Report praises Thames Valley Police’s approach to domestic abuse

A new report has praised a pilot scheme aiming to improve the outcomes for domestic abuse victims in the Thames Valley.

Thames Valley Police has been working closely with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service to decrease the time in which domestic abuse cases are listed to be heard at Aylesbury Crown Court.

The report issued today (19/3) entitled “An evaluation of the protocol for the handling of domestic abuse cases at Aylesbury Crown Court” was written by Dr John Synnott and Dr Maria Ioannau, from Huddersfield University. 

The report aimed to examine the effectiveness of the pilot in improving the efficiency with which domestic abuse cases are managed in the crown court. It also looked at identifying areas of potential improvement and to explore the merits of rolling out this initiative nationally. Both victims and offenders were interviewed to seek their views on the scheme.

Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, Head of Criminal Justice for Thames Valley Police, said: “Domestic abuse affects people from all walks of life and in many different ways. It is 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. 

“It affected an estimated two million adults aged 16 to 59 years old in England and Wales in the year ending March 2018.

“The report on the pilot demonstrated that the efficient managing of cases which has taken place, results in a high number of guilty pleas. This lessens the impact upon the victim who otherwise would have to go through the process of a trial and helps them to engage with the process. Speed is essential in domestic abuse investigation, not only ensuring justice for victims is achieved, but that safeguarding is completed and victims are protected from future abuse.

“By working more closely with our partner agencies, the pilot at Aylesbury Crown Court is proving effective at delivering justice for those who have been subjected to these devastating crimes.“The findings of the report will be shared nationally in the hope the positive impact the pilot scheme has had may be replicated on a national level.”

The report was commissioned by Thames Valley Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley.

Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, said: “I am pleased to fund this report. We know from working with victims of crime the impact a lengthy criminal justice process can have on their wellbeing and on attrition rates. 

“This pilot demonstrates how a new approach to case management can help protect victims of domestic abuse and bring offenders to justice. It is an excellent example of partnership working, the results of which I hope will be looked at nationally.”

During the trial period the report examined, from October 2016 to November 2018, a total of 153 cases of domestic abuse were subject to the protocol. Fifty nine of the 153 cases met the criteria for fast tracking and of these cases more than 83 per cent resulted in a guilty plea. On average it took eight days between a person being charged and their first court hearing.

Dr John Synnott, Senior Lecturer in Investigative Psychology, Associate Director of the Secure Societies Institute at the University of Huddersfield, said: “Attrition rates in domestic abuse nationally are a serious concern and any efforts that try to tackle this and contribute to victim wellbeing following incidents must be applauded.

“The current pilot protocol has shown itself to be a great success and our evaluation of its effectiveness found that this related to the complete buy in and tireless work from all partners across Thames Valley Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Aylesbury Crown Court.”

Dr Maria Ioannau, Reader in Investigative Psychology and Co-Director of the Secure Societies Institute at the University of Huddersfield, said: “We must do everything we can to protect victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence and the work that is being done at Aylesbury Crown Court is one very significant step in the right direction. 

“Our evaluation supports this unique approach to case management due to the positive impact we found it to have overall and we recommend in our report that this should be formalised and implemented nationally.”