escape as if the crime had never been committed in the eyes of the law.
The system was brought in under the Labour government, but it is also Labour that has obtained and highlighted these figures through the use of the Freedom of Information Act. In response to this, the party has now announced that, if it comes into power at the next general election, it will abolish the use of such informal processes for domestic violence cases. Instead, criminal charges will have to be brought against all those who commit violent acts of domestic abuse.
According to the party's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, the increasing use of community resolutions suggests that the government are not really taking the issue seriously. She suggested that "to simply take a violent abuser home to apologise risks making domestic violence worse, and makes it even harder for victims to escape a cycle of abuse."
The Conservatives have also recently spoken about the issue of domestic violence and how cases should be tackled. The Prime Minister has recently said that the current government has to improve the way it deals with the problem of domestic abuse and provide victims with a more "sympathetic" criminal justice system. He also suggested that domestic abuse could become a specific offence in its own right, where abusers are currently prosecuted under general assault laws or for other crimes such as rape.
According to a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Home Office "No government has done more to tackle the abhorrent crime of domestic abuse than this government." She went on to highlight the fact that the current government has "provided £40m to fund support in local communities and to educate teenagers through our 'This is Abuse' campaign."
K J Smith Solicitors are specialists in family law, with many years of experience in dealing with domestic violence issues. Our team are here to listen and advise you on the best course of action to take if you or any member of your family have been victims of domestic abuse. To arrange your free consultation, call us today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).