A freedom of information request has secured information which confirms that Police in Devon and Cornwall received more than 80 reports of domestic abuse every day last year.

30,103 reported cases of domestic violence were made to the Police of which only £1,453 ended in prosecution.

There has been a 13% increase in cases over the last four years.

The latest report from the Office of National Statistics shows that 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men report having experienced domestic abuse in the last year.  This is the equivalent of 1.4 million female victims and 700,000 male victims.

There was a decline in reported domestic abuse between 2004 and 2008 while the current figure ( 6.5% for men and women combined) has been stable since 2008.

Women living in households in the 20% most deprived areas of England are more likely to report being victims of domestic abuse (9.9%) then women in the least 20% deprived areas (6.1%).

It is however clear that domestic abuse knows no boundaries crossing both social, cultural, economic and religious grounds.

It is however true that in wealthier households the facility for the parties to separate to separate and independent accommodation act as a significant protective element which may at least partially explain the differential in reported domestic abuse on economic grounds.

According to the charity Womens Aid nearly a third of more than 20,000 referrals to refuges in 2013/2014 were turned away because of lack of space.

Whilst therefore a rise in reports of domestic abuse may indicate that people are more confident about coming forward to the Police, the required services for victims are not increasing or being available at the same rate as reported.

Devon and Cornwall Police have identified that many victims who come forward to the Police do not want to take cases through to conviction and often the alleged perpetrator is dealt with via caution or through other outcomes.

Reasons why victims do not wish to prosecute domestic violence offences are many varied and complex.  These can include:-

– Not wanting to criminalise their partner/parent of their children

– Their fear that their partner may be sent to prison which would not only stigmatise that partner but also significantly affect their potential to provide financial support to the victim and their children.

– Criminalisation and possible imprisonment may have a devastating effect on the parties children.
The public nature of criminal prosecution leading to a feeling of shame for the victim and a fear of being stigmatised as a victim within the community.
Fear and nervousness of the criminal justice system itself as a victim with the potential of having to attend court and give evidence against the alleged perpetrator.

The criminal justice system is however not the only form of redress for victims of domestic violence who can pursue separately and independently or in conjunction with criminal proceedings injunctions to secure the personal protection of the alleged victim (non molestation injunctions) and or occupation injunctions (to regulate the occupancy of the parties home).

There are a number of potential advantages to alleged victims in pursuing protection in this way through the civil courts which include:-

– A significantly greater degree of privacy as these proceedings are not open to the public.

– The standard of proof required to secure an injunction in civil proceedings is substantially lower than that in criminal proceedings which means that it may be more likely that an injunction will be secured than a criminal conviction obtained.

– It does not criminalise the alleged perpetrator.

– Is often more speedily dealt with and resolved than a criminal case which has to pass through the criminal justice system (an emergency protective injunction can often be secured same day as the victim presents to seek an injunction)

– The victim is directly and specifically supported through the process by their nominated legal representative.

– The victim can also be supported by their nominated legal representative in relation to other matters and issues and receive advice and assistance in relation to issues arising from the domestic violence such as, children issues, financial settlement and divorce.

If you would like to discuss this or any other family law issue please contact Peter Marshall, a partner in our family law team on 01762 74433 or email family.staustell@stephens-scown.co.uk with any queries.