Law and order responses require more than law and order

Successfully prosecuting people for committing domestic abuse requires more than a law and order style response.

I’ve written before about some other ways of reducing domestic abuse that do not rely on the police and judicial system.

However, the police and the courts need to look to these approaches if they are to successfully prosecute people who have perpetrated domestic abuse.


In recent years there has been a conscious and successful drive to prosecute more people (mostly men) for committing domestic abuse. Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 19.30.13

While the total number of successful convictions has risen, so has the number of unsuccessful convictions.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 19.30.24

The main reason for unsuccessful prosecutions is that either the victim (usually a woman) does not attend or they retract their allegations.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 19.30.35


The reasons for this so-called ‘attrition’ are many and varied. However, one reason that comes out time and again is that victims feel disempowered and disorientated by the judicial system.

Bringing a prosecution against a partner or an ex-partner is a stressful thing to go through and the courts often don’t make this any easier.

The charity Safe Lives have done fantastic work promoting the employment of trained Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), who can advise victims and people at risk of domestic abuse, on how to stay safe.

Partly as a result of Safer Lives’ work, there is now a ‘Pan London Domestic Violence Service’ with IDVAs employed in every borough of London. In addition, there are now workers who will support victims through the court process.

The future

However, in many ways this is a classic and flawed way to solve the problem. If a system  is designed so that you need additional workers to support people through it, then there is probably something wrong with the design of the system. The same can be said of the need to employ people to advice patients on how to navigate the health and social care systems.

Too often public services are not designed with the interests of patients or victims primarily in mind. This means additional public money and private effort is spent trying to get the system to work.

As I said initially, I think eliminating domestic abuse would require more than a law and order approach. However, even to get the law and order aspect working requires resources and initiatives outside of and in addition to the police and courts.

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