Under Sections 24 to 33 of the Crime and Security Act 2010, suspected domestic abusers of 18 and over can be banned from their homes for up to four weeks even if there is insufficient evidence for them to be charged. These “go orders” will enable police to step in and ban suspected attackers from the alleged victim’s home even if the victim is too afraid of taking action themselves or if no criminal proceedings are possible. A year-long pilot scheme, to trial these new provisions, in three police force areas in England: West Mercia, Wiltshire, Greater Manchester, started on 1 July 2011 and finished on the 30 June 2012.
Guidance on applying the provisions in these areas was given in an associated Home Office document(1).
Under the provisions, the police, subject to the authority of an officer of rank not less than superintendent, who must be able to justify that the action is ‘proportionate’ and ‘necessary’ to protect the perceived victim, will be able to prevent alleged abusers from having contact with the victim, or returning to the victim’s home, for a period of 48 hours, by issuing a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN). Considerations to be taken into account include the welfare of anyone involved under 18, opinions of all involved, and representations from the suspect.
Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders:
Domestic Violence Protection Notices
Based on the information provided by the three forces, a total of 408 DVPNs were issued by the forces during the trial period, 395 (96.8%) to male suspects and 13 (3.2%) to female suspects. One force did not issue any DVPNs to female suspects. Table 2.1 DVPNs issued
Domestic Violence Protection Orders applied for:
Some 404 DVPOs were applied for in the courts by the police, 391 (96.8%) against male suspects and 13 (3.2%) against female suspects. Table 2.2 DVPOs applied for.
DVPOs granted by the courts:
A total of 355 DVPO applications were granted by the courts, 344 (96.9%) against male suspects and 11 (3.1%) against female suspects. Proportions granted against female suspects in the two force areas applying were 2.3% and 4.2% respectively of the 344 DVPOs granted against male suspects, about 76% (260) were for the full period of 28 days, 6% (21) for 21 days, 10% (33) for 14 days, and 6% for other durations. In the case of Force 1, about 94% were for 28 days. (Table 1.2.1)
Age ranges of recipients (Table 1.3.2):
As to be expected, the large majority (90.8%) of recipients were aged 16 to 50, 42% in the 16 to 30 age range and 49% in the 31 to 50 age range. Those over 50 accounted on average for only 9% of recipients, although this rose to about 15% in the case of one force. No information on gender breakdown was provided.
Relationships of DVPN recipients (Table 1.3.3):
An average proportion of about 76% of recipients were spouses or partners of perceived victims, this increasing to 88% in the case of one force. Ex-spouses and partners accounted for about 19% of the total number of recipients. Other family relationships accounted for the rest. No in formation was provided on gender breakdown.
Proportions of victims and suspects/offenders (Table 1.4.1):
It is of interest to compare the results of the DVPN trial with the level of background domestic violence during the same 12-month period, in particular for the more serious forms of VAP (eg. murder, threats, GBH, ABH, assault, wounding, etc). During the trial period, a total of 17,359 victims (where the sex was known) were recorded by the three
forces comprising 3,172 male (18.3%) and 14,187 female (81.7%) victims. One force recorded a male victim proportion of 22.6%. A corresponding total of 15,472 suspects/offenders was recorded, 12,869 male (83.2%) and 2,603 female 16.8%), with one force recording a female proportion of 18.5%
Ratios of M/F victims and F/M suspects/offenders:
Ratios of M/F victims averaged 0.22 for the three forces (range 0.20 to 0.29) and 0.20 for F/M suspects/offenders (range 0.19 to 0.23).
Proportions of victims per 1,000 population of each sex (Table 1.4.2):
Proportions of victims per 1,000 population averaged 1.4 for male victims (range 1.3 to 2.1) and 6.3 for female victims (range 5.4 to 7.3). Male and female populations were assumed to be each approximately 50% of force area total (age 16 to 64) populations.
Proportions of suspects/offenders per 1,000 population (Table 1.4.3):
Proportions of suspects/offenders per 1,000 population averaged 5.7 for male suspects / offenders (range 5.3 to 7.5) and 1.2 for female suspects/offenders (range 1.1 to 1.7).
Correlation with DVPNs:
The M/F rato for DVPNs was 30.4, over five times that for the overall pattern of M/F arrests of 5.54. This strongly suggests that, when taking decisions about issuing DVPNs, either again a more ‘weighted’ approach was taken by the police against male suspects than female suspects, or that a more lenient approach was taken against female suspects.
If either of these disparities are indeed the case, it should be a matter of public concern, vis a vis equality law, that male and female suspects/offenders are being treated differently by a public authority.
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