A staggering 1.9 million adults experienced domestic abuse in the last year, official statistics show.
The March 2017 Crime Survey for England and Wales report compiled by the Office for National Statistics revealed that 1.2 million women and 713,000 men experienced domestic violence in the last year.
The police recorded 1.1 million domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in the year ending March 2017 and of these, 43% were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes. Domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by the police accounted for 32% of violent crimes.
“Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police, which is why the estimated number of victims is much higher than the number of incidents and crimes recorded by the police. Of the cases which do come to the attention of the police, many, although still recorded as incidents and dealt with as required, will fall short of notifiable offences and are therefore not recorded as crimes,” said the report.
There were 46 arrests per 100 domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by 39 police forces in the year ending June 2017. The report reveals that 70% of victims of domestic homicides recorded between April 2013 and March 2016 were females.
The report shows that approximately half of domestic abuse-related crimes that are recorded by the police do not result in an arrest and a large proportion have evidential difficulties in proceeding with prosecution. Difficulties often relate to the victim not supporting the prosecution which is a reflection of the challenges involved in investigating domestic abuse-related offences and demonstrates the importance of a robust evidence-led case being built for the victim.
A decision to charge was made for 72% of domestic abuse-related cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service by the police, and of those that proceeded to court, convictions were secured for 76% of domestic abuse-related prosecutions.
“Domestic abuse accounts for a significant proportion of the work carried out by both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (11% of crimes recorded by the police and 16% of prosecutions), but there is variation across police force areas in the response to cases. Data presented in this report on the provision of services for victims of domestic abuse also show variations across areas and highlight that, whilst other agencies such as social care and health care services are already involved in the response to domestic abuse, such involvement is not widespread and more involvement from such agencies would help to improve victims’ experiences,” said the report.
The rise in domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by the police includes offences of coercive or controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. This became a criminal offence as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015 and came into force on 29 December 2015.
The number of these offences that have been recorded by the police has increased over the last year. This is common for new offences and the rise could be attributed to a growing awareness by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, other agencies and members of the public of how to recognise such criminality in society and to use the new law accordingly.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, warned that the ONS data currently cannot offer the full picture.
“Domestic abuse by its very nature, hidden behind closed doors, is hard to capture in statistics alone. Survivors often do not involve official bodies as it takes great courage to report abuse to the police; some women will never speak out because they don’t know if they will be believed, are not given the space to make the call or fear the repercussions if they do report the perpetrator to the police.
“We want to continue to work with the police and ONS to help make sure the full picture is captured in the data. We need to make sure cases do not solely rely on the victim’s testimony to see a case through to prosecution, just as they would for other crimes such as fraud, burglary or traffic offences, and that the criminal justice system works to improve their data collection so that we can understand the huge disparity between survivors reporting domestic abuse to the police and perpetrators being held accountable for the harm they are causing,” she added.
The ONS report is available here.